Cathy Johnson – Female Driver of the Year

-Hi Cathy. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. In addition to being our female Driver of the Year, you are a Million Mile Safe Driver and our nominee for the Women In Trucking’s Driver of the Year! That’s amazing! Where are you from?

I’m from a small town in south Georgia called Moultrie. Growing up, my dad was a truck driver so I knew of trucking. My mom was a seamstress, she worked at a sewing factory.

-What did you do before you came to TOTAL?

When I grew up I went to nursing school.  Nursing was good, but I got attached to my patients and with that, it hurts when they passed on but you know, that was the life. So I stepped out for a while but then I’d been out too long to just step back in easily. I decided to try my hand at trucking. My cousin said to me, ” You love traveling so why don’t you try driving.”  I did it and I liked it. That was 22 years and around 2 million miles ago.

-How long have you been with TOTAL?

I’ve been with TOTAL for over eighteen years. TOTAL was my second company. I was with Burlington Motor Carrier for 4 years but the owner died and they sold out to a new company that wanted to take me off Regional and go OTR. I didn’t like that so I started looking for a new home. When I was living in Macon, TOTAL had an ad in the paper. They were looking for drivers that would be home nightly. So I responded. (laughs)

-Why did you choose TOTAL over other companies?

TOTAL offered me regional OTR. That’s what I like the best. I like Regional because I get bored with Dedicated and going to the same customers over and over.

Why is TOTAL a good place for women?

There weren’t that many women here in the beginning, but over the years more and more started coming. It’s grown into a great place for female drivers. We get a lot of support here, there are quite a few women in management and operations now, plus TOTAL has strong ties to Women in Trucking. We’ve been voted one of the Top 50 Companies for Women to Work for the past 2 years.

-What Makes TOTAL different?

TOTAL is great because we know each other. You know the dispatchers and they know their drivers. We know customer service, we know everybody here. Everybody knows me as Ms. Cathy, not a #. You can make relationships with people here. I really like John Stomps. He listens to us and he’s great to work for. We even share a birthday!

-How do you feel about the equipment here?

I must have had at least 6 trucks in the past 18 years. They’ve all been good. I like the Freightliners ok but my favorite was my Volvo.

-Any tips for a good relationship with your FM?

Yes, communicate! That goes both ways. If you’ve got an issue let them know as soon as you realize it. Being patient helps a lot too, not only with your FM but in trucking as a whole. You just have to build a relationship with your dispatcher. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Get to know the Customer Service folks and the HR folks and just build a relationship. Build respect, when you respect each other everyone will get along.

What do you think it takes to become a TOTAL driver of the year?

Honestly, I don’t know. I was shocked that I was chosen. I guess just do what you’re supposed to do. Deliver loads, do it on time, and do it safely. Any advice for new drivers to be successful? Just be patient. Take your time. Talk to experienced drivers and listen. Make some friends you can call if you need advice. Some may give you a little grief but don’t let it bother you. They were new once too. I mean, there were times I felt like I couldn’t do this, but I decided I’m not going to let it defeat me. I’m gonna’ beat it. Do what you need to do. It’s also important to take pride in your work and do the best job you can. If you see something wrong with a trailer when you drop it, call and let someone know. Don’t just leave the problem for the next driver.

Any advice for female drivers in particular?

Minimize the people you deal with and don’t trust people you don’t know. It’s not difficult for women to do this job. You learn to drive a truck and then learn how to pull a trailer. Women can do this just as good as men. Also, respect yourself. If you respect yourself, you’ll be respected by others. A lot of stuff goes on out here, you see a lot and you hear a lot. Respect yourself and be smart.

Thank you for your years of dedicated service and the pride you take in your work. We hope you’re here for at least 18 more.

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