Anna McDaugale never thought she would end up living her life in a truck... and loving it! McDaugale, 40, and her husband John, 43 started driving for K & J Trucking as a team during the fall of 2018.
We sat down with Anna to talk about how she made the leap into the trucking life, what it is like being a female trucker, and how she and John manage life on the road as a driving team and husband and wife.
Anna grew up near Avon, SD on a dairy farm as the second of five kids. After high school she and John got married and in just a few years, their family of two became a family of four.
While the kids were under their roof Anna and John worked traditional jobs to support their family. Anna spent 14 years working in the farrowing unit at a hog farm outside of Tripp, SD, while John worked as a car and diesel mechanic, in maintenance, and as a welder.
But after the kids grew up and left the house, Anna and John started to dream about the future. They wanted to travel, they wanted to save up more money for retirement, and they wanted to work together. Trucking seemed like the perfect fit.
The Path to a CDL
John came from a trucking family—his father drove truck for most of John's childhood, and his stepfather, Larry Dewald, operates a fleet that leases onto K & J Trucking.
When the McDaugales decided to pursue trucking, they looked into a few trucking lines that have their own schools or do their own CDL training programs, but they were frustrated by the cost and the big business feel.
That's when they turned to John's stepdad to see if he needed another driver.
"We knew that a lot of companies want you to have two years of experience before they will hire you," Anna said. "That is a hard barrier. It is difficult to get experience if no one will hire you!"
Thankfully John and Anna had a different experience at K & J Trucking.
"K & J was willing to consider John's background," Anna said. "Because of John's knowledge of the industry, they worked with him on the areas where he needed help and gave him seat time so he could get his CDL without attending school."
The McDaugales decided to have Anna attend Southeast Technical Institute for a four-week CDL training program. Although Anna grew up dealing with older style farm equipment, she had never operated anything quite like a modern truck, and she wanted hands-on education and seat time.
"I was very nervous about getting into the truck and actually starting to drive," Anna said. "But after awhile I realized that it was much more stressful sitting in a classroom than being behind the wheel."
When Anna's nerves caused her to fail her first CDL test attempt, K & J staff came around her to support her and get her the experience she needed.
"I felt kind of dumb about it," Anna said. "But everyone at K & J was so kind. They offered to take me out for a few practice drives so I could get more seat time and build my confidence."
Anna passed her second attempt with flying colors.
Training on the Road
After getting her CDL, Anna went through the driver training program at K & J Trucking. The goal of the program is to get new drivers behind the wheel with an experienced driver trainer right there to help them navigate the first few weeks.
K & J works hard to pair new drivers with experienced driver trainers who can serve as mentors in the industry. Anna went out with Summer Jakopak, a K & J owner operator and fellow female driver.
"Working with Summer was great," Anna said. "It was nice to be out with another woman to do my training. She taught me a lot while we were on the road together."
Hitting the Road as a Team
After about a month in the truck with Summer, Anna was ready to get on the road. She and John went out on their first team run in early December and haven't looked back!
Most of the time John drives and Anna navigates and keeps him company; but when there is a stretch of open highway, or if hours of service are an issue, Anna enjoys getting behind the wheel too.
Their team driving arrangement is working out perfectly, but they are quick to admit that OTR trucking isn't for everybody, and team driving isn't for every couple.
"We are best friends," Anna said. "We've always done everything together anyway, so it hasn't been a big deal to spend a bunch of time together."
While they still nip at each other every once and awhile—usually when they get into Chicago traffic or forget a turn on their GPS—they have committed not to dwell on the little things.
"This isn't a job, this is a lifestyle," Anna said. "You have to do everything differently, from meal planning to exercising, even sleeping arrangements."
Anna added that it can be difficult to eat high quality meals on the road without a lot of prior planning. Balancing eating and exercising on the road has been the hardest part for them.
However, the couple hopes to bring their bikes on the road this spring and summer so they can both explore and get exercise; they may even use K & J's foldable bikes!
Plans for the Future
Anna and John hope that after getting some miles and experience under their belt they will be able to spend more of their downtime exploring the country.
"With K & J, they are great about trying to get you to various places that you want to explore," Anna said. And with the growing popularity of services like Uber and Lyft they can use an app on their smart phone to find affordable transportation to a variety of sights.
First on their list is Nashville, Tennessee. "We would love to visit the Grand Ole Opry," Anna said.
Considering Team Driving?
Anna and John had some advice for those considering switching to a trucking career.
We say, just go for it. If you think it might be the thing for you, there is definitely an avenue or path you can take to get into it. It isn't just long-haul over the road trucking, you can do regional too. There is a whole world of trucking out there that people can explore. It is pretty intimidating when you first start getting into it, but it is worth it.
The more stigma we can take away from truck driving, the better. We are just regular people living our lives out on the road. And there is definitely a place for women in this industry.