Humble and proud, Barbara Herman doesn’t tell the world that she was recently named the first female winner of the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Award. But, plenty of people are taking notice. In fact, when it’s pointed out that she’s a celebrity, her response is, “I’m not a celebrity, I’m a truck driver.”
And, what a truck driver she is!
This Toledo, Ohio native has been driving trucks for 34 years, the last 11 with K-Limited Carrier, one of the nation’s premier tank companies. Not only does Barbara boast 1.7 million accident-free miles – with 750,000 safe miles with K-Limited – she’s also a six-time winner of K-Limited’s certificate of excellence.
As a SmartDrive customer, who prides itself on safety first, K-Limited provided us with the opportunity to speak with Barbara and learn more about what got her to where she is today and why she’s being recognized as the best in her field.
SmartDrive: First, congratulations on your award! Why do you think you won the award?
Barbara Herman: I think it’s important for people to understand that I didn’t win the award because I’m a woman. In fact, when I was interviewed as part of my nomination process, I made it clear that I didn’t want to win it because I’m a woman; I wanted to win strictly based on merit. I have a lot of years invested in this business, I work side-by-side with the guys and do everything they do. Most importantly, I LOVE it. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than to pull tank for K-Limited!
SD: What led you to a truck driving career?
BH: My dad was a truck driver who hauled produce. My first time helping him was when I was six years old – struggling with a 5 lb. bag of potatoes. It was then, and there, that I told him, “When I grow up, I want to be a truck driver.” His response? “Women don’t drive trucks.” Imagine his surprise many years later when I pulled up in front of his house in my Peterbilt. His reaction? “Only my daughter.”
SD: What do you like about truck driving?
BH: It’s like being on a paid vacation! I get to see the country, go to different states, meet different people, experience different cultures. I learn something new every day.
It was my late husband who taught me to drive. I ran team with him for many years, but lost him in a tragic accident in 2005. The first time I stepped up as a solo driver, it was an uneasy experience, but I knew I needed to move on. I needed to take everything he taught me and not throw it out the window. I continue driving because I love this job and do it in his memory.
SD: Do you feel it’s different being a female truck driver?
BH: Sometimes. For instance, there have been times when I’ve been called “Sir.” I’ve also had experiences when law enforcement has given me a hard time. I remember there was a time when I was driving from New York to California and failed to look at the Bill of Lading. The DOT officer laughed and asked me, “Do you know that you’re carrying cadavers? Do you know what those are?” I looked at my husband who told me, “Those are dead bodies.” The DOT officer gave us a clean bill of health and I didn’t stop that truck until we unloaded at our destination!
SD: What led you to K-Limited?
BH: After my husband passed, I met a mutual friend who was also grieving. Two years later, we married and I moved to Toledo where he lived. I mentioned that pulling tank was a dream of mine and he mentioned K-Limited. The rest is history.
SD: What’s your typical week like? How much on the road? How much at home?
BH: I typically leave on Monday, run all over the east coast and back in on Friday. Whenever I’m needed as a Certified Trainer, I do that. I was green when I started pulling tankers and had some really good trainers, so I enjoy training people. It falls right in line with the culture here – everyone helps each other.
SD: What does safety mean to you?
BH: It’s a way of life. It doesn’t matter what I’m driving – semi, pick up truck, or motorcycle – I never want my family to get that phone call. I know that as long as I’m practicing safe driving, not only do I get to go home to my family, someone else gets to go home to their family, as well.
SD: How does K-Limited reinforce safety within the company?
BH: Everything is about safety. Education, education, education and training, training, training. Everything we do – not just driving – is about keeping safe. For instance, some of the things we haul can hurt you. Loading and unloading can be dangerous. It’s important we know what we’re doing and that we do it safely.
SD: How do you feel about having a SmartDrive video camera in your truck?
BH: Honestly, it took a minute to get used to it, but I don’t drive any differently than I did before I had it. To tell you the truth, I’m glad those cameras are there because if an incident arises, someone can’t say, “That truck hit me,” even though they stopped and wanted me to hit them. It’s great protection for us.
SD: Has SmartDrive helped you with an exoneration or something else?
BH: Yes. I was traveling through a construction zone and there was a Jersey barrier to separate the lanes. A car went off the exit, the driver changed her mind, came back out in front of me and stopped. I tried to weave to the left, but didn’t want to go over because people were beside me. Since I’m the truck driver, I was cited; luckily, it was all caught on film. When it went to court, the citation was dismissed because the video showed I did nothing wrong. It could have been a horrible accident if I had hit her in the rear, but luckily, there was not a lot of damage to the woman’s car.
SD: What would you tell another driver who isn’t sure about a camera in their cab?
BH: It’s there to protect you. It’s protected me and I wouldn’t drive without it.
SD: What would you tell someone considering a truck driving career?
BH: I think it’s a fantastic career. You can earn a good wage and women can earn as much as men. The pay is equal. Best part? It’s like being on a paid vacation.
SD: What do you like to do in your spare time?
BH: I have a slew of grandkids and have now been blessed with four great grandchildren; I spend as much time with them as I can. My husband and I ride motorcycles, which allow us to get some “wind therapy” whenever we can. And, if I ever get bored, I sit down and play my banjo.
SD: Sounds like you have a very full life, Barbara. Thank you for all you do to help make our roads safer. It’s obvious why you won the award. Congratulations!