“I am very girly,” explained Natalie Jasso-Padilla, graduate from the CCS commercial truck and bus training program. We asked her, why get into trucking? Her biggest motivation, she told us, was to beat the stereotype of female truckers and that even a ‘girly girl’ like herself would be able to succeed in the profession. When Natalie is not in her truck, she rides a Suzuki GSXR600, already a step beyond what most women are comfortable with. “I was hit on the way to an interview,” she referred to one of her first applications after earning her CCS certificate. An accident occurred with vehicles in front of her that did not see her bike. She picked up road rash despite wearing appropriate gear. “When I got there, I was so embarrassed!” But she got the job– its local and she is able to come home every night.
Natalie trained with her truck driver stepdad for a little bit before coming to California Career School. MyCAA funding and the ability to receive a lot of drive time is what helped her choose CCS. MyCAA is the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts method of funding for student tuition available to military spouses. Natalie’s husband Oscar was deployed during her attendance at our school and his being in the military opened up this avenue of funding for Natalie. We just helped her get the paperwork arranged.
One of the hardest parts of training was pre-trip and 5 point. She laughed as she explained why she made this hard for herself. “Parts of the truck– I didn’t care to learn it. I hated it! I had a little bit of stubbornness. What Donnavin [CCS instructor] did is take the time to make sure I knew it.”
“Start from the beginning!” Donnavin repeated to her over and over to make sure that everything was reviewed as many times as possible. After regular training hours were done, he showed her additional material like power points and books– whatever was available to help her understand this key section of the course. “I just wanted to drive!” Natalie said, “But I knew I had to learn it.” With the right attitude and the extra push from her instructor, she made it through.
We talked for quite some time. Natalie had tons of stories of what she’d seen on the road from her towering cab, some much better shared after hours! There would be strange people hovering by her truck for miles and police activity of Hollywood proportions, “I’ve seen the SWAT team, like 10 cop cars– it was just like loaded!” She put it this way, “You’re gonna see things that you don’t want to see because you’re constantly on the road.”
“I’ve always wanted to drive a truck… I knew it was going to be hard but you don’t really know until you’re out there.” Numerous times, especially in the realm of parking her trailer, Natalie described the unusual set-ups that drivers have to maneuver through and the inconveniences posed by the circumstances. It is absolutely regular for her to park her truck and be told afterwards that male counterparts could have done it better. “You have to be strong,” she went on, “especially when you’re a girl ’cause the guys are mean.”
Since the beginning, Natalie wanted to break the expectations of what women can do and of what others think of female truckers. “It’s not easy, but what helps me is I get to be a role model. [On the road] I like being next to school buses because the little girls see me– they’re smiling and waving. Kids in cars say, ‘Mom, look!’”