Carrier

Third career’s a charm: how Kristin found a home in trucking

June 18, 2019 / Global

Kristin Duhr has trucking in her blood, but she didn’t choose it as a career until later in life—her path to the industry had several twists and turns. She’s also an out-and-proud transgender woman, another personal realization that took years to manifest. “I just considered myself a crossdresser and didn’t really know where I fit,” said Kristen. It wasn’t until Kristen’s ex-wife asked if she was transgender that she decided to embrace her true self.

Kristen loves trucking because it fits her personality and working style. “I’ve always been a loner, and I work better when I’m on my own,” she said. All of the solitude that comes with OTR (over-the-road) trucking also provides Kristen with opportunities to see the country. “I’m a photographer. The sights you see are worth the alone time.”

Tell us about your journey in trucking.

I actually grew up in it. My dad drove, so I jumped in a truck for the first time when I was 3 years old. He drove in regional areas, so I would see him multiple times a week. I’d go out with him sometimes for a week at a time — that was my summer thing.

I started racing mountain bikes when I was 14 and stepped away from trucking for a while. When I was 30, I closed the bike shop I owned at the time and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I drove a school bus, drove a straight truck for an apple orchard, and worked at a plant. I liked the whole driving thing. I talked with my wife at the time about how I’d like to get into trucking, and she finally agreed. That was 8 years ago. I drove for rail, and that’s how I learned to get the truck down the road. After that, I was running from the Midwest to the East Coast every week for a couple of years.

I hadn’t figured out I was trans yet. My ex was a psychology major and always trying to figure out what made things tick. She asked me if I was trans after describing it, and I realized that was where I fit. It was really stressful figuring out who I was and keeping it hidden from my employer at the time. I had picked up a job hauling whey from one cheese plant to another cheese plant. About a year in, I said, “OK, I’ve just got to be me.” I never really said anything to anyone—I just started showing up as Kristen. My supervisor and boss never really said anything to me. I was able to change my name, do my paperwork, and nothing was ever said. I can’t complain about how they let me transition on the job.

What’s your role in the industry now?

I’m a lease-purchase driver. Autumn Transport has been absolutely fabulous. I told them one day, “You know I’m trans?” and they said, “And?” And away we went. I’m going on my third month of driving with them, and they’ve been nothing but respectful. They always use the correct pronouns. Even when they’re talking about me to other people, they nail it.

What challenges have you faced as an LGBTQIA+ driver?

I still get misgendered at places I go. I’ve been out in public for years, but it’s still kind of a back-and-forth. Some people will correct themselves. Some won’t. I do get a lot of looks. Most of the time I pass . . . until I open my mouth and then it can go downhill. But for the most part, it’s just looks. I do tend to wear tighter clothing so people tend to glance at me.

What do you do to stay safe on the road?

I watch my back, but I always have. I know a lot of women have problems out there—my sister drove a truck and she’s told me horror stories. My doors are always locked. I also try to not get out of the truck unless I really have to. At truck stops, I’m a little more relaxed but I still pay attention to my surroundings.

What are your hopes for the future of the trucking industry?

I see a lot of different things happening in the industry, and I’m excited to see where it will go. There’s a lot about autonomous trucks, which I don’t see as a bad thing. I’d also like to see trucking go electric, mostly because of climate change. Diesel fuel will probably run out anyway and we’re going to have an Earth to deal with. And I wish they’d do away with e-logs, too.