Here at Busbee’s, we wanted to do something special for driver appreciation this year. We were lucky enough to set up an interview with the first woman truck driver around the Augusta GA area – Esther Pou! During this interview, we got to know Esther and her experience as a woman in the truck driving business. She was able to give us some great insight and share some funny stories.
Esther’s career as a female truck driver began at the young age of 19. She knew she wanted to drive trucks and with the help of a friend, she learned how to drive a Mack tractor and a cement tanker. She started off driving locally but then moved on to driving all over the road as an owner and operator and eventually went back to driving locally again. During her time of driving all over Esther’s daughter was little, so a lot of the time Esther had her daughter on the road with her. With this comes Esther’s first story of her time on the road.
With her daughter being only 4 years old while on the road, Esther found herself having to guard her daughter at times. Though her daughter was always good while on the road with Esther, she was still protective of her mom. On one occasion, Esther and her daughter came across a guard who was trying to be funny with Esther. He jokingly touched her but her daughter did not seem to like that, so she ran out of the truck and bit the guard!
Esther was the first female truck driver around the Augusta GA area and was working in an all male environment. She was also a member of the National Association Of Women In Construction organization (NAWIC). Though this group was made of mostly females working in the office, there were a few that were truck drivers, like Esther. Esther was a member of the NAWIC for five years and was even the Vice President of the organization for 1 year. During this time Esther even did a full page interview with the Augusta Chronicle. Along with these great accomplishments, Esther was also the first female driver for Claussen and was the youngest and at the time, only, female foreman.
We asked Esther how she was able to make friends and find support in a mostly male profession. She said making friends came easy to her and it helped that whenever she had a question, she did not hesitate to ask. Though making friends came easy, having those friendly relationships outside of work was not as easy. She recalls one certain occasion when she ran into a couple she knew from work at Kroger and they would not speak to her. Esther explained that it wasn’t out of the ordinary for this to happen and stated that “that’s just how it was”. Another instance Esther discussed with us was one where she had just finished working for a company and they gave her a picture that had signed messages from everyone in the company.
When we asked Esther if she had any particular moments on the road that were scary and how she protected herself while being on the road. Esther recalled one moment of being on the road when she did not know if she would have enough nitrogen and oxygen while working in Atlanta from 5 p.m. to finish. To keep herself safe while on the road Esther would keep a tire iron on the seat next to her. This way if she found herself in any trouble she would be able to defend herself.
While working in Augusta, Esther and the other female drivers wanted to break the stereotype that was being put on them. At the National Convention held in Augusta, which still meets today, Esther along with all the other female drivers decided to dress up as Southern belles for the occasion. They got all dolled up to prove that not all female truck drivers dressed and looked like men. Esther recalled the beautiful red ball gown she wore.
Esther discussed with us how one time she decided to drive a loaded dump truck as fast as it could go! She was definitely a bit of a thrill seeker during that moment. Truck driving wasn’t always fun like this moment. She also recalled that there were several times she would have to get her truck into a tight spot where it looked as if the truck wouldn’t fit. Esther was skilled in what she did though and was able to overcome moments like that. She was even skilled enough to take her truck through a drive-thru. When she got to the window for her food, the lady working asked Esther how she got her truck in the drive-thru. Esther replied, “I’ve backed up more miles than most people have driven forward.” There were times, Esther would have to back up 3-4 miles at a time, in order to get a truck to fit into the spot where it was needed.
We asked Esther what her favorite story from being on the road was and she told us of a time that her sister was supposed to watch her daughter but did not show up. She recalled it being a Saturday, she had just loaded a truck for SRP when her sister was supposed to watch her daughter but never showed up. So Esther did the only thing she could, she brought her daughter with her. Once they got to the job site, Esther pulled up on the median. She tried explaining the situation to the guard and the guard proceeded to tell her that she would have to get someone else to drive her truck into the area. Esther replied with a simple “no”. The guard then asked if Esther’s daughter would get out of the truck. Esther informed the guard that her daughter would not be getting out of the truck unless he tried to touch Esther, in which case, her daughter would come out with the tire iron in hand.
At this point, the guard realized Esther would not have someone else drive and she definitely would not make her daughter leave the truck. So he asked the daughter for her name and told her she had to sign in like everybody else. Esther’s daughter signed her name across the whole page. The guard was making a snarky comment when Esther chimed in and said “She is 4 years old so suck it up buttercup!”. That was a rare occurrence for Esther and her daughter because guards usually didn’t check the truck up to that point and Esther’s daughter was usually on the floor of the truck reading.
Esther was a truck foreman. She was a woman in charge. Her daughter was used to seeing her mother know what to do in all kinds of situations and where to go. This in turn made her daughter very assertive. Esther says she is proud to have passed down this skill set to her daughter, as she should be!
Finally, we asked Esther if she had advice she wanted to give other truck drivers out there. Here’s what Esther had to say, “be prepared to work hard and keep your personal business separate from your work”.
All of us at Busbee’s would like to give a big thank you to all of the truck drivers out there! We appreciate all the work that you do. We would also like to say thank you to Esther for giving us some insight and sharing some amazing stories with us.
Happy driver appreciation week everybody!