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Donna Culwell

Truck Driver
California, USA

How long have you been driving commercial ("big rig") trucks?  How old were you when you started?

I have been driving trucks for 28 years now.  I started when I was 18 years old in Tucson, Arizona.  I pretty much taught myself how to drive them as there were no schools for them at that time.  I drove a large variety of trucks and worked my way up.

Did you ever want to do anything else?  How does driving compare to office work?

I have always loved my job and would rather work outside and do physical work than to be stuck in an office.  I had one job for five years in the Teamsters office and I was a receptionist.  I worked a 13-line switchboard and other tasks.  It was a very hectic job, but I liked it and was good at it.  But I always missed driving the trucks.... so I went back to it.

What is the most difficult thing about working at a "man's job"?  Were your male coworkers accepting of working with a female?  Was it easier or more difficult to interview and get the job?

I just never had much of a problem working with the men.  My male coworkers would finally get used to me when they saw that I could work just as hard (and harder!) than they could.  I have very good driving skills and have common sense.  I have been told many times that I could outdrive and outwork a lot of men.  When I did have a problem with the guys I usually could work it out myself and/or confront the problem head on.  The interview for the job was always such a TEST in all ways.  But I was always confident of my skills and always got the job.

What do you like best and least about your job?

I always loved the traveling and going to different places in my line of work, I like to be courteous and helpful to other travelers.  I feel a satisfaction when I am done unloading my merchandise because it helps someone somewhere.  Although the unloading was very hard work, I did enjoy it most of the time because it was good exercise!!  And I got paid to travel and exercise!  The hardest part was if I was sick and still had to do all that work.

What other occupations interested you?  Did you ever want to be anything else?

If I had thought about it earlier in life and had the direction and guidance of a mentor, I would have liked to be a Forest Ranger or animal handler of some sort.  Being a firefighter would have been a great challenge too.

Do you have any pets?  If so, what are their names?

I have two dogs at this time.  I have a ten year old Siberian Husky (she looks kind of like a wolf!).  Her name is Toby Leigh and she is very funny!  She howls a lot.  I also have a Golden Retriever mix that I found.  His name is Rusty Wayne and he is maybe nine or ten years old.  He is the sweetest, softest dog!  He loves to play fetch with tennis balls.  I recently had to say goodbye to my almost 16 year old Siberian Husky, Pepper Marie.  She was a very, very sweet dog and my best friend.  I love all animals very much!

What subjects did you like best in school?  Which subjects best prepared you for your chosen career?

My favorite subjects in school were in the journalism field.  I wrote for the school newspaper, and was President of the Art Honor League.  I played varsity basketball for three years also.  I love field hockey and badminton.  I think that creative writing and knowing how to read and write are very, very important for life skills.  Even to be a truck driver you need to have good common sense, math skills, and be able to read and write and follow directions.

What advice do you have for others who wish to go into your field?

To go into my field of work I would suggest that you join a truck driving school or go on a training program with a certified driver/trainer.  No matter what you do, you have to start at the bottom.  Nobody ever was born knowing how to do what they do today.  Ask Questions!

How many brothers and sisters do you have?  Was it fun growing up in a big family?  What is the best thing about having lots of brothers and sisters?  Did you ever want to be an "only child"?

My biological family consists of four brothers, two of whom are deceased.  I have three sisters.  My Dad adopted his step children so I have two more brothers and a sister there.  I don't think I would have liked to be an only child.  It was fun to have a large family when we were young, and in our teen years.

What hobbies and outside activities do you enjoy?

My hobbies include sewing and needlepoint, reading, gardening, and I still have my first car that I like to work on and take to car shows.

What thoughts would you like to share with children around the world?

You should always study hard and make sure you get an education!  Education is the key to life and you will always need it!  You can have fun too but you can use that as your reward.  Eat healthy and exercise regularly as you need to take care of your body, mind and soul.

Do you have any heroes or favorite quotes which inspire you?

I can't say I have any heroes but I admired Jackie Kennedy a lot.  My favorite quotes would have to be...

"It is better to ask dumb questions than to make a dumb mistake." (Me)
"I yam what I yam.. "
"Let your conscience be your guide."
(My sister)
"A woman has to work twice as hard as a man, to be thought of half as good."

And last but not least is the all-time drivers' favorite.... always said to rookie drivers who begin to tell you how good they are after six months. Using gruff voice:

"I've backed up more miles than you've gone forward!"

Photos | Q&A

- 22 January 2002


Last Updated:
8 January 2015

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