Meet Rhonda Hartman: Our Newest Hall of Fame Inductee
The US Road Warrior Hall of Fame is proud to introduce to you Rhonda Hartman; Rhonda works for Old Dominion and has recently been selected as a finalist in the American Trucking Associations' Captains on the 2017-2018 Americas Road team.
Rhonda is the only woman to be selected as one of the 33 finalists, who will be narrowed down to 11 finalists in January.
I had the opportunity to speak with Rhonda, and I asked her about her trucking life and story. “I started driving a truck in 1982. Deregulation of the industry in 1980 made it easier for farmers that owned a semi to not only use it for farm use, but also to use it over the road. The Farm Crisis also happened about the same time, and my husband’s family farm was hit hard. With the farm at that time not able to support another married son, we took the semi-tractor and grain wagon out on the road hauling grain down to Arkansas and feather meal back north to the dog food plants.”
“We began running mostly east because the miles were less and the revenue per mile was higher. I very quickly learned that an Iowa farm girl knows nothing about how the rest of the world lives. Growing up in a farming background with wide open spaces is very different than growing up in big cities. During those first few years I honestly didn't think about being a Professional Driver, it was more just a way to help support my family. By 1986 I was on my own running all 48 states and Canada. As an owner-operator, the only down time was when the truck needed repairs, so I ran as hard as I could when I could.”
I asked Rhonda how she got involved in a business that wasn’t quite gender friendly when she started. “I probably began thinking of trucking as a career path and my future in the business around then. I made up my mind that I would not let a company push me so hard that it would damage my driving record. Because no one, except myself, drove a semi in my family. I would have to say that my mentors were the 'true gentlemen' of the road.”
I was an owner- operator for 8 years where I hauled everything from swinging meat to flowers to ;old money' and pulled every kind of trailer except a flatbed. I then decided that if this was going to be my lot in life, I was going to get the best job I could where I would be home more. So, in 1989 I hired on as a company driver with Wal-Mart Transportation.”
Tragedy hit home for Rhonda when her husband Ron, whom she affectionately refers to as her greatest supporter died, and she decided to get back on the road. “I knew that I needed to return to the profession I loved that could also pay my bills once again. I began driving for Food-Liner Inc. pulling a tanker. I decided that I wanted to be home more and made the decision to find out what the P & D (pick-up and delivery) business was all about. In 2010 I hired on with a small LTL trucking company, and in 2012 I started with Old Dominion Freight Lines where I plan to stay until I retire.”
With experience and recognition under her belt, Rhonda offered some advice for other woman in the industry or looking at it as a professional career. "I would like to tell other women out there that want to get into this industry, to do their homework, research and ask questions. There are several good companies that have fair hiring practices and train from within. Other than previously mentioned, the industry hasn't changed much since I started. There are still more women driving in the summer months than in the winter. But as the business environment becomes a cleaner, friendlier place to work for everyone, it also makes it a nicer place to work for drivers in general. Gone are the days of filthy truck stops and factories, for the most part."
Congratulations Rhonda, Welcome to the Road Warrior family and best of luck in your journey as a finalist!