KellyLynn McLaughlin

Interview by
Published on
May 11, 2022

In this episode...

There was a time when truck drivers were also called “Knights of the Road”, honor-bound to carry America’s economy, deliver every single day, and help out drivers-in-distress when needed. Truck driving remains to be a noble job that allows one to enjoy the freedom of living life on the open road. When Women In Trucking was founded in 2007, only 3% of America’s truck drivers were women. It has since grown to 10% in 2020, and they hope to encourage more. In medieval times, there was no female counterpart to Knights: the Women In Trucking Association is looking to change that today, as they work to have more women become part of the noble family of the open road - no need for Lordship or Patents of Nobility. Follow the rules. Respect your fellow drivers, men and women. Deliver excellence. Kellylynn McLaughlin of the Women In Trucking Association speaks to Life By The Mile about the doors that could open for women who consider a career in the trucking industry - as truck drivers, operations, and eventually owning their own truck company.

Kellylynn McLaughlin

Driver Ambassador for Women in Trucking Association.


it is so much fun it is the funnest hardest job i have ever had and that if you have a cdl in your pocket you will never be without a job follow the rules be drug-free alcohol-free you will always have a job and and i'm like it doesn't stop there you could own your own business you know this is this is just the first step and we need people at the decision-making level that have worked every job from the driver to the trainer to the safety officer to the dispatcher to you know the customer service

this is life of the mile delivered by freight works i'm the host butch walpi we're at the mid-american truck show and kelly lynn mclaughlin is with us today that's right she's with women in truckee we're going to talk a little bit more about your truck driving life as well we love women in trucking we love ellen boya she's become a dear dear friend i want to start out though because i'm we just came off a conversation that was sort of interesting we just learned that both of us were born in the same hospital in the same city now i'm older but the methodist hospital in lubbock yeah that's that's pretty incredible i know well it's a small world right and in the trucking world you'll find out that our world is really small and that we're all connected in strange ways i i just like all the diversity and the people that i meet in this industry well let's before we get into talking about uh women in trucking let's talk about your journey how did you come into this industry of trucking and logistics it was quite by accident um i've i was interested in planes and fast cars my dad was an amateur race car driver and used to run little sports car tracks and outside of lubbock but um so i kind of had engines and transportation in my blood but when my kids were in high school i tried to stay involved with them and i became the band marching um mom volunteer and we had a 53-foot lowboy and some other trailers and i realized pretty quickly the only guy having any fun was the volunteer dad truck driver and we would lease a tractor to pull to all the events oh this was the band you were taking the marching band yeah and so i got a ride in the tractor one day and it was the closest thing i had felt to flying since i had been flying when i was in high school and you you were taking lessons or you were a pilot i was flying airplanes before i was driving clarks isn't that something yeah you know this is another little aside my father had his pilot's license before he had his driver's license in upstate new york that's so interesting so you love to feel well yeah i like being up high but when i was in college i just couldn't afford it and i didn't have the time so um anyway fast forward i was in the marching band took a ride in the tractor and the the dad said something very um monumental to me and i was like oh i wish i could do this for some reason i put myself in the box that it wasn't something that it was in my skill set and he said you can do it and i i went home that night and i thought about it and i was like well if he thinks i can do it maybe i can do it and do i want to be on my deathbed and leave that on the table and say i wish i had tried that when i was younger and the answer was no so i just decided to give it a good go and i found out i had diesel in my blame in my blood and i loved it and i um appreciated the challenge i learned a lot about myself but more than anything i learned a lot about our country when i became a driver and that this industry is the circulatory system of our country absolutely i had been ignorant and had was just not paying attention and um and so then it just kind of led into what i'm doing right now is to raise awareness of the career opportunities to talk about this industry change the face of who people think of when they think of a driver and that there are so many opportunities no matter what stage of life you're at in your life there's a job in this industry that can fit your lifestyle and we are just so essential um it's unfortunate that coved is one of the things that kind of brought it up to the front page well and the dinner table conversation is what i often you know people are talking about as a at the dinner table now and um but there's so many great things and i you know i was just like everybody else i just the trucks went by and i wasn't thinking about them and now i'm one of them and i love it and i've just learned so much that is so good now do you remember the first uh truck that you drove what kind of model and make and all that what kind of it was an international because it was one of the trucks that we were actually it was the vault it was an ancient volvo when i was in cdl school but then we rented international trucks the um it was the pro whatever i can't remember but i have a 2020 p4 freightliner cascadia right now and she has all of the best technology and about a month and a half ago i actually had mirror eye installed in her so i've gone through the whole process of retraining my brain to use cameras instead of we just had mirror eye come out to freightworks where we are in rutherfordton north carolina it's just amazing we actually did a little promotional video for them yeah now let's talk before we get into women in trucking which is what we're going to drill down on talk about all the changes you've seen in trucking and logistics for the time you first came into the industry well i'm still pretty new right so i only got my cdl eight years ago i've been driving for six years okay but even in the six years that i've been driving the truck that i drive today is completely different than the truck that i drove six years ago because i didn't have a lot of the safety technologies and i was in a manual transmission and i was one of the first trainers well that's great that you know how to do that there are drivers that come on board it's like i can't i can't do that or i won't do that yeah i was one of the first trainers that started that was training automated transmissions and the manual transmissions and i enjoy the manual transmissions but i found that when i was teaching new students having the automated transmissions that it let them have more brain space to pay attention to their surroundings and be safer drivers and obviously large carriers have figured out that they're safer and more efficient as well and um i just i you know with the comfort level in my truck now i have a microwave i have a fridge which was a game changer both for my personal safety health wise yeah and also just convenience being able to have healthy food while i'm out on the road and not have to spend my money buying food and i have adaptive cruise control i have predictive cruise control i have a radar that helps me keep tabs on if i'm inching up on people too too quickly and i have lane guidance you know signals if i start to drift and those are all safety tools that help me do my job faster safer better and and deliver their goods on time it's so interesting talking to drivers that have been around i've got a friend but buyers and he drove for yellow freight for i think 48 years yeah and uh he talked about what it was like with those old trucks where no air conditioning oh my god no future comforts yeah you had to manhandle it in so many ways i know do you have favorite parts around the country that you like driving well i really do like south dakota talk about that i'd love you know what we're going to do i'm going to talk about that and i'm going to send this to their chamber of commerce to their tourism people go ahead i do i do love south dakota i love the big rolling mountains and all the farmland and the machinery that they have that they harvest and seed the farmlands with looks like giant tarantulas to me they're massive that is so you're talking about for big grain farms oh my god i don't you know like who created those machines they're they're really interesting and as a driver i want to drive one of those giant multi-legged were you that way when you were little i don't know okay because i've talked to some i've talked to some uh women that are executives or drivers or ambassadors and i'll ask them were you playing with trucks when you were young or i did i did i did not do dolls i'll tell you that okay but i think i was very creative i was very artsy painting yeah that kind of thing but the other i really do like tennessee and montego is one of my favorite places too why it's just the challenge you know i'm all about the challenge and you know i love tweaking until i get it perfect you know and you know even and um one of the engineers at schneider he challenged me once to improve my mpg yeah and i was like okay it's on healthy you've always liked challenges right yes yes yeah i think i do and this industry gives you that doesn't it all the time and people often ask me though like well how do you back up i'm like you know what it's just math it's formula it's geometry once you figure out where your pivot points are and and how to tweak your your formula then it's easy it's just it's just math you know in your in your years uh that you've had in driving what are the things that make for a good driver do you think patience right and um you have to constantly you have to well one you have to be willing to follow the rules because we're not out here to break the rules we want to stay safe and we want to keep our cdl and keep our livelihood but i think patience is really important and you have to be able to make the right decision when nobody's looking oh that's that's good talk about that a little bit more right so you know it's the same thing we teach our kids you know you make the right decision even when nobody's looking because we are held to a higher standard and you know we are we're not only responsible for our safety but for the safety of other people on the road around us and if you're not willing to make those right decisions that this industry is not for you exactly and you know i used to tell our four children when they were young patience is a virtue waiting never hurts you and they would all say oh dad but it's true i mean impatient driving angry driving all those things are formulas for a disaster yeah and that's not a professional way to handle your business and we are professionals out here now let me let me uh talk a little bit about women in trucking how did you make your way into the role that you have now uh well that's okay it is a funny story so when i was trying to find my tribe when i first came into the industry i would that's a good way to say it try it yep um i would go to i would go to these truck shows i would read all the journals i would talk to everybody i could at my carrier i would stop and talk to drivers at you know fuel stops or customers or whatever but i was just gathering my information and every time i came to a truck stop i would see women in trucking had a booth i would look at the journals women in trucking was quite frequently mentioned and i thought they were this really huge organization and one day i stopped at the booth and i met a woman named carol nixon she's on the image team and she's a driver for walmart and she was so kind and so nice and she gave me her card and she's like you should join us and we're having a salute for women behind the wheel and we have this accelerate conference that we go to every year and i just kind of watched them for another year and then the next year i joined and i went to accelerate and i went to the salute and i just wanted to be one of them and you are and more and i made it my goal and then when they posted the position for the driver ambassador three years ago i applied and i had spoken with ellen a couple of times i had bumped into her at schneider and i was starting to kind of make my way through the industry and ask questions and i had found a mentor also who was also on the board of women in trucking and i specifically said would you be my mentor as leah schaefer and um and and then ellen hired me she said yes we're interested in you being the driver ambassador and it was supposed to be a full-time position but it was so brand new we didn't have the trailer built at that time i went to schneider and i said me driving and training gives me the street cred to talk about the issues in the industry and i don't feel i was like as much as i want to be an ambassador for the industry i don't ever want to leave driving i i just love it and it gives me air you're in the boots on the ground so we the three of us myself schneider and ellen with women and trucking association worked out um an agreement so that i work half time with schneider they provide the tractor to the program and then i work part-time for women in trucking as an ambassador and during covid and while the trailer is being built it was mostly stuff like this interviews blogs blogs and and you know just making those connections and trying to talk as loud as we can so maybe people hear us and it's been a great collaboration so we can recruit for the industry and we can recruit for women and trucking and and we have a driver that is really driving and dealing with customers and training new drivers that is that is so good and you know what i love about it is that you had a goal and you were tenacious and and appropriate and you just kept all i you know i and i tell people this all the time i'm like just just ask for what you want because all i can do is say no exactly and you can't have beer or whatever the response is going to be i used to tell employees in the consulting firm that i had they would say what do i need to do to be successful and i'd say it's not the school you went to it's not how smart you think you are it's suiting up and showing up and doing your job doing it faithfully and with excellence every day yeah and that's really what's required now talk a little bit about women in trucking for the people that are uninformed that are going to watch this or listen to it on the podcast right so women in turkey they have three three branches three arms to their mission and one is to raise awareness about the career opportunities out here for women which are huge and we're not talking just driving we're talking about all of the support staff on the non-driving side and diesel technicians and drivers as well and then the other thing this organization does really well which a lot of it's hard to find is opportunities to celebrate the women that are successful in this industry and tell their stories so we are here to share those stories and the trailer whitney that i pull around has a lot of those stories in there and then the third branch of our mission is to work together to break down barriers to women in this industry and sadly there are still barriers in this industry and the positive part is when i started we were about women female commercial drivers were about three percent of the industry and now we're somewhere between eight and ten so it is that numbers have tripled in six years so i'm really looking forward to the future and i you know my hope is in another six years that drivers the female driver population will be close to 50 percent that's my that is that is so good and um you know there are issues that are serious critical issues i was reading a white paper that women in trucking i think did recently on on this whole issue of safety and the whole issue of being trained by people that you're gender training yeah it's just talk about that i mean i had three teenage daughters yeah i would have jumped on an airplane to go fly and say no way i don't talk about this because get on your head okay so i came from other industries into this industry and um i ha i quite by accident wound up working with schneider and they for for more than 10 years i don't even know how long but i've been with them for six they don't have new hires training and sharing a sleeper birth if they're not the same gender they have a zero tolerance for surrender sexual harassment or bullying right and that should be the industry standard but for some reason it's not why i think it's it's money because um you can get more miles out of your truck if it drives as a team you in the past they were able to pay their new hires less and then run them as a team so it's just money centered if you stop the truck and put the mixed gender you know whoever's female whoever's male that might you know the trainer might be female i'm a trainer but um and stop and put them in a hotel it costs money to do that and the truck's not moving but we know better our our industry our country we know better that this is not an acceptable training environment and companies a few companies are moving away from that but there are still too many that are training their trainers running the new hires as an over the night night shift team driver or they have to share this same sleeper birth it's just crazy and so recently i gave a presentation to north carolina turkey association and i asked them i was like how many of you have a a policy where the best practice is to stop the truck and each trainer and trainee go and get their 10-hour break in separate areas and you get a hotel and then the next day and not one of them raised their hand and said yes that's how we do our training but that's over the road training right so let's let's just not confuse it with all of the other companies that are run day cabs they you know they get home every day or they sleep in a hotel anyway or whatever this is over the road training and that has been you in this industry for years you've had to put in your pay your dues right to go over the road for a couple years before you could get the the more desirable daily home jobs but it's an easy fix you know we change up the the um the job configurations we shut down more we um put the students in hotels or we train them locally and then they come back to a hotel every night and then they go out and do their over-the-road job later but so that's one of the challenges the other challenges is just access to hygiene parking and safe facilities right so i'm still having to ask customers for access to a bathroom i drove eight hours to get there i'm gonna be there for two hours and they say no we don't have um facilities for drivers and i'm like you know i'm human like you and we're on the same team exactly exactly well you know what and the thing that's so good about women in trucking is that your advocates you're going to keep beating the drum until change happens right yes that's so good now what would you say to young women that are considering getting into the industry how would you encourage them let's say you had 100 that were right there and they're listening to you right now what would you say well i would say just try and picture yourself doing this it is so much fun it is the funnest hardest job i have ever had and that if you have a cdl in your pocket you will never be without a job right as long as you're safe and you're that's true you're willing to be you know yeah the world be drug-free alcohol-free you will always have a job and you know like i i've had several young women come into the trailer and and i'm like it doesn't stop there you could own your own business right right you know this is this is just the first step and we need people at the decision-making level that have worked every job from the driver to the trainer to the safety officer to the dispatcher to you know the customer service we need we need somebody at the decision-making table that's been at every position kelly lynn you referred to your truck earlier or she i love that amelia can you tell us about her she's pretty snazzy i love amelia and i named her after amelia earhart you know i love him and you know what there were so many young women that looked at amelia earhart and said i can do that i want it i love that so much well tell us about amelia so she's a 20 20 freightliner cascadia and she has a memory foam bed and she has a tv and she has a fridge and she has tons of safety equipment i keep her super clean people are always surprised how surpri how clean she is on the inside and i have fairy lights inside she's got a little decor going and she's my home away from home i mean she's my eight foot by eight foot home it is peaceful at night well i have an apu but i like the sound of that motor and at home i actually parker outside my bedroom window and when the battery gets lows the apu will kick on and the generator runs and i just i love it there's a couple of sounds so that is you know what i don't use the word precious very much that's precious i mean so she's right there yeah and you know the cutout valve when you're building up pressure for your and it goes that's my other favorite sound unbelievable now what are you gonna do when she needs to be another someone i you know i'm taking such good care of her she looks brand new and she just got her mirror i plan on keeping her for a little while that is so and i'm sure she's happy about that too yeah i clean her and polish her you should see her wheels you know she's not your typical company so good i need to make sure that i can call you on the road sometimes so that i can get an update on how things are going now let me let me ask you this where do you think women in trucking is going where do you hope to be in the years ahead i mean what what programs what well i'm looking forward to the driver ambassador program really taken off and i would really like to see this trailer at not only major shows for us to just share what we're doing as an organization but to get out there and meet the people that don't know anything about trucking that i'm i'm so hopeful that this next generation is going to bring in their new ideas their fresh perspectives and bring a lot of positive change into this industry and you know we have enough statistics now that female drivers are actually safer drivers than our male counterparts we take less risk than yadda yadda so i think you know my hope is that we really are going to see that this industry is a go-to place for women and that um it's i you know i the sky's the limit for me i'm just so excited and i i don't know about you but you know i'm a little bit older you know i'm no spring chicken but i feel this sense of urgency like work faster work faster do faster do faster because this industry's just gone up and up and up and and people really think about us now and so i think we're at a really great spot to take off and make some positive changes for for our next generation basically and so i'm just trying to put all of that in place so that the next crew can take it one of the podcast interviews we did yesterday was with next-gen trucking i was lindsay came out to the trailer today and we've got ourselves it was so good and i just yeah the combination of what women in trucking is doing next gen and others that are out there is it's it's coalescing a team that i think is really going to make really make a difference what do you do when you're not doing what you do uh well this month this is all i do but i love raising pigs my dog my daughters i think pigs are lovely and i have a great experience running out of time and you and you and you didn't reveal this so what is it about pigs i don't know they're very smart they're so smart they're they they like to play games they're and they're lovely to eat as well okay i do like barbecue i need to ask you a question do you ever name a pig we name them all i've had goats and peacocks and chickens and ducks and i mean like you've named it where do you live again oklahoma that's right uh in ed not edmonds in edmond edmond yeah yeah yeah so i'm a farm girl when i'm when i'm not here and i love to hang out with my family i do okay now north carolina barbecue means different things it does what is is it vinegar or mustard or what what is it it's not it's it's sour to me okay i like it hot and spicy like it's hot and spicy barbecue and and you don't have any problem naming an animal that you're gonna make barbara no i'm a farm girl i mean like i might raise my kids to understand the surface i've worked on a dairy farm for two summers with an uncle and it was some of the best years times of my life holstein you know milking cows so you keep doing that keep adding animals you have new animals you're going to add you think i would like to go back to peacocks i wasn't very successful with my first couple of rounds of peacocks and what does it take to raise those hard it has to be you have to have a completely coyote proof um environment and i well i have coyotes and bobcats and bald eagles and all sorts of stuff that runs through my property it's just it's been a challenge poultry has it's why i went to pigs because they're coyote proof you know what i promise you with all the podcasts we do we're not going to have conversations about a truck that's named emilia amelia or pigs that are named and then become barbecue bailey bacon or or or peacocks i'm just not going to have that with anybody else kelly lynn this has been so great what's the question i should have asked you that i didn't oh you got it oh you got it mean with the pigs right at the end no i just think i think that's really really good well you know you're an ambassador already and by the way you work for a great company i'm v i have the best i love schneider and i have never found a reason to leave them well and you know what and we're firm believers at great works we're firm believers that we're in an industry together so uh we we know you work for a great company and one that we share a lot of the same values with yeah safety first well we we we want uh want you to have a little gift from us we know that you don't lack for caps actually this is my first cap that i've been given outside of one several years ago from jake brake junkie i love that well i want to let you know as a friend now it's got kind of a patriotic theme on the back it's got the life by the mile logo and leather there we want you to have that it's our thank you i appreciate it we love the work that you're doing it's an important message it's a great team women and teachers you're an inspiring uh individual for women and others that want to come into our industry and uh it's been a delight to have you here today thank you for having me i love to talk to you great great guest and again the time went so quickly thank you so much right thank you thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to the channel by clicking here we'll see you there


Get emails about design, user experience, user interface & productivity each week. We'll keep them short & to the point.

Thank you! Be on a lookout for an email from us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.