Like Mother, Like Daughter
Transport America Drivers Mary Gordon (Mom) and Roberta Thompson (Daughter) Keep America Moving
For many years, decades in fact, truck driving has been dominated by men. In fact, women still only comprise around six percent of the truck driving population.
But maybe things are changing. Especially when you hear the story about Mary Gordon, a Transport America team driver and the proud mother of four daughters – one of whom is a solo OTR driver for Transport America.
When daughters follow their truck driving moms into the business, something’s changing.
Mary Gordon started driving back in 1998 when there were very few women drivers on the road. The resident of Beaumont, Tex., has been driving team with her husband James Gordon since February 2016. James has been a professional driver for nearly 20 years.
Mary had had two daughters, Ashley and Roberta, prior to starting her career as a truck driver. Two more daughters would follow in the years to come. It was her second daughter, Roberta, who surprisingly showed the most interest in her mother’s career.
“All of my daughters have rode with me. But Roberta always wanted to ride with me,” recalled Mary. “She was a very good passenger, even when she was younger. She would open doors for me, and take care of the truck cab. She had a sense for being around big trucks and staying safe. She’s had it in her blood since she was a little girl.”
“I remember when I was a kid I would ride my bike around town pretending that I had a trailer on and I would back it up and drop it in one driveway and pick up another trailer from a different driveway. I would spend hours doing that.” said Roberta Thompson, 23, Mary’s daughter who drives as a solo OTR driver for Transport America. “
“My mom is my biggest role model and my best friend,” continued Roberta. “I have always appreciated everything she has done for my sisters and me. Being able to switch from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat has made me gain so much more respect for her. I didn’t realize how different it was being in the passenger seat rather than the drivers seat. I knew it was a difficult job at times, but now, as a driver, I have a much deeper understanding. I knew that it was hard for her to be away from us girls, but she did what she knew best to be able to make sure we got what we needed, and still does to this day.”
“All of my daughters have a better sense of what our country is all about because they’ve rode with me,” said Mary. “They’ve been very supportive of my choice, and together, we’ve built a strong support system. We’re in constant communication and they help out a lot at home. They even keep me informed about the weather and trucking industry news.”
“Trucking has definitely been such a great learning experience for me and my sisters,” Roberta added. “We all think travel is very important and is a great way to learn about the world. It certainly helped get me through school. By the time I was 8-years-old, I could already read a map and if a certain place was brought up, I could usually say that I had been there.”
Today, that bond between mother and daughter has been essential to Roberta gaining experience and understanding of what it means to be a successful professional driver.
“Any time I have a question about the truck, or anything that’s going on in the trucking world that I do not understand, my mom is my first call,” said Roberta. “She knows everything about everything. She has taught me so much about driving and if I find out something from another driver, I always make sure to tell my mom about it and always get her opinion first. It’s so great to be able to be so close to someone who loves the same things as you because we never run out of things to talk about.”
Both women have a strong sense of purpose, which serves as the bedrock of their careers as professional truck drivers.
“You do need to be very strong-minded to get out here and accomplish the tasks of a truck driver,” said Roberta. “I definitely feel that this is what I was meant to do. Sometimes I will have my days where I ask myself, “Why in the world did I choose to do this?” but when I look back at everything I have accomplished, I know this is why I do what I do. I do believe that being successful means following your dreams and accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself.”
“I’ve always been old fashioned and believed in taking care of what’s yours,” added Mary. “My children are my backbone and are mine to take care of. I’ve always felt that you do a job to the best of your ability. To me, that means staying focused on the job at hand. Take your time not to rush or make mistakes. And do the job well so you save yourself time and don’t have to go back and waste time having to do it again. If I didn’t have my daughters, I probably wouldn’t have tried as hard as I have to succeed. They are my inspiration.”
Roberta sums up their advice for other women thinking about heading into trucking:
“I would tell any other woman, if you put your mind to it, you can do it,” said Roberta. “Truck driving is a great career and Transport America is a great company to work for. If you love to travel and see our beautiful country, and you understand the value of hard work, you should give it a try.”