DUBUQUE, Iowa – One of the first ever Pride-wrapped trucks in North America has hit the highway.
The Rainbow Rider – as it’s been dubbed by its admirers across the continent – has been rolling down highways and been on display recently, getting a lot of attention on social media and on the road.
The woman behind the truck is Shelle Lichti – an over-the-road company driver for Hirschbach Motor Lines. Lichti has been driving truck for more than 25 years and currently hauls refrigerated goods in the northeastern states with the rainbow-colored truck.
Lichti says the idea of having a rainbow truck to represent the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community within the trucking population started years ago as a mere thought. She wanted people to know that the community existed as more than a “dirty little secret” and wanted those in the LGBTQ space within the industry to feel safe.
“LGBTQ truckers have been out on the road for years, but no one talked about it back then,” she said, adding that many would be abused out on the road. They faced being set up, having their equipment damaged, and even being
“I saw all of this unsafe stuff going on and the dilemma that was happening,” she said.
Lichti said the big turning point for her was when a close friend of hers, a gay truck driver, was set up by someone he thought was safe in 2007.
“From the bits he did explain to me, he was supposed to be hooking up with one guy he trusted,” she recalled. “They met up, and the guy brought a bunch of truckers with him and they beat him and gang-raped him.”
Unfortunately, things got worse for Lichti’s friend as he was blamed for the interaction by his employer, according to Lichti’s account, because he was a “pervert and deviant.” Within the year of his brutal assault, Lichti’s friend took his own life.
“It broke my heart and I wanted to do something,” Lichti said. “I wanted to create a community where LGBTQ drivers could talk about the situations they’ve been through.”
Lichti created a conference call line, accessible 24 hours a day, that LGBTQ truckers could call into and talk to others, or participate in Trucker Karaoke, where drivers could belt their favorite songs over the line for all to hear.
Lichti also created a popular Facebook page for LGBTQ drivers. In fact, the Facebook page members named the iconic truck the Rainbow Rider.
But she wanted something to be more public and more visible to the rest of the world. And so, she thought, why not create a rainbow-wrapped truck to raise awareness for the LGBTQ community within trucking?
Lichti said it took about three years for the Rainbow Rider to go from concept to completion. She worked with Redd Dawg Graphics to create a design that not only shows Lichti’s support for the LGBTQ community, but her admiration for the trucking industry, as well.
The truck debuted first on the LGBT Truckers Facebook Page, as Lichti wanted the more than 4,000 members to see the truck first. And then the Rainbow Rider made its way right from the graphics shop to the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in March.
Lichti said the Rainbow Rider got a lot of positive feedback at MATS, though there were a few derogatory comments from some.
“It’s been an amazing response, overall so far,” Lichti said, adding that the truck was next scheduled to appear at the Capital Pride Parade in Washington D.C. on June 8. It will be the first time a Pride truck will be in the parade. “Which I think is great for the community and for the industry,” she said.
Lichti mentioned she was also invited to Toronto’s pride parade, however Hirschbach doesn’t operate in Canada, so she couldn’t make things line up logistically.
Trucking representation in pride parades has been ramping up in recent years. Daimler Trucks North America announced recently that it has two rainbow-wrapped trucks attending pride parades this year; one will represent at the downtown Portland, Ore., pride parade and another will go to the Detroit and Charlotte, N.C. parades.
Lichti is also one of the few LGBTQ truckers speaking up about the reality of being in the industry as
Nic Richelle and Carla Grimsley are a married lesbian couple who host a popular YouTube channel, talking about the realities of the industry and the lifestyle that comes with it. They have more than one million views and 13,000
Overall, Lichti said her hope for the truck is that it not only raises awareness, but helps to create a dialogue towards change for the LGBTQ community. An easy way to remember what the Rainbow Rider means to her and the LGBTQ community is a handy acronym of the word PRIDE – Promoting Responsible Industry Diversity and Equality.
“I am so privileged and proud to be able to drive this truck and represent these drivers, and I hope I reflect well on them,” she said.
She added she hopes that the truck shows the greater public that there is a supportive and thriving LGBTQ community within the trucking industry, and maybe more drivers will consider an occupation in the trade.
“We all deserve to be seen and acknowledged. To me it doesn’t matter who we go to bed with, we still deserve the same respect, so hopefully this truck can be the symbol of that change,” Lichti said.
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