Female Truck Driver Making Strides in Truck Driving Career
*This story was originally published on thetrucker.com.*
A native of Brooklyn, New York, who now lives in central Arkansas, Sue Peña decided her ultimate goal was to become a professional driver. However, it was nearly a decade later before she had a chance to follow that dream. When The Trucker Jobs Magazine team first met Peña in July 2022, she was working as a crime lab forensic technician and moonlighting as an emergency medical technician (EMT), in addition to attending night classes at Diesel Driving Academy (DDA) in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Student Success Begins at DDA
In October, she completed her training and passed the final gauntlet — the driving portion of the CDL exam. She now has both hazmat and tanker endorsements and is slated to begin orientation with Dallas-based Stevens Transport in early January.
“My biggest challenge was believing in myself, believing that I could do this training that I started late in life,” said Peña, who is now 44. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have confidence; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have signed up,” she said. “Once I delved into it and realized, ‘Wow! So this is what trucking is,’ I thought, ‘Can I do this?’”
Student Reflects on CDL Training Experience
Two of Peña’s instructors at DDA were women, something she says helped her build confidence behind the wheel. “Ms. Kat and Ms. Rachel, those two were the most that really inspired me to continue pursuing what I was doing. There were days I was like, ‘Aw hell, I can’t do this!’” she said. “But after speaking with them, learning what trucking was like when they started, I realized it was actually harder for them. They paved the way. If it wasn’t for (women like) them, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Peña says the most memorable milestone of training was the first time she drove a truck across the driving pad. “It was feeling that movement, knowing that I was driving,” she said. “When they start you off, it’s a straight back; you drive forward, you drive backward. That’s it, nothing fancy. But feeling the vibration, feeling the movement, knowing that I was driving a 53-foot truck and trailer — that moment, I was like, ‘Oh my God! I’m really doing this!’”
The second-most memorable step was the first-time students in her class took the school rigs out on the road. “I can only imagine what the instructor was thinking and feeling, knowing that this person was driving a truck for the first time,” she said. “Now I’m comfortable with it.”
Watching Peña’s skills progress from those first shaky, tentative attempts to smoothly and confidently completing straight and offset backs, then 90-degree backs and other maneuvers was an amazing experience for The Trucker team.
Looking Forward to Future Truck Driving Career
While she’s excited about starting her new career behind the wheel, Peña is well aware that she still has much to learn, and that actual over-the-road driving will be quite different from training. The challenge is one she looks forward to overcoming.
“Male or female, if this is what you want to do, if this is your passion, if all you think about when you get up and go to bed is driving a truck — then go for it,” she said when asked what advice she would give other would-be drivers. “Do it for the right reasons, do it with the best intentions, and just go for it.”