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Rolling down the highways and roads of America in a big rig seemed once the bailiwick of men. It is no more and never was completely. Women have been found in the driver's seat throughout history though they still only make up about seven percent of today's owners and drivers. The challenges for women in trucking have been met by these remarkable women who have led the way.
Andriesue "Bitzy" Gomez was a gritty, Chicago-born woman with a creative foul mouth and an unfiltered knack for sass. Her prep-school upbringing was quickly laid aside when she left home in the 1960s and moved to New York's Greenwich Village where she worked as a stand-up comic. Bitzy eventually found herself in California as a single mother. She decided truck driving was a fine way to financially support her three daughters.
Bitzy remained a trailblazer throughout the 1970s organizing and fighting against the stigma and harassment of women truck drivers in the industry. She founded the Coalition of Women Truckers where she worked with other female truck drivers to identify carriers who showed gender bias. Bitzy Gomez died in 2015 but posthumously received the Real Women in Trucking's Queen of the Road award in 2017.
Idella Hanson was only 18 years old when she started driving big rigs for her family's business in 1968. Now, over four decades later, she is a well-respected icon in the industry. Her quiet determination and exemplary work ethic, along with her signature red cowboy boots, gained her admiration among other drivers, especially women. She showed by example the benefits of having a positive attitude.
Idella remains an active participant in trucking organizations and in the community. She's a volunteer board member with Operation Roger, an animal-loving group of truckers who transport pets to new homes across the country. Her best friend, Sandi Talbott, is also a truck driver and together they have logged over 9 million miles through the years hauling everything and anything you can imagine.
Loretta Bruyere is a small woman who handles her twin-trailer like she was born to ride. It took her a while to land her dream job with FedEx Freight but she persevered because she wanted to show that even Native American women like herself can succeed as a semi-truck driver. Loretta has logged nearly 2 million safety miles in her two decades of driving.
She decided to start competing in the New Mexico Truck Driving Championship in 2012 which takes place every year in the month of May in Albuquerque. Bruyere currently drives a 28-foot twin trailer with an impressive 80,000-pound capacity. In 2018, she not only won the Twin Trailers class trophy but captured the Grand Champion honors at the competition. Loretta hopes to see more women competing in the future.
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