Patience and Preparedness Make Transport America a Home Fit for a Princess
Princess Thomas became a professional driver just two years ago, but for her it’s been a lifelong pursuit to get there.
“I didn’t dream of being a professional truck driver,” Princess says, “but when I was a little girl, I had an experience where I decided that being a driver at some point in my life was something that I was just going to do.”
Princess’ parents were born in the 1920s and were raised with the mentality that children were not there to be coddled, but were expected to do their chores, no questions asked, to help run the family unit smoothly.
“My dad taught me to drive when I was nine years old so I could go buy groceries,” she says. “One day, while I was driving to the store and I saw a woman driver and I just thought she was so cool.”
From that moment forward, Princess says knew she wanted to drive trucks. But before she followed that path, Princess wanted to walk in the footsteps of her parents, both of who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I love my father, and he was in the Navy during World War II. That inspired me to enlist,” says Princess.
It was in Princess’ four years with the Navy where she learned a hard lesson about the importance of safety.
“I was stationed in Italy on the USS Simon Lake, a submarine tender,” she says. “One day, I was working as part of a 100-man party tasked with bringing food flown in for the crew by helicopters down into the ship’s storage units. As we moved boxes both up and down the stairs, I noticed one of the boxes of food going up to the kitchen was starting to break open.”
“In the Navy, everyone is in charge of safety, regardless of rank,” Princess explains. “That’s what we’re taught. So I told my petty officer about the box but she said, ‘Don’t worry’ and kept moving the box upward toward the kitchen.”
“All of the sudden, something comes down on my head and I’m seeing stars.”
That something was a 30 lb. piece of frozen meat, which fell out of the broken box right onto Princess’ head from about 10 or more feet.
“I got 17 stitches and an apology from the petty officer,” Princess says. “Safety was always important to me, but since then, I really do take it seriously.”
After she left the Navy, Princess made her first attempt at becoming a professional driver. In 2001, she went to driving school and earned excellent marks on her written test but ran into trouble during the behind-the-wheel.
“I tried, but I just couldn’t master certain parts of operating a truck safely,” Princess says. “I don’t think the stars aligned for me at that moment so I decided to go back to the military.”
This time, Princess followed in the footsteps of her mother, who had been a secretary in the U.S. Army.
“I did five tours in Iraq running medical logistics,” she says. “In a lot of ways it was like trucking — overseeing the transportation of medical supplies to overseas hospitals. I worked in the first U.S. Army hospital set up in Baghdad.”
After nine years, Princess left the Army and used her G.I. Bill benefits to pay for an education at Texas A&M University, graduating in 2016 with a degree in psychology.
“I thought about going for my masters in psychology but my thoughts kept returning to truck driving and that thought I had when I was a little girl,” she explains. “It became this bucket list thing for me. I refused to give up on it. So, using the last of my G.I. Bill benefits, I enrolled in a truck driving school near Fort Hood (located near Killeen, Texas).”
This time around, Princess passed the driving test with flying colors and started driving for a local trucking company out of Killeen, Tex.
“I was with them until a friend of mine, Willis Brown, suggested that I join Transport America. Willis had been driving for the same trucking company and said we could do better,” Princess says.
“I’d seen Transport America drivers on the road,” Princess adds, “They were a powerhouse in trucking and I didn’t think they’d want me. But my friend Willis was able to get a driving job with them and he encouraged me to get in touch with the recruiter he had spoken with.”
So Princess reached out to recruiter Sheryl Lanier, who herself had been a long-time truck driver for Transport America. Today, Princess loves what she’s doing and that she has crossed another item off her bucket list.”
“I’ve really taken to this lifestyle,” says Princess. “I’ve sold everything and just drive, basically living out of my truck. I think my years in the military prepared me for this. To live with just the minimum of things.”
“That time in the military has definitely served me well in transitioning to trucking” says Princess.
“I kissed a lot of frogs but I found my prince with Transport America,” she adds. “They support me wonderfully. Their dispatchers are kind and when you share a concern it’s all about servitude and how they can help you as a driver.”
More important than kindness, Princess says she appreciates how much Transport America emphasizes safe driving practices and the safety of their drivers. In addition to safety features built into every Transport America truck such as active brake technology, electronic roll stability, e-logs, and navigation, Princess adheres to what she calls the “Three Ps of Safety”.
“The first thing you need in trucking is patience,” she says. “Patience is the key to safety, it’s the key to everything. I get excited when I see a 55 mph road sign. I’ll do what’s safe, and sit a little below that, around 53 mph, and let other drivers move around me.”
“You never know what’s going to happen next on the road,” says Princess. “You have to be in the mindset to prepare for the unexpected. Just like being in the military and serving in a war zone. Driving a little below the limit allows me to stay out of the way and focus on being vigilant.”
“When you put patience and preparedness together it gives you the power of safety,” she explains. “Transport America does a wonderful job empowering its drivers to be safe.”
Now that Princess is working her dream job with a company that shares her value of safety, she plans on staying put for a while.
“I plan on driving for Transport America for the next fifteen years or so,” she says. “Driving for Transport America is my happily ever after.”