“I can do this.” These are the words Toni Payment repeated to herself when she quit her job as an armed security guard. These are the words she repeated as she enrolled in trucking school. These are the words she continues to repeat as she enters her sixteenth year on the road.
Toni entered the trucking world fully aware of the male dominated industry. She understood that as a woman, being a professional driver would be a challenge due to perceptions and the current landscape. For Toni, the desire to pursue a career out of the ordinary was stronger than the difficulty, she explains, “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something that was mostly dominated by men – if not as good, then better.” Once obtaining her CDL, Toni was met with skepticism and gender bias. Men would heckle her, saying that trucking wasn’t for women or asking why she wasn’t at home. These statements only fueled her passion to succeed, saying she never wanted her male peers to say “told you she couldn’t do it.”
Toni silenced some of the nay-sayers by being a self-starter and a problem solver. Like other drivers, Toni hates being sidelined due to a break down and she’s more than willing to get her hands greasy to keep her truck running. In one instance, when a shop told her it would cost too much to fix a line on the truck, Toni called her company’s mechanic and had him walk her through the steps to get the truck up and running again.
While Toni operates with the mindset of many of her male counterparts, there are moments that remind her she’s a minority in the field. Toni admits that when she first started driving, she was nervous to be alone on the road as a female. And there’s good reason for her concern. “I’ve had times where people have tried to break into my truck while I was sleeping because they saw me in the truck by myself,” Toni shares. She goes on to explain that as a female truck driver, you have to take precautions and be careful depending on where your route takes you.
Even being precautious, Toni has been able to let her guard down and make friends on the road. Some of these friends have motivated her to keep moving forward with her career. A key motivator in Toni’s career was another female driver and coworker, Jennifer. Deaf in one ear, Jennifer earned her CDL with determination and the ability to overcome obstacles: an inspiration to Toni.
Since obtaining her CDL, Toni has visited all forty-eight states in the continental US. She’s had numerous adventures along the way and wants to see more women involved in the industry. Toni encourages other female drivers to set their own goals and remember that “you’re not proving anything to anybody but yourself.”
With years of experience and miles to go, Toni’s message is simple, always remind yourself: I can do this.