Single Mom Realizes Her Dream to be a Professional Truck Driver
Let’s call it what it is. Life as a truck driver is not for the weak at heart. It can be lonely to spend days and weeks away from loved ones. It requires tremendous drive (pun intended), and focus on driving safely hundreds of miles each week. Not to mention, it can be tough on a person’s mental and physical health.
But for some drivers, it is all they ever dreamed of doing. Ever since they were little, they dreamed of driving a big 18-wheeler across the country.
Many Americans of all walks of life never realize their dreams. One hurdle after another pops up that distracts them or prevents them from reaching their calling. It takes strength and courage to overcome obstacles in order to achieve dreams. And if the odds were stacked against anyone, it would be Natoya Robinson.
Natoya is a vibrant, 38-year-old, single mom with three beautiful children, Jah, 19, Isaac, 16, and Joylene, 12, who lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a suburb southwest of downtown Chicago. Natoya has been driving with Transport America since last October.
It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where she is today, but it’s a road that she’s sure she needs to be on.
While life hasn’t always been easy, the two things that Natoya has going for her are a strong work ethic and a positive attitude second to none. Sure it’s been a struggle, but she started out by working hard to build her own beautician’s business. And she continues to encourage her children to excel at school. Her 19-year-old son, Jah, is enrolled at Joliet Junior College.
For years, Natoya, like any mom, put her children’s dreams ahead of her own. But deep down, every time she saw a big rig heading down the highway, her heart would long to be behind the wheel, a sentiment that she would often share with her children as they were growing.
“I don’t know why, but ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to drive a truck,” she says. “Our family would take road trips, and I’d just stare at the big trucks as we’d drive down the road.”
She laughed while recalling how she used to hang out the window of the car growing up and try to get the truck drivers to blow their horns.
The biggest hurdle standing in her way was many people in her life discouraged her from trucking.
“They’d say to me, ‘trucking is for men’ or, ‘you can’t do it, you’re a single mom,’” Natoya recalled.
One day, her daughter, Joylene, whom Natoya affectionately calls her “Baby Girl,” said: “Mom, you tell us to live our dreams. When are you going to live your dream and be a truck driver?”
“My Baby Girl was right. I just starting praying on it,” Natoya says. “I would pray: Lord, if this is meant to be, please make the transition easy.”
She began researching how to become a truck driver. She Googled different companies and called around to learn more. She eventually found herself talking to a talent recruiter with Transport America.
“The Lord just started to open the doors for me,” Natoya says. “Transport America became a clear choice, “ she says. “Everyone I spoke with was really, really helpful. They were nice but straightforward. They told me exactly what to expect, but they encouraged me every step of the way. They helped me realize that I could make this work.”
After many years of dreaming, and putting in hard work, Natoya found herself on her first solo trip as a Transport America driver, and it was a trip to be remembered: Kansas City, Missouri to Topeka, Kansas, and then to Markham, Illinois. It was during that leg of the trip that it snowed so hard that Natoya had to make the call as the captain of her own ship: she pulled over at a truck stop.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it,” says Natoya, “Truck driving is not an ordinary job. It’s a lifestyle that affects your entire family. At times, it has been tough, and we are still adjusting, but I have a strong family, and I believe we’re becoming stronger because they see that I’m happier because I’m doing what I’m called to do with my life.”
“I’m really proud of how my kids have transitioned to this lifestyle. They’ve really stepped up to the plate. Everyone understands how important it is to pull their own weight,” Natoya adds. “For example, my son Isaac got a job to help out with our bills.”
To make it work for their family, Natoya drives Monday through Friday and is home on the weekends for that much needed quality time with her children. During the week, communication is critical. In the mornings, during breaks and in the evenings, there are frequent video check-ins between Natoya and her kids.
“I may be on the road, but my kids know that I’m with them in spirit each and every hour of the day,” she says.
What Natoya hopes her children see on the other side of those phone conversations is a woman who is resilient and someone who is continuously learning.
“Every day, I’m learning something new out here on the road,” Natoya says. “From learning new driving skills, to meeting new people, to seeing new parts of the country.”
“I’ve learned that if you take this lifestyle seriously, you will gain the respect of other drivers. Male drivers are accepting of me as a woman and as a driver. They can see that I’m trying to figure things out and some have been very helpful in helping me better myself as a professional driver.”
“And, as tough as this profession is,” she adds, “I’ve also learned that a friendly smile can go a long way. That’s a life lesson regardless of whatever you do in life.”
Natoya is looking forward to sharing her real-life lessons with her daughter later this spring, when Joylene will join her as a passenger in her truck over spring break.
Has it been worth it?
“Absolutely! Without a doubt,” Natoya says. “I believe I’m healthier and happier because I’m doing what I’m called to do. Every day, I’m stretching my legs and learning something new. If you’re willing to work hard, you can live your dream.”