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Q&A with K&J's Summer Jakopak, a Female Truck Driver

Q&A with K&J's Summer Jakopak, a Female Truck Driver

Summer Jakopak is a fun, upbeat, married (that's her with her husband pictured above), mother of two preteens; and she is also a truck driver. When she isn't driving for K&J Trucking, Summer loves riding her horses, being with her husband and kids, and destroying sterotypes about female truck drivers. Read more about Summer in this Q&A below.

Q: When did you start working for K&J Trucking? How did you hear about them? 

I was lucky enough to find K&J Trucking right out of driving school at the end of 2014. I attended a local community college to obtain my Class A CDL and heard about them from the school. My OTR trainer at K&J was amazing and still mentors me to this day. I drove for 9 months and then had to take a year off - but I have been blessedly back in the truck with K&J since October 2016.

Q: Owner Operator or Company driver?

I am interested in exploring the idea of becoming an owner operator but am currently quite content as a company driver for K&J Trucking.

Q:  What do you like the most about K&J Trucking?

There are so many things I like about K&J that it is difficult to choose one to highlight! I suppose if I had to pick only one thing, it would be the amazing family environment and emphasis on lifting each other up, supporting each other, and making every driver feel important. At K&J no question or problem is treated as insignificant or stupid, and they encourage communication, safety, and hard work.
Our Safety Director Jennifer Raddatz said to me in my first weeks, “Always let us know if there are problems, no matter how small they may seem to be. A little problem can snowball into a big problem quickly while you sit in the truck and have nothing else to think about but to stew over it…”.  I have always found everybody in the office, shop, and dispatch to be amazing - like a second family to me.

Q: What is the hardest part about being a truck driver? 

I am a regional driver, going out for three or four days at a time at a minimum and sometimes for two weeks at a time before coming home for a couple days. I love driving, seeing new country, and conquering the new challenges every day brings. But it's not all gumdrops and roses; crazy hours, working inside all the DOT regulations, hours of service, appointment times, and keeping everybody sharing the road with me safe can all accumulate into a stressful life. Along with the normal stress of the job, tight schedules, cramped quarters, and limited facilities comes a lack of healthy food options, limited exercise opportunities, and subsequent weight gain. I have gained over 25 lbs since I returned to the job 7 months ago. Being healthy is my biggest challenge on the road; but I'm working to change that. 
Summer's weight loss quote. "I want to lose 100 lbs and become fit enough to ride my horses in a 100 mile endurance race with my children in the summer or fall of 2018.

Q: If there is one misconception about truck drivers that you could clear up, what is it and why does it bother you?

I think the one misconception my husband has, and many others as well, that bothers me the most is that all I do is sit around all day and sleep. Drivers are not lazy. To be successful out here one has to be alert and aware at all times as well as meticulous in trip planning and time management. Lazy, careless drivers don't make it out here any better than they make it at a desk job or a fast food restaurant. It bothers me because I sometimes come home very tired, having worked very hard, and I don't feel I get the appreciation or support I need to bounce back quickly with a solid nap in a stationary bed!

Q: What is it like being a female truck driver? 

Honestly it has been amazing. I feel that there is overall great support from the other women out here as well as most of the men. Don't get me wrong, I make sure to be as safe as possible, not stopping in bad neighborhoods or truck stops with a bad reputation, and making sure to be alert and watchful. I have found help, support, and smiles out here more than negative attitudes. We get in return what we send out!

Q: How do you keep your relationship with your husband healthy while on the road? 

This is definitely a challenge - communication communication, communication! We spend a lot of time talking about everything on a daily basis, and I make sure to schedule home time according to his needs as much as is possible. We devote my home time to family time and getting work done at home. Just like any marriage we have our bumps in the road - but we just keep on trucking, and we keep on talking. We have learned to leave the past in the rear view mirror and not take our time together for granted.

Q: How do you keep in touch with your kids while on the road? 

I will often be on speaker phone during their supper time. My computer-nerd son who is 9 years old will email or message me. My daughter, who is 11 and has a cell phone likes to text. Neither of them like to talk on the phone too much. We really try to spend time together as a priority when I am home.

Q: What is the craziest load you’ve hauled?

Most of the loads I haul are food - mostly ho-hum stuff with the occasional odd backhaul such as steel coils or potting soil. I guess I would have to say it was kinda fun to haul a 53’ trailer full of cheesy-puffs! Top to bottom, front to back loaded with cheese puffs -  and the trailer pulled like it was empty!

Q: What is your funniest trucking story? 

I make a fool of myself regularly as I learn the ropes - but I honestly don't know that I have a specific funny story yet. Ask me again in a couple years...

Q: Which routes do you like the best? Worst?

I am a true fan of anywhere warm in the winter... Honestly, it makes very little difference to me where I go as long as I get to see new country out my office windshield as often as possible.

Q: Favorite song to sing on karaoke night?

Well - karaoke isn't really my thing… It's lucky I am a solo driver because I like to sing at the top of my lungs (and I sound like a screeching cat!). My favorites are Three Days Grace, Five Finger Death Punch, Metallica, Nirvana, and many other new and old rock bands.  Probably my favorite song to rock with currently is My Name Is Human by Highly Suspect.

Q: What is your goal for the next year either professionally or personally? 

I want to lose 100 lbs and become fit enough to ride my horses in a 100 mile endurance race with my children in the summer or fall of 2018.  While this may be a lofty goal, I know that if I don't set this goal now and create a logical plan to accomplish it I will never accomplish it - and I have too many years ahead and things I want to do with my family and my horses to let this weight keep me down!  It's not about how I look, it's about how I feel and the things I cannot do while weighing over 200lbs when I am only 5 feet tall!

We will be following Summer as she works to lose weight and gain health while on the road. She will be filling us in on her small victories and her mistakes as she journeys to better health as a female truck driver. If you want to follow along with Summer's journey, make sure to subscribe to our blog in the right sidebar.
If you're looking for a trucking job with a company who cares, click below to get more information on why K&J Trucking is a great refrigerated trucking company!
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