Married Couple Finds Freedom on the Open Road
No one has ever said that marriage is easy.
So imagine not only working on your marriage every day, but working with your spouse every day — within the confines of a truck cab.
And even though Transport America’s Kenworth and Freightliner tractor cabs are pretty roomy, spending nearly every minute of every day with your spouse, navigating America’s roads, while maintaining a healthy relationship is not easy.
What it takes, says Tony and Robin Skinner, a Transport America driving team, is respect, patience, and solid communication skills.
And despite all of the ups and downs that go into being a professional truck driver in today’s age, the Skinners couldn’t be happier in their decision to drive for Transport America.
“Transport America has been just great to drive with,” says Robin. “I get to hit the road with my best friend for a living.”
“It’s nice to be with someone I can talk with,” says Tony. “You have to keep it interesting on the road, and you still need to be a couple, but you have to remember that when you’re driving that this is our work time.”
“You can’t think of it as husband and wife,” says Robin. “What people don’t realize is you have to be your partner’s friend. We have a 50-50 deal on everything; we carry each other’s load.”
“I hate it when I see another couple who are team driving and the woman let’s the man back up the trailer,” Robin adds. “It drives me crazy. She should be able to do that herself. She should be his equal, just like I am with Tony, when it comes to captaining our truck.”
The Skinners joined Transport America in May 2018 after driving together for about four years. Both are 52 years old and consider professional truck driving as their second careers. Robin starting driving in 2009 and Tony started driving in 2015. With Transport America’s Atlanta Support Center as its home base, the couple crisscrosses the lower 48 as OTR drivers.
“I was a kindergarten teacher in Charleston for 13 years before I started driving,” says Robin. “Truck driving has always been on my bucket list. I like driving and operating big equipment. Next on my list is to operate one of those giant constructions cranes.”
“It was Robin who talked me into it,” says Tony. “Before driving, I ran my own construction business in Knoxville. I enjoyed the work and at one time I had 25 employees.”
Tony and Robin met in Knoxville in January 2012. Both had been married previously and were looking for something different in a companion. They fell in love, got married, and one day, after Robin had asked Tony many times before, he said “yes” to joining her on the road and becoming a driving team.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Robin. “Tony got home from work, sat down at the kitchen table, and just said, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’”
At that point, Robin had been driving solo for several years for another trucking company. While it took time, she earned respect from her male co-workers and eventually was asked to be the company’s first female driver instructor. Later, she worked as a safety manager for the company.
“It was not easy breaking into this profession as a female driver ten years ago,” Robin says. “Every day, I would receive comments from men and women at the company who wondered – out loud – when I would quit, or if I had enough grit to make it as a professional truck driver.”
The couple switched companies a few times, trying to find a trucking organization that would honor its promises and help the couple meet its needs.
“Eventually, every kid has to deal with it,” says Tony. “My parents and Robin’s mom were aging and suffering from health complications. We’re a hard-working couple, but we needed to stop by our parents on a regular basis to check in with them and make sure they were doing okay.”
“And,” adds Robin, “we want a social life outside of trucking. That’s important to us as we continue to grow in our marriage.”
While looking online one day, Tony came across Transport America and decided to give them a call. He spoke with Monica Olson, a Transport America Driver Recruiter,and explained the couple’s needs, in particular, the couple’s request for home time to take care of their parents.
“We haven’t been disappointed yet since we started driving for Transport America,” says Robin. “We have time to take care of our parents, see the kids and grandkids, and the money and benefits have been phenomenal.”
“We have full medical coverage and a 401k retirement account,” Tony chimes in. “It’s just great.”
With a goal of retiring when they turn 65 years old, the couple has made significant lifestyle choices. The couple completely downsized their lives. They sold their home, a car, and sold off or gave away many of their possessions. They purchased a trailer (with wheels) that they keep parked on the five-acre property owned by his parents, who live in Walland, Tennessee, a 10-minute drive to the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Without all of those expenses, we’re saving 40% of our paychecks for retirement,” says Tony. “And when we do, we’re going to need to buy Robin a fishing boat, because she loves fishing!”
While the money and benefits are great, Tony and Robin have discovered in the time that they’ve become drivers: they really enjoy driving, and they really enjoy driving with each other.
“What we enjoy the most about truck driving is the freedom,” says Robin. “The freedom of the road. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Robin goes on to explain that Transport America supports this spirit of freedom, in particular, by allowing truck drivers to make their own decisions about road safety. They point to their fleet leader, Kelly Callies, who has been a big part of making that possible for them.
“The company’s commitment to safety says it all,” says Robin. “It’s a complete team effort, too. Kelly has been phenomenal in helping us live our dream on the road and stay safe at the same time. The respect between us is mutual.”
The Skinners are self-proclaimed “sticklers for safety,” which makes them a perfect fit for Transport America, whose cornerstone value is the safety of their drivers and the motoring public. At some point in the future, they would love to become driver instructors for Transport America to pass on their commitment to safety.
“Transport America sends us safety videos every day,” says Tony. “They send us weather alerts, which we really appreciate, and our truck is equipped with some of the most advanced safety equipment.”
“Everything Transport America does helps make us be better and safer drivers,” says Robin. “They give us the freedom to drive on the open road without putting myself or Tony in danger.”
“We’re going to use some of our savings from driving to go on an anniversary cruise from Tampa Bay, Florida, to Cozumel, Mexico, to celebrate,” says Tony.
No one ever said marriage is easy, but Tony and Robin Skinner have found the road to success with Transport America.