Clarissa Rankin is challenging stereotypes. The 36-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, resident is a professional truck driver, hauling an array of goods from diapers to TVs to canned goods across the East Coast.
“People always have this image in their mind of a truck driver being a man with a big old stomach, a big old beard, and wearing overalls,” she says, adding, “I love to get that expression on people’s faces like, ‘Can you drive that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I got this, honey.’”
Rankin loves her job, and her trucking company brought in $144,208 last year. But getting there wasn’t easy. Here’s how she built her successful career and changed people’s minds about what trucking can be.
“I showed him how I can maneuver that big old thing.”
Rankin, married with two children, went to school for criminal justice but couldn’t find work in the field. Instead, she took a job as a substitute teacher, making $1,900 per month. That wasn’t enough to help support her family.
Rankin’s husband had worked in the trucking industry and encouraged her to pivot. She found she loved driving a truck immediately. The job was outdoors, far preferable to an office job that would keep her indoors all day.
During the test to get her truck driving license, “I showed him how I could maneuver that big old thing,” she says about the instructor, “and I got the license the first time.”
“I got turned down so many times.”
Despite her immediate love of the job, Rankin found it hard to find work. “I’m not, like, your everyday truck driver,” she says. “I’m so girly. So I got turned down so many times.”
She finally got hired after her sixth interview, but was making less than $50,000 per year and felt that wasn’t enough. Instead, she started her own trucking business: JC Rankins Transport.
“Having your truck comes with a lot of freedom.”
Rankin’s company has now been in business for four years. She works sporadically throughout the week, depending on the frequency with which she finds jobs on apps like TruckLoads, which shows pickup and drop-off jobs throughout the country that various companies need to be done. She’s driven as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Florida. “Having your own truck comes with a lot of freedom,” she says.
But there are costs. In 2021, it cost her $49,200 to rent her truck. The cost of upkeep was $2,665. Fuel cost $19,336. But in the end, she took home $73,007, which is a lot more than she makes at any of her other jobs.
Plus, Rankin now gets paid to post about her life as a trucker on social media. She has almost 2 million followers on TikTok, and in 2021 she made an extra $36,000 from ads and promotional videos.
“I love being that superhero.”
Even though Rankin has found a job she loves, she still faces problems. The American Trucking Association says that less than 8% of professional truck drivers are women.
Truck stops and other roadside services for truck drivers, like restaurants, petrol stations, and sometimes even showers, don’t usually cater to women and don’t always have things like tampons and pads. Men drivers also make fun of her clothes, like shorts in the summer. And people tell her what to do with her life.
Her husband is a videographer and works from home. While she’s on the road, he stays with their boys. “People ask us, “Why is she travelling and you are at home with the kids?” She had to be with the kids at home. She is there with someone else,’ “she says.
Still, Rankin wouldn’t do anything different. She says, “I love my job so much because I get to help people and make sure they get what they need.” “I love playing that hero.”