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Cherie and Taylor Barker

Cherie and Taylor Barker

Cherie Barker always dreamed of having a store where she could refinish furniture. She just never dreamed that her husband, a truck driver, would be the one to make it reality.

But when Cherie set her sights on buying a kitchen island for $2,200, destiny intervened.

“I told her I could build one cheaper than that,” her husband, Taylor Barker, recalls. “She said, ‘Build it then.’ I did build it, and I never stopped.”

Taylor not only built the island, he soon built end tables and a coffee table to match.

“I was surprised he could do it so well,” Cherie says. “But he wasn’t surprised. We saw it as an opportunity.”

A refinished bench Taylor did

Bench refinished by Cherie and Taylor

Taylor’s talent for furniture making flourished so much so fast that four years ago the Barkers established a furniture business in Tennessee. They recently gave it a new name, Cherie’s Boutique, and moved to a new, coveted space on bustling Broad Street in the heart of Kingsport, Tenn. Now Cherie’s longtime dream is becoming reality.

Taylor, an OTR owner operator leased to Heniff Transportation, spends about 3 weeks on the road at a time.

He gets only seven to 10 days of home time a month and spends nearly all of it crafting and repurposing masterpieces in his wood shop.

"Man cave" coolers

“Man cave” coolers

While the Barkers repurpose everything from doors and windows to beds and benches, customers love Taylor’s window-style coffee tables and “man cave” coolers most of all. His coolers have taken off in a big way, thanks to their following among famous country singers such as Daryle Singletary and Joe Diffie. Cherie’s Boutique also sells used furniture and other unique items.

Painting and re-purposing are Cherie’s passions.

The idea of giving new life to old items excites her. “I love recreating something new out of old things, saving something,” she says. “Grandma’s dresser doesn’t go to the trash heap and you make it beautiful again. It’s art with function.”

Taylor, meanwhile, may have begun building as a hobby, but by now he knows building is in his blood. His father was a contractor, and Taylor himself has an innate gift for working angles and numbers. It’s only natural that he took up woodworking. “I like to think of something and create it,” he says.

Generous Spirit

taylor-window-tablesBut for the Barkers, it’s not enough simply to create. “I believe that to be successful you have to give back,” Taylor says.

And boy do the Barkers give back. They do a lot for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and for military veterans, using their business to support those causes whenever they can.

“I’m a veteran myself. I spent 10 years in the military, so I understand what veterans go through,” Taylor says. “I don’t care if my name is mentioned in any benefit I do to help veterans or kids. I just do it to help. If you can’t help your fellow man when they need help, then you’re really useless.”

Taylor’s band (he’s also a talented musician) performed in 100 benefits and opened for The Band Perry.

“At the end of the day, we’re all people, trying to accomplish the same dream of life,” Taylor reasons.

taylor-after-2The Barkers are living their own dream right now. Taylor loves seeing the smiles on his clients’ faces when they see their heirlooms transformed. And while he’s had a CDL trucking job for 20 years, he hopes his furniture business thrives and he can retire from trucking. Until then, he’ll continue to balance both careers.

Cherie, for her part, embraces the opportunity to re-purpose furniture and at long last live out her dream.

“It’s surreal,” she says. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here. Working toward a goal is one thing. To look up one day and know you’re there is a whole other thing. It’s like arriving at Disney Land.”

For creative gift ideas anytime of year, check out Cherie’s Boutique on Facebook and follow Taylor on Instagram. Got a similar story of your own? Connect with Drive My Way on social media here and share your story with us.

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Shamim Akhtar is acclaimed as Pakistan’s first female truck driver. Her journey to CDL truck driving, a job largely relegated to Pakistani men, has not been easy. But, it inspires others, as one publication, Pro Pakistani, writes.

It represents overcoming the various cultural and societal barriers in Pakistan. Shamin Akhtar’s journey proves that some glass ceilings are really meant to be broken.

“Nothing is too difficult if you have the will,” Akhtar says. “However, if women make themselves believe that they can’t do certain tasks, then nothing works.”

.propakistani.pk

Akhtar , a 53-year-old single mother, married at 17 and quickly found that she had to fend for herself and her children.

In the face of considerable financial hardship, she relied on her own intelligence and strength to take care of her children and marry off her eldest daughters. Her husband was never around, and left her for another woman. To earn a decent and respectable livelihood, Akhtar started working.

Akhtar landed a job as an insurance salesperson and eventually moved on to sewing and embroidery. She became a sewing teacher at a local school, but she craved a job that would provide for her family.

She credits the Islamabad Traffic Police training course for showing her the possibilities.

It led her to eventually driving a truck, a task that requires excellent road sense and training. She worked hard and passed the driving tests. She received a public service vehicle license, making her the first Pakistani woman licensed to drive trailers, tractors and trucks.

Her work is grueling. Her journeys involve her transporting 7,000 bricks from a factory in Rawalpindi to AJK, a distance of 200 km between the two destinations. Akhtar also operates a driving school. Her students consider her a a role model and mother. As Akhtar ’s admirers would tell you, she never gives up until she achieves her goal.

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While women constitute about 5 percent of truck drivers here in the United States, the numbers are even fewer in foreign countries. That’s why this story out of Nigeria is so unusual, and it’s why it attracted our attention.

According to a feature in thenationonlineng.netThe Nation, Nigerian women are making inroads into all sorts of male-dominated industries, from truck driving to welding. In the story, writer Dorcas Egede highlighted several women who are thriving in Nigerian trucking jobs.

One after the other, motorists moved away from their cars to see the cause of the traffic ahead. On getting close to the cause of the traffic and discovering that it was a truck belonging to the Dangote Group, most of them made to turn back in indignation, cursing under their breath. But they soon stopped in their tracks. A woman behind the wheels of a truck? Surely this was no common sight in this part of the world. In no time, there was a pool of humans, particularly males, all struggling to take a shot of the wonder woman.

Hajiya Gambo Mohammed, a senior driver with the Dangote Group, was a spectacle on this particular day. The sight of her masterfully manning the wheels of a heavy-duty truck wasn’t a common one. In a clime where some men still dread driving cars and small buses on long distance, the sight of Hajia Muhammed was no doubt a spectacle.

Mohammed is just one of many women in Nigeria who has a job considered to be exclusive to men. But that’s starting to change. “Over the years, more females who have become skilled in certain manly jobs have emerged,” the article states. “Among them are female mechanics, painters, commercial bus drivers, conductors and welders.”

Another female driver, who goes by the pseudonym Geraldeen Agbonifo, is a widowed mother of three.

She said she veered into transportation business early this year, exactly two years after her husband’s demise.

Like it is with many widows, Agbonifo revealed that she would do everything within her power to raise her children to the highest level possible. “I’m not thinking remarriage. I just want to train my children to the highest level I can,” she said.

Agbonifo got a trucking job after her textile, shoe and bag business folded.

Asked if she indeed faces the challenge of battling the many wild men in the transport business world every day, Agbonifo smiled and asked, “What do you expect? You saw how that driver tried to bully me at Obalende while we were hustling for passengers. I get a daily dose of that, but it doesn’t bother me.

Before you decide to come and do this kind of work, you must have prepared yourself to tussle with bullies like that.”

Interestingly, there’s also the challenge of certain passengers, particularly males, who would refuse to board her bus once they notice its driver is female. But again she says this does not bother her. “I get a lot of admiring stares. In fact, some people purposely get on my bus when they see who the driver is, so it doesn’t bother me when I see those who despise me.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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sj-r.com

One truck driver from Springfield has assembled decades of safe driving, spanning an amazing 51 years.

Bob Wyatt, who has held a CDL trucking job at Schneider out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the past 43 years, received an award from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance for his incredible safety record.

Wyatt clocked nearly 6 million miles without a single preventable accident.

The award recognizes commercial vehicle drivers who distinguish themselves through safe operation for an extended period of time. The Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register wrote that Wyatt was “surprised and humbled, to say the least,” by the award.

“You just take it one mile at a time,” Wyatt said of how he stayed safe on the road.

But even with all his success, Wyatt told the newspaper that CDL trucking jobs aren’t easy.

“A million people, they all want to be at the same place at the same time, they don’t want anybody to get in their way,” Wyatt said. “And the fact that they are texting and talking on the phone makes it even worse. I’ve been out here 50 years of my life, and you can’t even imagine what I’ve seen.”

CVSA president Maj. Jay Thompson praised Wyatt and his stellar safety record.

Overall, he serves as the most decorated driver in Schneider history, according to the State Journal-Register.

“We remain so impressed by Bob Wyatt’s spotless record of 51 years of safe driving, his unwavering, long-term commitment to public safety, his proactive approach to growth and learning, and his willingness to engage with leadership to be a catalyst for industry improvement,” he said.

In addition, Wyatt has been married to his wife, Linda, for nearly as long as he’s gone without an accident (49 years).

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It is important to be happy and self-aware no matter what you’re doing, even as part of your CDL driver job. Writer Thai Nguyen of the Huffington Post writes that self-awareness is one of the key skills for success for truck drivers and other professionals. The way we respond in situations is based on our mental processes, Nguyen writes.

By being aware of our mental processes we are able to uncover any destructive thought pattern or poor habits. Nguyen gives us 12 exercises that help fuel our bodies for greater self awareness. Here are the top 5 highlights of the article:

Become a happy and self-aware CDL truck driver

1. The three Why’s

Before acting on a decision, ask yourself “Why?” Follow up your response with another “Why?” And then a third. If you can find three good reasons to pursue something, you’ll have clarity and be more confident in your actions. Being self-aware means knowing your motives and determining whether they’re reasonable.

2. Practice saying “No” to yourself

The ability to say “No” to yourself — to put off short-term gratification for the long-term gain — is an important life skill. And like a muscle, it is strengthened with exercise. The more you practice saying “No” to small daily challenges, the better you can withstand major temptations.

3. Monitor your self-talk

There is non-stop commentary in our heads, and it’s not always helpful. A little bit of negative self-talk can spiral into stress and depression.

4. Improve your body language awareness

Watching yourself on video can be a cringeworthy experience, but awareness of your body language, posture and mannerisms improves your confidence.

Slouching, or taking a “low-power-pose” increases cortisol and feeds low self-esteem, while standing tall or taking a “high-power-pose” stimulates testosterone and improves your performance. Using hand gestures helps with articulating your thoughts and affects how people respond to you.

5. Practice self-evaluation and reflection

Keep a journal and track your progress. How would you rate your current level of self-awareness out of ten? Think about how often you say regretful things; repeat bad habits; make absent-minded decisions; and have erratic thoughts.

Set regular goals, break big goals down into smaller milestones. Ask yourself at the end of each day, “What did I do well today?” And, “How can I improve on this tomorrow?”

Those with CDL driver jobs might have time to reflect on themselves during the day. Next time, try one or more of these techniques to see how self-aware you can become.

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Featured image courtesy jill111 / Pixabay; lower image courtesy of Huffington Post

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timesfreepress.com

Covenant Transport, one of the largest trucking companies hiring in the United States, celebrated a landmark anniversary this month, its 30th year in the industry. Covenant feted the occasion in style on the grounds of its Chattanooga, Tenn., headquarters. The Chattanooga Times Free Press was on hand to cover the event.

A carnival was gearing up in the tractor lot outside Covenant Transportation Group headquarters. A band tuned its instruments. Funnel cake batter dropped into searing grease. And David Parker, chairman of the trucking company he founded in 1986, was busy at work. But he welcomed the chance to talk a few minutes about the significance of the milestone.

“Thirty years,” he said. “I’m 30 years older.” He flashed a big smile and leaned back in his chair.

Parker was raised in the trucking industry by longhaul trucking pioneer Clyde Fuller. Parker and his half-brother, Max Fuller, worked for Fuller in their youth, coming up in the business.

That was in the 1970s and ’80s. In the mid-’80s, Clyde Fuller left his company, Southwest Motor Freight, to his boys. They eventually sold the company. After the sale, Parker, a devout Christian, felt a calling to start Covenant Transport. So in 1986, he did. His half-brother Max Fuller, along with Pat Quinn, started U.S. Xpress Enterprises the same year in Chattanooga. All three inherited trucks from Southwest Motor Freight.

“We were 28 years old when we started this sucker,” Parker said of himself and his wife, Jacqueline.

Covenant has grown a lot since then. How will Covenant evolve in the next 30 years? Time will tell.

Read the rest of the Chattanooga Times Free Press story here.

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One WomenAt age 73, Veronica Longwith has four grandchildren and a great-grandchild. And yet, at a time in life when others are winding down, she’s revving up—again.

Longwith already had held a CDL trucking job from 1987-1992, as she told The Chattanoongan website. Now she’s excited to return to driving all these years later.

“My first time around, I found a local company out of Chattanooga that offered training for truck drivers,” she said. “With me raising a young daughter at the time, I found it easiest to take their weekend classes all day Saturday and Sunday for three months.” On the last day of class, Ms. Longwith got her license and was ready to begin orientation with Reeves Transportation in Calhoun, Ga.

For five years, Longwith hauled carpet and flooring for Reeves—from Dalton, Ga., across the United States.

“I loved every minute of it,” she said. But, it was family that saw Ms. Longwith take her hiatus from a career she enjoyed and concentrate her efforts on caring for her only brother. “Gerard got very sick and I needed to stay closer to home and take care of him when he really needed some help,” she said.

Her brother passed away, and Longwith rejoined the workforce as a business owner.

But deep down, the open road called her back to a CDL trucking job.

She made the decision to return to commercial truck driving 24 years after her first stint as a big rig driver. Married once before, the now single senior had nothing but time and the open road ahead of her. So, this past winter, she enrolled in Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s ten-week Commercial Truck Driving program in Walker County, Ga.

When asked what her family thought of this decision to be a commercial truck driver one more time, it was her son who was first to find out. “I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it,” she said. “He happened to see me on the highway one morning and saw me pull into the main entrance for GNTC. That’s when I realized that I’d need to tell him. He wasn’t happy about my decision. But, I’m really happy about it.”

Longwith tells others striving for CDL trucking jobs that they need a passion for driving or they won’t last long in the business.

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trucknews.com

In the 12 years Canadian truck drivers have been receiving the Highway Star of the Year Award, not once has a recipient been a woman. Until now.

Joanne Mackenzie, a company driver for Highland Transport, was crowned the 2016 Highway Star of the Year at Truck World in Canada this week, raising the bar for other women with CDL trucking jobs.

The award recognizes drivers across Canada who are professional, give back to their communities and “operate in the highest and safest regard for other road users,” stated the Truck News article.

“Mackenzie has been a professional driver for more than 24 years, 14 of which have been for Highland Transport,” the article continued. She is the first female to be named Highway Star of the Year.

“I’m so humbled. It’s a very humbling experience and quite the honor to be alongside the previous Highway Star winners,” she told Truck News. “I’m really privileged to be able to be the first woman to win this. I hope now that we’ve got that one foot in the man’s club…more women will come forward and feel comfortable to participate in stuff like this. Especially when it comes to stuff not only behind the wheel but in the community. Women need to know they can do whatever they want.”

The article says Mackenzie has earned a stellar reputation in the trucking industry for her work with Trucking For a Cure, a non-profit that raises money and awareness for breast cancer research through truck convoys and other trucking-related campaigns.

It was a family affair for Mackenzie at Truck World this year.

Her two brothers attended the event in a show of support for her. Their presence there meant a lot to Mackenzie, she said in the article.

“It’s the first time my family has come to an industry event with me,” she said. “And they’ve supported me back home, but they’ve never driven hours to come see me. I’m so excited my two brothers are here…My family misses me on the road and I miss so many family events and they’re all so supportive and understanding. ”

As Highway Star of the Year, Mackenzie was awarded more than $15,000 in cash and prizes, including a $10,000 check.

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stltoday.comSometimes, nothing feels better than a hot shower. But when you’re homeless, hot showers are hard to come by. One St. Louis, Mo,. pastor changes all that, however, with a new nonprofit called Shower to the People.

The pastor, Jake Austin, bought a truck for $5,000 and modified it to equip it with shower stalls and sinks. In June, Shower to the People will make its debut, bringing hope and cleanliness to St. Louis’s homeless.

Shower to the People made headlines in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently, and we thought those of you with CDL driver jobs would be inspired by reading about it, too. Austin has serviced homeless people throughout his career, but his new endeavor is unique.

The idea for it struck him a couple of years ago.

One day in fall 2014, when Austin was distributing soap and hygiene supplies to the homeless in downtown St. Louis, he offered a bar of soap to a man who came up to the table. The soap is nice, the man said, but where would he use it? He had plenty of clothes and food, but he hadn’t had a shower in two months and had a job interview in two days.

Austin was embarrassed he hadn’t thought about this earlier. “People can get food and clothes, but if they haven’t had a shower in three months, they can’t get a job even flipping burgers,” he said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story.

And that’s how Austin came up with the idea for Shower to the People.

The truck-turned-portable showering-unit has two shower stalls with curtains for privacy and two sinks inside. Sinks on the outside will allow homeless to brush their teeth, wash their faces and shave. According to the story, the truck will connect to fire hydrants, and a generator on the outside will run a water heater on the inside.

Austin figures if the truck is parked in one place for six to eight hours, it would be long enough to give 60 people showers. The truck would move to different locations throughout the week.

He knows of only one other organization in the country that does this, a group called Lava Mae in San Francisco that converts buses into shower units.

Austin is setting his own course here.

He got nonprofit status for his endeavor. He’s getting the proper permits and support from City Hall, and hopes to have the Shower to the People truck rolling and out on test stops within a couple of weeks. Its grand debut will be June 4 in Soulard, just south of downtown St. Louis.

“I decided I’m going to do one thing really well, and that’s hygiene,” Austin told the newspaper.

Austin hopes to one day employ homeless people by hiring them to make soap. Other nonprofits have contributed to the effort, too.

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One owner operator got his day in the sun this week, in the form of a very special award.

Edward Mark Tricco, leased to Bison Transport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was named 2015 0wner operator of the year by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive on Tuesday. His reward? A $25,000 cash prize.

The money served well earned. Tricco assembled a stellar safety record in his 36 years.

Driving for more than 36 years with 4.3 million accident-free miles has been no easy feat, said Tricco. And, maintaining that safety record has been the biggest challenge of his career, he says.

The Owner Operator of the Year Awards honor drivers who have driven safely, enhanced the image of trucking and served their communities, the article stated. The winners were announced at TCA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Accepting the award, Tricco said his job has given him the opportunity “to give back to the community and protect the environment.”

Tricco started in his CDL driver job at Bison Transport 20 years ago. While he started with Bison as a company driver, he made the transition to owner operator a couple years later.

“As long as you can balance home life and work, and having a good wife at home helps, you’ll have a good career,” he told Overdrive.

Prime Inc.’s Glen Horack was also a finalist for the owner operator award. He won $2,500. Company driver finalists Guy Broderick of APPS Transport, Mississauga, Ontario, and David McGowan of WEL Companies, De Pere, Wis., also won $2,500.

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