At age 64, Evelyn Vincenzo is a Westfield, Massachusetts-based warehouse CDL shuttle driver, who brings freight warehoused at A. Duie Pyle facilities to customer accounts in various locations throughout New England.
In 1987, Vincenzo sought a career in trucking. At the time, she was single and had to financially stand on her own. The trucking industry and truck driving provided a monetary incentive over the career path she had chosen out of college—that of an education counselor.
“The decision was not random,” Vincenzo said. “From the time I was a truck driver's daughter, caught up in the mystery of the big truck parked outside my window, purring with the sound of the refrigerated unit running, I knew I wanted to drive. I wanted to command one of these monsters going down the road. With no strings attached, the industry offered me an exciting way to see the country, meet all sorts of people from all walks of life, in big cities, small towns, rural, industrial, and urban areas, all with something special to see and absorb.”
Although Vincenzo began her driving career when women were scarce among the driver population, she said she has always had a positive experience, including in the work she continues to do today.
“Having begun my driving career in the industry in 1987, when women were a novelty, the male driver population wanted to know who you were personally and wanted to know why you would ever get into this industry,” she explained. “They were curious. And as long as I worked as hard as I could and did the best that I was capable of, I earned the respect of my peers.”
See also: Women in Transportation 2023
Every day, Vincenzo made it a point to remind herself that she was a woman in a man's industry and that she was not there to change anyone or any aspect of the operation. That mindset also didn’t stop her from asking for help when she needed it.
“The men I have been blessed to work with over the years, the decades, have been extremely helpful and have provided me with ample tips and information that continue every day to make my experience as a driver easier, clearer, and definitely much more appreciated,” Vincenzo explained. “If I had anything to prove, it was to myself, that I could do the job with efficiency and the knowledge that I was handling the job at hand, as a professional in the industry.”
According to Vincenzo, one of the most important aspects of a woman coming into the industry are the opportunities that are afforded her, as a minority.
When women adhere to compliance and work safely and acquire annual evaluations that show exemplary skills, they can put themselves in line with various programs that are offered in many companies, she added. These types of programs, Vincenzo said, can help a woman advance through the industry in various operations to include sales, safety, operations, warehousing, etc.
“She can obtain a well-rounded education within the industry, thus putting her in a position of security and opportunity all along the way,” Vincenzo said. “If she was unable to afford a college education, not only does this provide a lifetime of skilled education, but she's also now in a position to obtain an education, with a degree, while working.”
Vincenzo said she encourages women to seriously consider this industry whenever she has the opportunity. She added that many companies will hire a prospective candidate without a CDL but will incentivize them, as they advance within the company, to obtain a CDL through their company's driver development schools/programs.
“This opportunity is priceless, as the cost of truck driving schools has more than doubled, making the process of obtaining a CDL unaffordable to many folks,” she added. “This industry will provide a woman with financial independence, self-worth, confidence, and pride.”
Over the course of her career, Vincenzo has reaped the rewards of long-lasting relationships made along the way. “The camaraderie shared within the job is immeasurable,” she said.
As a professional driver, she also emphasized the importance of staying fit.
“The physical requirements of this job keep my muscles, bones, and joints working constantly, which is a plus for women my age,” she added. “One more benefit of this job is the fact that I am an example to my kids and my grandkids that hard work truly does pay off.”
At the end of the day, Vincenzo thrives on the respect she gains from her coworkers, family, customers, and the motoring public.
“It's always a wonderful feeling when someone looks at the woman you are and says, ‘Hey are you driving that big truck?’ It is with a big smile that I respond with a hefty, pride-filled ....’Yes,’" Vincenzo said.