The Log Book is a weekly rundown of human-interest stories related to the transportation industry. This week: A Georgia driver fighting for more women in the industry receives a renovated cab from Transfix and a safety nonprofit teaches pedestrians and drivers about the dangers of trespassing onto train tracks.
Real Women in Trucking member receives rig makeover
In honor of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, freight platform Transfix announced last week it was holding its second annual TransFIX My Rig makeover contest, giving a Transfix driver user a custom interior truck renovation by television host and contractor Jason Cameron.
This year’s recipient of the makeover was Snellville, Georgia-based truck driver Jess Graham, who was nominated by peers for her work after loads are delivered — advocating for women in the industry as a board member of Real Women in Trucking.
In an emotional interview with FreightWaves, Graham described how the trucking industry saved her life, giving her a path out of an abusive relationship that not only got her out on the road but enabled her to financially take care of her daughter and homeschool her on the road.
Graham said she found the support system needed to help her thrive at Real Women in Trucking.
“I was 100% in survival mode and was just trying to keep my head above water,” said Graham. “Now I use my story to let other women know that you can do this too. … Last year one in six drivers made it successfully through their first year of driving; that stat is especially true for women. There is no shortage of women trying to enter the industry. There is a shortage of women that have the tools and support system set up for them to make it.”
Graham went on to explain how lucky she was to have a company that let her have a rider her daughter’s age, 10 years old at the time, and a truck that had enough room for her daughter to sleep in and do schoolwork.
Now Graham has more than enough space to sleep comfortably — and is thrilled to have a desk both she and her daughter could work at. She now has space to work on Real Women in Trucking initiatives and prepare meals, all while surrounded by family pictures and artwork.
“Jason really just flipped the conventional idea of what a truck interior should look like on its head,” said Graham. “I hope all [truck manufacturers] look at my truck and think, ‘Wait a minute, we have been designing the interiors of trucks wrong this whole time.’”
Graham also expressed gratitude to Transfix for the makeover and added how impressed she was with the company’s “Comfort-in-a-Box” kit given to all nominees. It included a robe, air fresheners, a succulent plant, a blanket and photo frames.
“The only way I can put it is [Transfix] understood the assignment,” said Graham. “Understand that we are people. These types of gifts humanize us. … I think more people need to reach out to drivers so we can show them we are more than just robots behind a wheel, we are people making these small spaces functional and comfortable.”
Graham also suggested a simple form of interaction that always makes a driver’s day — the trucker salute.
“I don’t get to use my air horn near as much as I want to. Even though you might feel like you are just flying past us on the freeway, sometimes that might be the best human interaction we have in a day. It’s that moment, it’s the smile and wave that show us you recognize we are here,” she said.
Operation Lifesaver prepares for Rail Safety Week
Nonprofit rail safety organization Operational Lifesaver Inc. is gearing up for Rail Safety Week, which begins Monday and continues through Sept. 25, with a number of events that will be put on in partnership with Operation Lifesaver Canada and the Mexican Association of Railroads.
“Every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train,” said Jennifer DeAngelis, the director of communications and marketing for the nonprofit group, in a previous interview.
“It’s a staggering statistic and we are constantly trying to share the rail safety message and empower people to make safe choices around railroad tracks and trains. Whether you are driving through a crossing or you are walking into your neighborhood and you come across railroad tracks, we want folks to be empowered with safety information,” she said.
To bring awareness to making better choices near railroad tracks, the regional groups will be hosting events throughout the country all week long, concentrating on crossing safely, truck crossing procedures and trespassing prevention.
While the goal is to teach pedestrians and drivers how to be safe around railroads, the group also highlights the impossible and frightening experiences that train operators have to face when wrong choices are made in their paths.
“When I see people on the track, there’s not a whole lot I can do. I can’t steer or swerve and get out of your way. That train’s coming at you,” said Maurice Taylor, a locomotive engineer for Metra in Chicago. “The message I would send to a trespasser that thinks the railroad tracks is a good shortcut — it’s not.”