When Jacqueline Rocha opens her front door in the morning, a different view awaits her every day.
Although the 23-year-old has a home in Acworth, Rocha also enjoys a quasi-nomad lifestyle, traveling the country through her job as a professional truck driver and living out of the mobile trailer that is attached to her daily mode of transport and work.
It has been two years since Rocha first entered the profession, which she saw as not only an opportunity to make a living but also to drive and travel, two of her biggest passions. She is accompanied on her cross country adventures by her husband, Michael Barclay, also a truck driver, as well as their three “children,” Lady, Angel and Cutie, who share a bed near their owners in the rear part of the trailer.
“If we’re going to San Diego, we go see whales and eat delicious Mexican food. If we’re going to Boston, we go to the harbor. If we’re going to New York, we go to Manhattan. We visit these places, and we try to feel like we’re at home wherever we go,” said Rocha, who traces her roots to Nicaragua and Italy.
Driver “in heels”
In an industry where only six percent of the employees are women, Rocha undoubtedly draws attention wherever she goes.
“People always say something. They ask me: ‘You’re driving that big thing?’ And I tell them: ‘Yup, that’s me,’ and I’m proud to say it,” she said.
In January, Rocha became the first female recipient of the Road Warrior, a national award sponsored by Pilot Flying J and bestowed on truck drivers for their dedication, perseverance and passion for the industry. Rocha won first place and a prize of $10,000.
Beyond being an excellent driver, Rocha wants to make a difference with her work and prove that women are capable of this type of labor.
“I can be a woman, I can do my hair and put on makeup and still be a driver. I can do everything they can do, and I can do it in heels,” said Rocha, who hopes to inspire more women and young people to consider the trucking industry as a profession.
“My message is myself. I can drive an 18-wheeler, I can drive cross country, without GPS. I can do hard work, and I’ve done it for two years. I don’t have plans on stopping, and for anyone who doesn’t believe in me, watch me do it,” she added.
She hopes to one day create a non-profit organization that offers financial assistance to those who wish to enter the trucking profession and lack funds for training.
“I want to change this industry. They say more truck drivers are needed and my generation isn’t jumping up and down when it comes to this field. But they don’t know about the benefits of this work,” she explained.
Her husband is confident that Rocha’s recent recognition will motivate other women to join the industry.
“She is going to be a great influence for women that are maybe nervous or scared or think that this is only a guy’s job to do,” said Barclay.
Contrary to what many might think, Rocha said she has never been undervalued or disrespected by male truck drivers.
“I think men tend to respect female drivers more for what we do,” she said adding that it’s a brotherhood of sorts. Everyone supports each other at all times, especially if someone has an emergency on the road.
For Rocha, those dedicated drivers are her biggest inspiration.
“We have drivers who only have one leg, who are missing an arm and if they can do it, we can do it,” she said.
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