HMT – Sheryl, we recently celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8th) and thought it would be ideal to catch up with you this month. How long have you been trucking and how did you come to decide on trucking as a career?
Sheryl – I’ve been driving for 15 years now. Started in 2002. I’ve always had a passion for it. Growing up in my family, if you wanted to ride shot-gun you were responsible for navigating. Those were the rules. I learned to read a map well and enjoyed it. My Dad was a Class A mechanic and we had good family friends in trucking. I spent a lot of time with Dad and became mechanically inclined. I seriously considered mechanics but my Dad didn’t really encourage it. Trucking always held my curiosity and here I am 15 years later still learning new things.
HMT – Today there’s a movement to create awareness amongst women about trucking as a viable career option, what would say to women considering trucking, any advice?
Sheryl – Well, I’m a bit of a realist. The first thing I would address is home life. Many women are juggling a lot of things at home and to be a good driver you must focus and put in the time, put in the miles. I’d ask them if they can realistically commit to that. I’d also encourage them to speak to many drivers and to ask lots of questions. They can’t all do Local out of the gate so they shouldn’t come to it with false expectations. It can be a very rewarding career but it is not for everyone and that applies to men and women.
HMT – Sheryl, in addition to being a driver you’re a Hyndman driver trainer extraordinaire. What motivated you to become a driver trainer?
Sheryl – John Kellie in Safety approached me in 2008 and asked me to consider it. There were a few female students starting to come out of the trucking schools and Hyndman saw an opportunity but needed a female trainer. I gave it some thought and agreed to try it. It was a bumpy start. My first student was a challenge but somehow, I persevered through it and didn’t allow that experience to phase me.
HMT – You’re certainly paying it forward and you’re not only participating in the future of women in trucking but the overall future of trucking period. What do you personally get out of being a trainer?
Sheryl – I enjoy my one-on-one work with my students. I enjoy the close-knit relationship I’ve developed with management. My “Boss” Dustin Horton is great to work with. I feel I have a voice and I get the opportunity to use it in this role. I’m proud of my students. One of my past students, Barb Taylor, is my pride and joy and has become a good friend of mine. In my own way, I’m making a difference. That matters to me.
HMT – What do you think makes for a good trainer? What characteristics does a successful trainer possess?
Sheryl – First and foremost, patience. A close second would be the ability to share. Can you share your truck, your personal space? You can set some boundaries but it’s important that your student feels welcome and comfortable too. Perseverance, the ability to communicate and a great sense of humour also helps.
HMT – Recently, we received a call from a key Hyndman customer who offered they don’t generally call up a trucking company unless to book an order or complain but they felt compelled to call in about you and sing your praises after witnessing you train one of your female students during a stop at their facility. They were so impressed with your level of professionalism and at how well you communicated with your student that they went out of their way, during a busy day, to call in and share their positive feedback. Thank you for being such a great ambassador for Hyndman. Well done! What kind of reaction do you typically get when you’re OTR with one of your female students?
Sheryl – Thanks for telling me about that customer. It nice to know some folks notice what we’re doing out there. As for reactions, they’re mixed, as you can imagine. I’ve had my fair share of marriage proposals from strangers at truck stops who seem to think we might be a match made in heaven because I can back up a truck…lol. I just thank them for the compliment and keep moving and my students know to do the same.
HMT – Sheryl, what do you like to do on your downtime?
Sheryl – I like to keep things simple, relax and rejuvenate. I spend time with my boyfriend. I like to walk my dog. He’s a Blue Heeler named Cash. A good work/life balance is important to me. I try not to load up my downtime with appointments. It’s important for me to clear my mind and just be, if you know what I mean?
HMT – Sure do. We should do the favourites thing before we wrap up. So, what is your favourite:
Book – I love audio books. I like J.D. Ross and Michael Connely murder mysteries.
Music – I like country and lite rock. My boyfriend loads up my music for the road. I enjoy Dwight Yoakam and New Dominion to name a couple.
Food – Anything with chicken and cheese.
Truck Stop – I haven’t been there in awhile but I’d have to say Jubitz on I-5 Exit 307, Portland, Oregon. They have a good restaurant, lots of parking, a motel, a lounge with a dance floor, free wi-fi, high-speed fueling and a shuttle service to Wal-Mart. The shuttle service impressed me. They really cater to truckers.
HMT – Sheryl, on behalf of Hyndman, thank you for everything that you do. We’re very proud of your work and we thank you for your contributions to our success. In closing, do you have any advice for those who may be considering becoming a driver trainer?
Sheryl – Thanks for this opportunity. Advice? I’ll say that driver training can be very rewarding but it’s not for everyone. You can’t force it. You must do it for the right reasons. You can earn some good money for it over time but it’s not something you do for the money. Maybe you’re looking for something more and you’re okay with sharing your truck and it not being all about you, then it may be for you. If it isn’t, that’s okay too.