MONCTON, N.B.–Armour Transportation company driver Susie De Ridder (Lyons) has been named Member of the Month for June by the Plover-Wisconsin-based Women In Trucking Association (WIT).
De Ridder, a 35-year veteran of the road, is a Fredericton native and she has been with Armour since 2013.
According to the WIT announcement, De Ridder knew from an early age what she wanted to be when she grew up. Even as a little girl riding along with her truck-driver dad, there was no question that driving a truck is what she was cut out for.
After graduating from Fredericton High School in the late ’70s, she sought out a local trucking company, learned the business starting at a desk and then out in the yard, where one of the company’s seasoned mechanics taught her to drive “the old-school way.”
Her dad was behind her all the way from the beginning, but her mother took a bit more convincing. She was worried about her little girl moving away and driving to strange parts of the country on her own.
In 1984 De Ridder headed for Toronto and after a couple of years she went west and south – to California where she spent the next 15 years working for U.S.-based companies hauling dry vans and reefers. For years, she hauled strawberries from California to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto.
Throughout all those kilometers, she has maintained the same positive attitude. “Sure, I’ve had my share of bad deliveries and I’ve made a wrong turn or two, but I always look ahead. After all, out of the thousands of days and the millions of miles I’ve driven, what’s one bad day?”
One wrong turn she’ll never forget. She was delivering in the Los Angeles area, and a mix-up in directions took her down a narrow street where she was stopped by a gang of young men walking toward the truck, the leader with his gun out. After much pleading and life-flashing-before-the-eyes moments, they finally let her go, no harm done. She often wonders if the fact she appeared as a “helpless” female got her out of that tricky situation.
In 2001, De Ridder moved back to Ontario and worked for a company that sent her on the road in a custom-built 1987 359 Peterbilt, a favorite on the show-truck circuit. Its distinctive 320-in. wheel base and 147-in. hood turned a lot of heads and earned her a spot on a coveted Cat Scales trading card.
In 2013, De Ridder moved back to Atlantic Canada and has been working for Armour since. She loves her job, and puts a great deal of effort into promoting a positive view of the trucking industry.
In 2015 she won the People’s Choice award in WIT’s I Heart Trucking contest for her photograph entitled “Susie tearing up the blacktop from coast to coast” and her “Trucks are for GIRLS” entry was first runner up last year.
In addition to being a WIT member, De Ridder is the Atlantic Canada board representative for the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada.
She takes every opportunity she can to encourage women to consider a trucking career, especially young women as they begin to make career choices. She recently wowed students at her old alma mater when she accompanied her company’s recruiting staff to FHS’s career fair, and there’s nothing she loves more than promoting the industry at Touch-A-Truck events and truck shows.
De Ridder has seen many changes in her 35 years on the road, and misses some of the old ways; the pace of trucking has sped up and there’s less time to socialize with others as mom and pop diners disappear. And when they do stop, drivers are more likely to grab a take-out meal than sit at the counter and chat.
The smartphone has replaced the CB in many instances, but it’s not necessarily a good thing, according to De Ridder. The CB was a safety net, when you could rely on other drivers for local traffic reports, weather conditions and directions, or when you might need help roadside or even a friendly voice to keep you company on a lonely stretch of highway.
Women In Trucking Association, Inc. is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17% of its members are me.