(NewsNation) — There was no way Savonn Barnes-Poags was going to become a truck driver, and there was nothing her husband could do to change that.
Barnes-Poags saw the hours put in by her husband, who owns a trucking company, and didn’t think it was for her. Plus, she had a very practical concern.
“I’m 4’9″ … I can’t do this!” she remembers telling him.
But she gave it a shot. Now, she’s had her license for 16 months. With her T-shirt that reads “Pretty Girls Drive Trucks Too,” she’s bucking the expectation that drivers are disheveled men.
“A lot of people think since I do a full face of make-up that I can’t drive correctly,” she said Monday on “Rush Hour.” “I don’t understand how it correlates, but they don’t think I’m able to push these trucks the way a man pushes trucks.”
Despite her flair, she is firmly in the minority in her profession. Studies before the pandemic found women had just barely cracked the 10% mark of drivers.
Ingrid Brown, a trucker of 40 years and host of “America on 18 Wheels,” said trucking is an inherently equal profession between men and women.
“I get paid the same things the guys get paid,” she said Monday on “NewsNation Prime.” “I do the same job they do.”
She added the industry has come a long way in her four decades. There are now reliably men’s and women’s showers at truck stops, and the equipment is easier to operate.
Barnes-Poags agrees the job suits her well. She had trouble learning on a truck with manual transmission because she had to strain to reach the clutch, but automatic trucks were easy to get the hang of.
“It was like driving a big car,” she said. “It wasn’t really as hard as I thought.”
The two said they also feel safe on the job. Brown says the men she’s dealt with over the years have been supportive and kept her safe.
“My safety around the guys at truck stops is so much safer than if I’m parked on a side street in Chicago, or parked somewhere there’s not a lot of people around,” Brown said.
She is mindful of her surroundings, and doesn’t walk between parked trucks in the dark. Barnes-Poags does video calls when she’s walking alone late at night to deter would-be criminals from targeting her.
Barnes-Poags and Brown have used their professions to create a platform for themselves. Barnes-Poags has a TikTok account chronicling her life on the road, which has more than 151,000 followers, and Brown hosts a web series called “America On 18 Wheels.”
“I would love to see more women realize they can do what I’ve done,” Brown said.