The purpose for creating the Queen of the Road Awards is to create a dignified recognition award for women who work as truck drivers that have not only overcome personal challenges, but who also have demonstrated a “Pay it Forward” approach to help others by sharing their wisdom. These women exemplify the definition of “Servant Leadership”.
“Servant Leaders” are defined by Robert K. Greenleaf as individuals who naturally want to serve others first and secondly they make a conscious choice to lead. A servant leader is sharply different from those who lead first, and are driven by ego, the need for power, money and to acquire material possessions.
“Giving Back” by providing accurate information to those who are struggling to find their way through truck driver training has been the cornerstone of the REAL Women in Trucking organization.
R.E.A.L. represents authenticity, since we believe REAL women help one another and their communities grow stronger.
R. Reaching Out
E. Encouraging Others
A. Achieving Personal Success
Adversity is an element many individuals have experienced in their lives, but then there are the special few who take the time to give back with gratitude by helping someone else.
The “2017 Queen of the Road” Award Winners that received the most votes are as follows:
Adriesue “Bitzy” Gomez
~ During the late 1970’s Adriesue “Bitzy” Gomez found truck driving as a means to support her three Daughters as a single Mother. Truck driving paid about $500.00 per week in the 1970’s which was good money for a woman managing a one parent family.
Since she lacked family support that could help with her girls, she sought out neighbors and friends to babysit while she was away. The compensation she was able to provide was barely enough to cover their food and laundry while she was gone. Without truck driving, her alternative to provide for her children was to remain in an unhappy relationship or go on welfare, both she said left her feeling degraded.
A common practice she encountered when she entered truck driving when seeking employment was to be told that she would have to have sex with the instructor to pass her road tests.
Rather than walk away from truck driving discouraged she fought back by exposing the “Sleeper Test” a form of “Quid Pro Quo” Harassment that still exists today, and that is most commonly reported to be occurring at some of the larger truck driver training fleets that train new students who require team driving as part of the training.
Bitzy often said that women entering trucking must stand up for themselves and adopt to their vernacular the statement that “…co habitation with a man they have no relationship with is not a requirement for employment…”. She began working with other women truckers to file hiring discrimination lawsuits against a number of trucking fleets. These women worked together to identify carriers that would deny employment based on gender and challenge their practices in court. She won many of her battles which led to some of the EEOC “good faith” hiring requirements we see in the industry today.
Bitzy was a founding member of the “Coalition of Women Truckers” that was formed under the NOW organization. She was written about in TIME Magazine, Women’s World Magazine and numerous newspaper articles. She was known internationally according to her Daughter Delores who said that she remembers women truckers from the United Kingdom coming to visit her Mother in California during the late 1970’s. The Coalition also pushed for women’s restroom facilities at truck stops and they walked picket lines to support other driver causes.
During one of her over the road trips, Bitzy’s babysitter’s home was raided by welfare investigators who came in the middle of the night. They were suspicious that the babysitting activity was additional unreported income, which was a common practice in the late 1970’s. As a result of the raid, the children were placed into foster care.
Bitzy returned to California to search for her Daughters and fight the State of California to get them back.
Her job as an over the road truck driver had been deemed unfit for a woman. She lost custody of the children but eventually she was able to afford representation from a young lawyer by the name of Gloria Allred according to Daughter Delores Gomez.
During their time in foster care the girls were harmed emotionally and sexually. Bitzy was finally able to be reunited with her kids. She later went on to become a truck driver with the teamsters. The Coalition of Women Truck Drivers at one time had international membership and chapters throughout the United States.
It ceased to exist after the custody battle. Bitzy did her best with what she had to focus on the healing of her children. Today, women truckers rarely recognize the sacrifices that Bitzy Gomez and her three Daughters made on behalf of all of the women who have entered truck driving as single women that had no advocate. Bitzy simply had a deep desire and determination to become a qualified truck driver and to earn a living.
Bitzy loved truck driving. It gave her the financial support and self-confidence to live with a level of dignity despite the other hardships she endured during her life as a child and a single mom. She was once quoted as saying, “…a good truck is what a man ought to be, … big and strong, and takes you where you want to go…”
Bitzy died tragically in April 2015 in Santa Ana, California while attempting to cross a busy street as a pedestrian where no crosswalk is marked. Her Daughters are currently fighting the city to have a crosswalk installed at at the location. Bitzy was 72 years old she was nominated by Idella Hansen.
Additional Reading About Bitzy Gomez:
~ Dee’s early years in trucking were challenging. First, as with so many women entering trucking becoming a professional truck driver, being a woman itself was quite a trial. Being a black woman increased the challenge. As she says, “I had to keep my composure a lot”. Her greatest challenge however was losing her child to a drunk driver during her years driving.
Through strong determination, she has taken her trucking challenges as well as her personal tragedy and loss to become an advocate for women truckers as well as a spokesperson for the nationally known non-profit organization, M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
Dee made a conscious decision to become one of the best speakers they’d ever had and to never let anyo
ne forget her daughter. She was a volunteer speaker, and she went on to join the board of directors as both the Secretary and the President of the founding chapter from 2005 – 2007.
Dee is popular in social media and dedicates herself to mentoring teaching and encouraging women within the trucking industry. She is the Founder of the “Trucking Divas Rock – Blogazine” where she provides a spotlight to other women drivers who want to share their story. She features and lifts many other women up on her sites to give them the opportunity to tell their story. She shares her life experiences with all transparency, the good and the not so good, in order reach women and let them know that they are not alone when it comes to life’s challenges, and she is there for them. Dee has been able to turn her difficult life experiences into triumph and now mentors, teaches, and encourages others to do the same.
She has devoted herself to care for women coming into the industry, coaching them along, to push themselves through the trials of life through faith and integrity. She has a deep faith in God and she is driven by a desire to be a blessing to woman drivers. Dee Sova was nominated by Donna Smith.
~ Daisy exemplifies “shattered but not broken” determination. She experienced traumatic childhood events that separated her from her parents and as a Mother she endured the heartbreak of a nasty child custody case.
She may have given up but instead she has focused on becoming an exceptional driver and an emerging leader in our industry. Daisy sets goals for herself, and in a short time she has been able to move from being a new driver in a training fleet to a true open deck trailer owner operator.
She gives back to others in a number of different ways such as feeding the homeless, talking with other drivers who are experiencing loneliness on the road, and at one time had helped to create a shower credit exchange for drivers. Most recently, Daisy has been voluteering her time to haul hay and other livestock feed items to the affected areas hit hard by the recent wildfires in Texas.
Daisy often shares her life on the road using Facebook LIVE to communicate with fellow drivers. She can also be seen on the newly launched Transportation Nation Network as a panelist on the “The Drivers Lounge”. Daisy was nominated by Dawn Ling, a driver with three decades in the business. Daisy she says is a “… extraordinary woman who has incredible energy and the fine qualities of a person who will give back to others unselfishly…” Daisy is sharp and courageous; she does not hesitate to speak up for herself and for others.
Two of REAL Women in Trucking Board Members were also nominated for the “Queen of the Road” Awards , neither received more votes than the three winners above. Furthermore, we felt that it would be unethical to permit their nominations in the contest though they are well deserving of the honor. A special “President’s Choice Award” was created called The “Trucking Industry Trailblazer” Award to recognize outstanding individuals that have served the trucking industry with distinction, dedication and professionalism.
The 2017 Trucking Industry Trailblazer Award recipients are:
~ “She gives from her heart at every move she makes, she does not tear people down; she lifts them up to be the best drivers they can be”.
Idella has held the hand of many others through tough issues and helped them to overcome. Anyone who knows her is a witness that she gives back daily to others.
She has her hand on most situations yet when she has trouble she admits it and looks for solutions. If she doesn’t know the answer to a problem, she will find out. She volunteers for many truck driver organizations and shares her expertise with new drivers and old timers.
She is strong, sweet and confident in her abilities without being arrogant and obnoxious; she will help anyone who asks. Idella Hansen was nominated by four different people for the “Queen of the Road” Awards, Lori Baker, Sandi Talbott, Geneva Handleman and Michelle Kitchen.
~ Sandi jumped many hurdles in her career as a truck driver. She started as a team driver with her husband Jim hauling explosives and radioactive material. When he became ill, she cared for him on the truck and became his caretaker when he had become an amputee.
Sandi cared for Jim while adjusting to becoming solo driver in the outlaw days where at times she had to run both of their shifts. When Jim passed away she continued to drive hauling meat products.
Today, Sandi is 75 years of age and possibly one of the oldest women driving a truck solo in the United States.
Alison Morris nominated Sandi Talbott and says “Sandi is always available for phone calls, she is encouraging to young and old alike and often likes to underline the need to “keep it professional” and that “it can be done”.
Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott were interviewed by StorpCorps in August 2016 to talk about their many years working as truck drivers. a two minute segment was aired on NPR Morning Edition, You can listen to the replay with this link: On the Road for Decades – And Not Stopping Anytime Soon . Their entire conversation is now in the Library of Congress.
The Honorable Mention Finalists are as follows:
~ Losing a family member (Her Mother) as a teen set her on a troubled journey that lasted over a decade.
For most people, there could be no return from the path that Alison took.
Thanks to a kind mentor that patiently provided her an introduction to truck driving, she was able to reinvent her life and was taught a marketable job skill she loves.
Today, Alison is an owner-operator who recently received her own authority. She hauls open deck trailers and is running her own business.
Each day she continues to grow as a human being, becoming a strong encouraging woman. “Alison has a huge heart who would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it” says Shannon Morris (no relation) who nominated Alison. Shannon is also an owner-operator that pulls an open deck trailer.
~ In May of 2009 her trucker husband, Mike, was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma which was already stage 3 when they found it.
Candace was a 3rd shift stocker at Walmart making just a little above minimum wage and taking online classes to finish her Associates Degree in Business Administration when he was diagnosed, he was at that point too sick to work. Her $8.00 an hour job was not going to support a family of four, so, she decided to do something she never once entertained the idea of doing, to become a truck driver herself.
The choice meant she would have to be away from her husband and kids to complete training but hitting the road she felt it was her best option in order to be able to support her family. She completed truck driver training at the same time she was completing her online courses, she finished them right about the same time as her CDL training.
Her husband went through his therapy and during that time, she was only able to visit with him twice. Unfortunately, the treatments he received did not work. Candace turned in her truck on October 20, 2009 to bring her husband home from Washington where he was staying with his family while he received treatments. He passed away on October 22, 2009 before she could get him home to Ohio. Over the next two years she wallowed in grief, unable to work or live any kind of significant life.
As she worked toward reclaiming her life she started paying attention to all the trucks on the highways and realized how much she really missed being on the road. With the help of her mother’s friend she was able to get back to driving doing flatbed work. Eventually she moved onto Don Hummer Trucking where she is currently employed. In a short time she became one of only a couple of female trainers, at one point she was the ONLY female trainer.
At this date she has trained approximately 14 women to become “Over-The-Road” (OTR) drivers. Candace says “Not once in all my life would she have EVER thought that she would become a truck driver and LOVE it” She refuses to give up her career without a fight. It’s the first one that has ever given her the feeling of job satisfaction and she looks forward to being a driver as long as she is physically capable of doing so. Candace Marley was nominated by her friend Cassie Fletcher.
~ Naza overcame challenges from the moment she entered truck driving school. She said even her name created apprehension from some of the people she encountered in the trucking industry. Naza, who is from Brazil endured ridicule from fellow CDL students and an instructor that did attempted to discourage her from success.
Her male trainer told her that she should not become a truck driver because “trucking was not for women…that she should stay at home”. In order to reinforce his control of her on the truck he refused to stop and allow her to have bathroom breaks.
Naza became a qualified driver nonetheless and started her Florida based business five years ago. She did not utilize any business or bank loans. She is a one truck, one trailer operation based out of South Florida. Sheer sweat of her brow is how she has succeeded. Naza always gives back by making herself available to mentor new people in the industry, giving advice, encouraging company drivers to become owner operators and is always helping others says her Niece Elizabeth who nominated her.
~ Janet began driving around 1996. At her CDL school she was often called out by instructors to intimidate and humiliate her in front of her other classmates. She did not allow this ridicule to deter her. Time and again she showed she has what it takes.
She graduated from her CDL training driving school and went straight to hauling tankers. For 2 years, she pulled a refrigerated trailer from Florida to California with produce.
Today, she drives a tanker locally and says it is the best job she has had.
Janet is knowledgeable in all aspects of trucking and has served as a trainer to others including her Brother, Cousin and her best friend. She has a reputation for always going above and beyond what she must do and going out of her way to help rookies, not just women.
She has been known to stop to help drivers chain up in snow storms and has aided in accidents to offer whatever assistance she can. Her niece Kasi nominated Janet and calls her “…phenomenal person on and off the road. Whenever she sees a person in need she offers help and her prayers”.
We wish to THANK “HaulHound” for their sponsorship of the “Queen of the Road” Awards and making it possible for the Daughter of Adriesue “Bitzy” Gomez, Delores Gomez to attend the award ceremony in the Degas Lounge on March 31, 2017 aboard the Carnival Conquest during the 1st annual Lady Truck Driver Cruise to accept her Mother’s award in person.
During the award ceremony we will read the bio’s of each nominee who were honorable mention finalists and they will all receive a “Queen of the Road” T-Shirt by mail. The “Queen of the Road” winners will receive a trophy and a $500.00 Visa gift card. The “President’s Choice Award” winners will receive the “Trucking Industry Trailblazer” trophy.
The ceremony will conclude with the raffle drawing and a Farewell song “Aloha Oe” sung by Cheryl Bean , Truck Driver and Founder of the Ladies of Hawaii Truck’in.