Finalist Lisa McAlpine: ‘I have diesel in my blood’

Updated May 18, 2013

LisaName: Lisa McAlpine: Commodity Hauler
Company: Owner-operator, leased to Dart Transit for past 3 years
Years in trucking: 9 years
Hauls: Van, various commodities; 48 states
Truck: 2006 Freightliner Columbia

Lisa McAlpine was born to be a professional truck driver. “I love trucking. I’ve wanted to be a truck driver since I was a little kid standing on the street watching the trucks go by and trying to get them to blow the air horn for me,” she says.

Asked if she ever thought the dream would be out of reach, because she was a girl, she responded immediately in her Maine accent.

“No. Never. My mom raised me to be a self-sufficient, strong-willed woman. And that’s what I am.”

LisaBut Lisa did have to put her dream on hold, working a series of local jobs — from the factory floor to the pizza parlor — to take care of her young family. A daughter nominated her for Overdrive’s Most Beautiful contest, writing that Lisa is “an amazing woman that taught her children to never give up on your dreams, no matter how long they may take.

“I raised my four children on my own. I worked and tried the best I could, on my own,” Lisa says. “When they were grown, I decided to come out here and do something for myself.”

She admits to being a “backwoods country girl” who had seen very little of the country before she started trucking.

“Since I started driving I’ve been to all but four states. It’s absolutely beautiful. I would miss the freedom now. It’s like the songs they sing about trucking, the ‘white line fever.’”
Lisa offered a shout-out to her dispatcher, also a woman, and credits their relationship for Lisa’s trucking success.

“I’m a runner. I keep that left door closed and those tires are always moving.”

Trucking is addicting. I’ve tried to quit numerous times to get a job at home. Every single time, trucking calls me back. My dad told me it’s because I have diesel in my blood. My dad, actually he’s my step-dad, was a truck driver. And my youngest brother was a truck driver. But I’m the only over-the-road truck driver in my family.

She’ll have her truck paid off this year, and plans to hang on to it because it’s been reliable — and because she’s had to learn how those pennies per mile add up (and disappear) for an owner-op. But her next dream is to own a 379 Pete, one of which she drove early in her career. “I didn’t cry because I left that company, but I cried because I had to leave that truck!”

Overdrive: What made you decide to enter the contest?

Lisa: My youngest daughter actually entered for me. I was okay with it. What the hey?
Overdrive: What is your definition of beauty in relation to trucking?

Lisa: There’s the kind of beauty, obviously, that’s on the outside. Look at all the other girls and they’re absolutely gorgeous, and I don’t put myself in that category. On the inside, it’s how you are as a person: how kind you are, how loving. It’s your personality. As far as on the road, when I deal with my customers, coworkers, I’m the same person. When it comes to truck stops, I really don’t hang out inside or out in the parking lot. I usually hibernate in my truck.2011-09-03 16.45.10_1[3]

Overdrive: What was the reaction from your friends and family when you made the Top 10?

Lisa: My daughter was ecstatic. I on the other hand was really, really shocked. My friends and family weren’t, but I was. I don’t think I’m beautiful, inside or out. Everybody else ‘yes, you are,’ so I’m like, ‘okay, whatever.’ It’s kind of weird.

Overdrive: So is there a sisterhood—a camaraderie — between the women in trucking?

Lisa: We like to wave. I’ll drive by a woman and she’ll be waving like crazy and smiling. We all help each other, we socialize. If I see another female driver at the truck stop, or a customer, we’ll usually talk. Even the girls at the company I work for, we usually sit there and shoot the stuff. It’s pretty cool.

Overdrive: How do you feel about the role of women in trucking?2011-09-03 16.46.26[3]

It’s hard for a lot of women. There are a lot of women that are not as strong as the [Overdrive Most Beautiful] Top 10 girls. I was talking to a female guard and her husband’s a driver. She said she could never do it, it would stress her out. That’s what I hear from a lot of women: ‘I don’t how you do it.’ It takes a special kind of woman to deal with what we have to deal with here: being gone a lot, not seeing our family, working in a man’s world.

Overdrive: Do you have any unique experiences that have happened because you are a woman trucker?

LisaLisa: (She laughs, and laughs some more.) Oh, I have seen some things I wouldn’t normally have if I was driving a car! There’s a lot things out here I would rather not see. But, on the positive side, there are the compliments I get on the dock after I’ve backed into a tight spot in record time, whereas some guys take forever. I’ve always been a good driver, and I’ve gotten better. I’m more attentive, more cautious. Driving these big rigs, you basically have to drive for everybody else. A lot of people don’t realize we can’t stop really quick. I have to drive for the person in front, the person beside. I’ve learned a lot. It’s for the safety of everybody.

Overdrive: Is there one thing you wish you would have known before you started trucking?

Lisa: Trucking is addicting. I’ve tried to quit numerous times to get a job at home. Every single time, trucking calls me back. My dad told me it’s because I have diesel in my blood. My dad, actually he’s my step-dad, was a truck driver. And my youngest brother was a truck driver. But I’m the only over-the-road truck driver in my family.

Overdrive: If you could fix one thing about the trucking industry, what would it be?

LisaLisa: The arrogance of other truck drivers and the people that we have to drive around. There’s a lot of arrogance out here. What happened to common courtesy? When I first started trucking, there was always courtesy. Other drivers would always flash you in, or say thank you if you flashed them in. Nowadays, they just cut you off. They don’t wave. There’s so much rudeness out here it’s unbelievable. The veteran truckers are dying out. Now you’ve got the new age. These schools and some big trucking companies don’t teach common courtesy.

Overdrive: If you could say one thing to the non-driving public about women driving big rigs, what would it be?

IMG_0892[1]  Lisa: We women truck drivers are out here, doing our job just          like the men are. We are no different. It’s like working in an office or a warehouse. We’re all doing the job. It’s no different.

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