Truck News

Feature

The Last Word: Bev Plummer

“How come that truck has just been sitting out there,” Bev asked, curious because she was aware that the company was busy.


“How come that truck has just been sitting out there,” Bev asked, curious because she was aware that the company was busy.

“What the hell is it to you?” the manager answered.

“Well, if you need a driver, you can hire me,” Bev explained.

“I don’t know what is happening with that truck. Leave me your name and number but call back here at lunchtime,” the manager instructed.

At 11:30 a.m., she returned, with her lunch box in her hand, dressed and ready to work. The manager gave her a steady look, sighed and after a silence that suggested he was unsure how to proceed, he finally spoke.

“Do you know where the pit is up on the 10?’ the manager questioned.

“Yes.”

There was no road test, to which she was thankful, because it was the first time she had encountered a dump truck quite like the one that had sat idle for so long – but with practical experience, patience and good old-fashioned know-how, that truck moved.

“If you want a job, you have to go out and get it. If it’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be, don’t wimp out right away. Stay with it,” Bev said. “If I had gone back in there and asked how to get the truck going, I wouldn’t have gotten the job.”

Bev Plummer needed that job and she was neither shy of experience nor a stranger to heavy-duty equipment.

Originally from Cochrane, Ont., Bev began working alongside her late husband.

“I worked with my late husband in heavy equipment; there was always something to drive,” Bev said.

There was always something to drive and it didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. It never mattered back in the 1960s and 1970s when Bev was working in Northern Ontario, and it certainly shouldn’t matter now – it’s a stance that Bev firmly stands behind, but was surprised that it wasn’t exactly universal.

In 1971, Bev moved from Cochrane to Barrie and was surprised to discover that the industry wasn’t as progressive.

“I got a job as a truck driver with a construction company – I was the first female driver they hired,” said Bev. “I worked locally until my kids were on their own.”

There was no specific reason that Bev kept getting the call to drive, but she simply put it down to the wanderer in her.

“It’s the gypsy in me, I guess – some of us are and some of us aren’t.”

But it wasn’t just driving the open road, seeing new places and meeting interesting people, it was a job and as a single mother of five children between the ages of five and 13 years old, she couldn’t turn away good work.

“When you have five kids that want to live indoors and eat every day, you have to find something that pays a little better all the time,” said Bev and experience told her that it was driving.

It wasn’t always easy to convince a yard foreman or a trucking company manager to hire a woman, a point of contention for Bev that wouldn’t dissuade her.

“(Companies) hire a driver. They don’t hire a man or a woman, they hire a driver,” Bev asserted.

She has never been comfortable with the distinction between a male driver and a female driver – it’s all just a person with a specific skill as far as she is concerned, but it was clear to her that the gender bias ran thick – from the roads where she drove right onto the pages of some of the trade magazines popular at the time.

According to Bev, the emphasis should be placed solely on the driver as a person. The notion of focusing on a woman as a driver seems counter-progressive.

“The more people that try to separate women and men, the harder it will be for women out there to get jobs,” Bev said. “I was out there doing so-called men’s work long before women’s lib came in.”

Men outnumber women in many jobs, Bev believes, noting such professions as law enforcement and the military, but when it came to driving a truck, it was the only job she had where she made the same money as a man – even though she was a minority behind the wheel.

“Men got paid 40 cents per mile and I got paid 40 cents per mile,” said Bev.

Still, “Women are never going to line up (to be a driver),” she believes. “I’ve talked to many of them – I had a friend who wanted to be a driver, but she didn’t become one…When you are out running ten thousand miles a month, you’re not in it just so you can tell someone you drive a tractor-trailer.”

There are no bragging rights, as far as Bev is concerned, it is just about getting a job done and with two million miles racked up on her odometer, she knows how to do it.

Trucks have changed substantially since Bev drove her first long haul – a three-week stint from Barrie to Dallas, Texas. There was no sleeping berth in the truck, just a piece of plywood that could extend from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat – not exactly the most comfortable way to unwind after driving all day – but then there were the facilities.

“When I started out running across the border, there were hardly any showers for women. The Flying J was just starting up in Utah and Petro had a few new ones. Most of the time you just used the men’s room and they put a cardboard sign on the door that read, ‘Woman Inside,’” Bev said with a laugh.

“You’d be in there for five minutes and you’d get some dude pounding on the door, ‘how long are you going to be in there?’ because the showers were inside the men’s washroom.”

The facilities, some so filthy you’d be considered brave just to use them, have changed for the better.

The rest stops have changed and so have the trucks.

“The trucks we have out there now that people are driving, it’s like running an RV,” Bev laughed. “You have everything in them. You can set up a TV, a microwave and satellite TV and radio.”

Handling the equipment has changed and with that transition, Bev would like to see another one alongside it.

“You hear people out there talking about truckers. We don’t want any more truckers out on the road – we want professional drivers,” said Bev. “There’s too many truckers out there now, tailgating cars and billy big-rigging down the highway. We don’t need them.”

Bev has always focused on the fact that she is a driver that is a woman, not a woman driver – something that may seem like semantics, but a distinction she is proud of and hopes others will adopt the same stance, along with a few key pieces of wisdom she has collected on the road.

“Don’t be a lot lizard and don’t talk like a ‘truck driver,’” she advises other women. “I knew a woman that [received her license] ahead of me and every word out of her mouth was f-this and f-that. No one would hire her. That just isn’t necessary.”

What is necessary, Bev gleaned, is always using your head, no matter who you are or where you work.

“I always told my trainees to making a habit of locking their truck doors behind them, even when they were fueling, so you never had to worry about getting into your cab with a stranger stowed away,” Bev said.

She remembered some of the tougher trainees boasting they could handle their own, but always quick to quip, Bev reminded them that even a big tough man is not match against a kid with a gun.

“If you keep your doors locked, your windows up and your mouth shut – you are safe almost anywhere,” said Bev. “It’s the best advice I have ever received.”


Print this page


3 Comments » for The Last Word: Bev Plummer
  1. Joe Licari says:

    I enjoy reading about a person’s experience in the trucking industry especially noting the changes over time. It caught my eye when Bev stated that “The rest stops have changed and so have the trucks” with today’s trucks being like RVs. I certainly agree but I wonder why there hasn’t been more change that ties in the truck stops and RV-like sleeper trucks as in the RV industry.

    Today, every RV park is equipped with electrified parking spaces to allow the vehicles to plug in to run on-board equipment. Of course, the RVs come shore power capable but all of the truck OEMs offer shore power capability at least as an option. Somehow, over time the RV industry transitioned to shore power capable vehicles along with plugs at the RV parks. Why wouldn’t the over-the-road trucking industry do the same thing? Fuel would be saved. Money would be saved. And drivers would have a better sleep environment that would also be healthier without breathing diesel emissions from their truck and other trucks packed into crowded parking lots. Idling can occur anywhere and there are alternatives but, as with RVs, shore power is a good fit for long-term parking that occurs at truck stops to meet hours-of-service requirements.

  2. Bev Plummer says:

    Joe, I don’t know how long you’ve been on the road but a few truck stops did try to make shore power available to drivers , Idleaire at the TA at Monroe MI being one of them and they all went bankrupt because of lack of customers.
    Maybe these systems or something like it will try it again they may have a better chance now with the restrictions on trucks idling.
    I am an RV’er now too just can’t seem to lose the travelling bug.

    Drive Safe & Happy
    Bev

  3. Bruce says:

    Beware; Canadian Truck Drivers. Workers Compensation “Nightmare”

    After driving over the road 25+ yrs, I suffered severe injury, while on the job. As I had just returned to this employer, I had only 1 month of service, in which my earnings gross was $6700 before taxes.

    Of course workers compensation, did everything possible to prevent my injuries, from being properly diagnosed. Even though x-rays identified and questioned spinal fractures, workers compensation refused to investigate my complaints of severe unrelenting pain.

    My physician requested a specialists appointment + diagnostic test which of course workers compensation refused.

    I was ramrodded into physiotherapy, my complaints of severe unrelenting pain were used to label me, non-compliant, adversarial, hostile.

    After suffering serious furthering of injury, I returned to emergency for the 3rd time in less than 2 months, of course the hospital refused to investigate my multiple complaints.

    I knew very little of how the medical system in Canada really works, as I had suffered a work injury, I did not know, that I was discriminated from Provincial Health Care or Universal Health Care, and subjected to the actions of Non-medical workers compensation claims adjuster who quite frankly “did not have my best interests at heart” and deliberately denied my physicians requests or warning that “return to work was unsafe” and he wanted me expedited to the specialist.

    In physiotherapy my multiple complaints were chucked into the wastebasket, and I was repeatedly threatened with termination of compensation benefits, if I refused to perform the exercises that were stated to help me with my health recovery.

    In desperation, I returned to emergency, requesting help from the emergency physician who basically didn’t give a sh*t about me or my injuries suffered from the workplace injury / accident.

    I saw 4 orthopedic surgeons, 2 neurosurgeons over a 3 yr period, No MRI was ordered, No CT scan was ordered, I received several x-rays, all which questioned spinal fractures.

    Workers Compensation set-up a assessment, with their assessment team, and withheld the x-ray that questioned thoracic fracture.

    1 yr later, workers compensation submitted falsified doctors report, and falsified x-ray reports, to another assessment team, who were supposed to investigate and help me with my work injuries.

    I was ramrodded into a return to work, further injured and my workers compensation claims adjuster, and my employer conspired to deny the new injury I suffered. Workers Compensation employees have deliberately violated the workers compensation act, with wilful negligence, wanton misconduct, all to prevent me from receiving benefits, medical care, for my work injuries.

    If you suffer a work injury DO NOT trust workers compensation, or their paid contract doctors, servants, agents. I trusted them and will never work again.

    In any job.

    Due to workers compensation, I have developed severe intractable pain, which I MUST take narcotic medications, just to obtain minimal relief, even with these large doses of narcotics, I cannot sit or stand for more than 30 minutes with escalation of severe pain.

    I received Canada disability 6 yrs after suffering injury, I receive $700
    a month which is taxable. Try raising 2 children and wife on that.

    In Canada, workers compensation is; Medical Insurance Fraud / Racketeering all designed to deny benefits or anything that costs a nickel;

    GOD help you if you suffer a severe injury, because workers compensation and their paid contract doctors will LIE, and say anything to deny anything that costs a penny;

    Sincerely
    Bruce
    Downed Worker
    Victim of Workers Compensation, Medical Insurance Fraud / Racketeering;

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*