By Frank Owen
OOIDA Life Member, Waco, TX
In 1982, my wife Betty came in from work and said, “I can take early retirement from the power company.” I asked her if she did take early retirement, what she wanted to do. She said, “I would like to travel.”
Well, that set my mind to working. I told her if she could pass the CDL test, maybe we could find a company that would let me train her so we could travel and get paid for it. Back then, there were few truck driving schools and few women on the road.
She took the CDL test, hazmat and all the others needed for the new CDL license. She passed the very first time – all requirements.
So we started looking for the right company to start off on our endeavor. We found a company in Lowell, AR, that would hire me, as I had 10 years experience, and let me train her.
It was a challenge for both of us. They gave us a 4030 International cabover with a seven-speed transmission, no power steering and no air ride. The seven-speed was really hard for me, let alone trying to teach a person who hadn’t ever been in a truck except to ride with me. Well, the first two weeks she watched every move I made. I tried to explain as I changed gears and everything else I thought she should know.
Soon, we got out in West Texas, and I pulled over and told her it was her turn to drive. She did pretty well, except changing gears in the seven-speed. It wasn’t synchronized as most transmissions are. The engine speed had to be just right for the gears to mesh.
It wasn’t long before she had figured out what to do when changing gears. I told her she could now drive any transmission in any truck, which proved to be true in the years to come.
We worked for a year and a half for this company. Then we moved to another company closer to our home. We started in a 1982 Freightliner cabover; then, later they gave us a big KW conventional with a hood. The truck would run 65 miles per hour. My wife nearly had a fit the first time she actually got to pass another truck!
I recall the first time Betty pulled on a state scale, her legs were shaking and she kind of jumped on the scale. The old scale man hollered at her, “Where did you get your license? Sears and Roebuck?”
She calmly answered, “No, Montgomery Ward.” He told her to get gone, and she did.
One problem we had to deal with was the shower situation. Few truck stops had showers for ladies, so I would have to stand guard at the door to let Betty get her shower. Now, nearly all truck stops have nice private showers.
We worked as company drivers for four years, and a friend talked us into buying our own truck. We bought a 1986 Pete 369 with the first stand-up sleeper – 60 full inches. After driving a truck so long with only a 42-inch sleeper, we thought we had moved into a three-bedroom house. And we finally had a Jake Brake, although on our first trip to California we forgot we even had it.
Team driving with your spouse is great if you are compatible. If not, you’ll know right away. We have traveled in all 48 states and in four Canadian provinces. We’ve received safe driving awards and have been featured in a couple of trucking magazines.
My wife and partner stayed on the road with me for 20 years. In those 20 years, she never got a ticket or had an accident. Guess I did OK in my training.
And in 20 years – 365 days a year – we never had any harsh words with each other. We were a fantastic truck-driving team. LL
Editor’s note: Frank and Betty Owen are life members from Waco, TX. Frank has been an OOIDA member since 1988, Betty since 1999. Frank currently serves on the OOIDA Board of Directors.