If there ever was a year for Katrina Mapplebeck and Alison Theriault to remember, it’s 2014.
The year has been great to Mapplebeck, 25, and Theriault, 30, who run team at Clarke Road Transport in Halifax, N.S., a job they happily accepted this June. Before that, the couple got engaged in March and are now currently planning their wedding that is happening this coming November.
Though the couple drives together now, Theriault was the first to climb into a truck and did so for four years before Mapplebeck joined her just two short years ago. Theriault said her career now was something she envisioned doing for a long time.
“It was something I had wanted to do and I tried to convince my parents to (let me) do it when I finished high school, but it wasn’t in the cards for me,” she said. “They’re both university graduates and professionals, so I did what they wanted me to do.”
After completing university, Theriault looked for a job in the trucking industry and after submitting nearly 300 applications, she finally found a fleet to take her on. Eventually, she began trying to convince her now fiancé to join her in the truck because of the perks they could both enjoy.
“It’s a huge relief now as a team driver to have your logbook legal 100% of the time,” she said. “From a safety perspective, I prefer (driving team) and it’s nice to have someone else to talk to so I’m not constantly pining to go home.”
Mapplebeck added that money was on their minds too, before deciding she should get behind the wheel.
“I was in the service industry and I wasn’t making nearly the amount Alison was making,” said Mapplebeck. “We sat down and talked about how much money we could be making if I learned how to drive and we figured we’d be stupid if I didn’t join her in the truck. And I’m glad I did, it’s so much fun and it really is a dream job.”
Mapplebeck and Theriault agreed that their favourite part of the job is getting to explore (they have no set routes with Clarke – just irregular dispatching) the parts of Canada and the United States they never got to see before getting into a truck.
“Right now, I’m loving getting to see everything in the US,” said Mapplebeck. “I’ve never been there before. So I’m seeing lots of different things and I’ve never really been far from home so getting out to Winnipeg and the States has really opened my eyes a lot.”
Of course, with the good comes some bad, and it’s not a shock that the trucking industry is male-dominated and that both women have experienced sexist, xenophobic and homophobic remarks on the job. Theriault expressed that though it may be a generalization, she finds that the older generation is partly to blame for this.
“Which isn’t to say there aren’t young people who have that attitude and older people who are welcoming,” she said. “It is an interesting mix of people you meet at the truck stops. There is a lot of blatant racism and a lot of blatant sexism and a lot of xenophobia. I hope that these attitudes are a lot less prevalent as the younger generation moves into the industry.”
Mapplebeck and Theriault said that though these attitudes exist in the industry it hasn’t swayed them from staying, because of the rewards their career gives them on a daily basis.
“You’re driving down and there’s always kids looking up at the big truck and it’s extra special when there’s a little girl in the front seat and she looks up with a big smile across her face,” said Mapplebeck. “And you think well maybe she’ll become a truck driver when she gets old enough and she’s turning around in her seat to keep looking at you as much as possible. Seeing her make the connection that she could be a driver too, it’s really cool to watch. It could change her whole perspective.”
Mapplebeck was conscious of the existence of truck drivers as her father drove professionally for a number of years before she was born. But, Theriault expressed that this career option was never presented to her at school when she was growing up.
“It was never brought up at career day or anything like that,” she said. “A truck driver was never brought into school. It was kind of explained to us as, if you didn’t go to university after high school you’d be scraping poop off toilet seats for the rest of your life.”
This is just one of the changes both women hope to see in the future.
“I would also love to see more women in the industry and eventually I’ve love to see it be 50/50,” Theriault said on the hopes for the trucking world. “It is a great industry for women and I hope the few gross characters in the pack don’t undermine the millions of professionals who are willing to lend a hand.”
She also added that the job requires no intrinsically male or female demands – there is no heavy lifting or mechanical knowledge about a driving position. Mapplebeck admitted she was scared at first for entering the career (and suspects other women and young people are too) because she had always driven an automatic car, never a manual.
“I learned how to shift in a truck before I ever knew how to operate a manual car,” she said. “It’s second nature now. I’m more comfortable driving a stick shift in a truck than I am driving a car.”
When asked how the couple deals with being together 24/7, they said it’s a common misconception that they sit side by side in the truck when driving.
“When I’m driving, Katrina needs to be trying to get some sleep and vice-versa,” said Theriault. “So we convene at mealtimes and then part ways when we go to the truck. We try to manage it that way. It can be challenging at times, because there’s always someone there in your face, if you’re having a bad day and you just want to kick something, you can’t just let it out.”
“I find that we fight more often when we’re at home,” Mapplebeck added. “When we’re on the road, we’re on the same page and we know what we’re doing bu t when we’re home and the time is tight and I want to do this and she wants to do that, conflict arises.”
Coming home from the road these days is a little more exciting for the couple. During my interview on the phone with the two, they were rifling through RSVPs for their upcoming wedding on Nov. 1. The excitement in their voice for the highly-anticipated day was palpable (no bridezillas here!) considering they whipped together a wedding rather quickly. (The couple met at a bar a few years back where things didn’t go so well – Theriault says she eventually won Mapplebeck over with her “not-so-hilarious jokes.”)
Both women said plans for the future are still uncertain – they both love to drive but have flirted with the idea of opening their own business someday.
“We both are reasonably good at numbers and math so we’ve talked about buying a couple of trucks,” said Theriault. “In an ideal world we’d like to work at this to put some capital aside and eventually run our own authority. I still see myself working with trucks. I love this job and seeing people’s faces when I tell them I drive a truck. It’s fun to surprise people.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface