Life member a pioneer for female truckers

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

When Sandi Talbott was a young girl in Indiana, she wanted to see what else the United States had to offer. A career as a truck driver has afforded her that.

A truck driver for 37 years, the 75-year-old OOIDA life member says she has logged more than 4 million miles and has driven in all 48 states of the contiguous U.S.

Talbott said she first started thinking about truck driving as a possible career when she was about 10 years old.

"I just felt like there was more to the world than the little community where I lived, and I wanted to see what else was out there in this country," Talbott said. "I heard people talk about things in California and New York City. I wanted to see it for myself. I figured driving a truck was the best way for me to be able to accomplish that."

It took a while before Talbott became a truck driver. She worked such jobs as a waitress, court reporter, legal secretary and dispatcher.

Once she met Jim Talbott she had the chance to join him as a team driver.

Jim and Sandi, who eventually married, hauled explosives for the government for the majority of their time together. They worked as a team for about 20 years until Jim died in 2000.

Many people were surprised when Sandi became a solo driver after Jim's death.

"We were together on the truck for 20 years until he passed away," she said. "I learned from him. I didn't go to a driving school. He taught me everything. When he passed 16 years ago, everyone thought I'd sit home on the porch and watch life pass me by. I said, ‘Oh no, boys. If you want to keep up with granny, then you'd better get up early in the morning.'"

Sixteen years after Jim's death, she still pulls a refrigerated trailer for Cargill.

Talbott said it's easier to be a female trucker today than it was when she started in 1979.

"When I started, most of the women drivers were team drivers like myself," Talbott said. "If you went in a truck stop by yourself as a woman, the waitresses would flat-out ignore you. They also used to have sections that were strictly for drivers. A woman would go in there, and they'd tell you real quick that this was for drivers. You'd have to show them your logbook to prove you were a driver."

Talbott also remembers the days when there weren't showers for women.

"Showers were all in men's restrooms," she said. "So if you had a partner, he could watch the door while you took a shower. If not, you were kind of at everyone's mercy. When they finally started putting in women's showers, I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is awesome.'"

Talbott, who lives in Avery, Texas, has two children, one grandchild and two great-grandchildren. However, she says she still likes being out on the open road.

"I just do what I do," Talbott said. "I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I'm 75 years old. I don't feel that old. Age is just a figure. I'm blessed that I'm able to do this and be self-sufficient." LL