Local trucker gears up for Overdrive magazine
by Sherrie Norris
Those who know Ingrid Brown from her Watauga County hometown in Zionville know she may be small in stature, but she's larger than life in every other aspect.
Apparently, her peers and the folks at Overdrive magazine know there's something special about her, as well.
According to magazine spokeswoman Kathleen Buccleugh, Brown has been named one of the industry's "10 Most Beautiful Women Truckers."
"Ingrid is among the finalists that include a logger, a hog hauler and a cancer survivor, all proof that women can handle nontraditional jobs -- and look good doing them," Buccleugh said.
While truck driving doesn't top the career list for many women, Brown said she was born to drive and learned how to handle big rigs -- trucks and machinery -- while growing up in her family's road construction business.
Today, as a 51-year-old grandmother, Brown represents less than 7 percent of the nation's 3 million truck drivers.
Currently, she's running a different race as one of 71 women who were earlier nominated by family, friends and co-workers for a chance to be named "Overdrive's Most Beautiful," a contest launched in February to honor the hard-working, dedicated women who move America's freight.
Nominees each hold a valid commercial driver's license, drive full time and haul freight, ranging from hogs to logs, bees to tees -- and everything in between, Buccleugh said.
"They represent all shapes, sizes and ages, but have one thing in common -- they love trucks, trucking and the lure of the open road," she said.
"Trucking often has a negative image with the driving public," said Carolyn Mason, an Overdrive contributor who organized the contest. "We wanted to show Americans that behind the wheel of that big rig you just passed on the highway might be someone who could be your mom, your sister or your best friend. And we also wanted to show women that trucking can be a good career choice -- not for everyone -- but for women with a sense of adventure and an independent spirit."
In April, more than 12,000 people visited Overdrive's website to read the nominees' stories, cast their votes and narrow down the 10 finalists.
On June 1, voting re-opened to further narrow the field to three finalists, chosen by popular vote and a select editorial committee. Results were not available by presstime.
Those three finalists will head to the Great American Trucking Show on Aug. 22-24 in Dallas, Texas, where they will receive makeovers prior to having their photos professionally taken with customized trucks that compete in Overdrive's Pride and Polish truck beauty contest.
The winner will grace the cover of an issue of Overdrive, a 51-year-old magazine for over-the-road truckers who own and operate their own trucks.
"It is such a thrill to be in the Top 10," Brown said on Tuesday.
Brown said she's probably the oldest among the contenders and only one of three solo drivers. The others, she said, "run with their husbands or significant others," and are from California, New York and Florida. "
And, here's little ol' me, from Boone, North Carolina and proud of it," she said.
Most of the contestants are "much younger and call me Grandma," Brown said.
The contest, Brown said, started with more than 1,000 contestants and was recently narrowed to 71.
"To be in the Top 10 is really an honor," she said. "I'm just tickled to death."
Brown averages rolling her big rig across the country "about three weeks out of every month," she said, taking the "east west coast turns," from home to California.
"I'll haul just about anything out there and am always bringing back produce," she said.
With a love for the big rig and the grueling schedule it requires, Brown has been an independent trucker for most of her 31-year career. She recently joined Randall Miller Trucking Company of Boone.
"Randall and Angela, his wife, are great to work for," she said. "The company offers a sense of security that I didn't have as an independent owner. If I have a problem, all I have to do is pick up the phone and call them. I don't have to spend every free minute taking care of something. And, it's pretty neat to have someone call just to make sure I'm OK."
Considered a "solo" driver, Brown said she couldn't make it without her constant companion, Annie Oakley, her miniature Australian shepherd. "She's my truckin' buddy," she said.
Brown is known for her outgoing personality and her high-energy approach to life and the road. She's always up for a challenge and doesn't back down easily.
She's been honored on numerous occasions for her driving skills and abilities -- but the "beauty thing," she said, adds a unique twist to her career.
"When I told my youngest daughter about it, she was like, 'Mama, you're 51-years-old and you're going to be in a beauty contest?' And I told her, 'No, it's not a beauty contest. I don't want them to see the outside of me; I want them to see the inside of me,'" Brown said.
Inner beauty, Brown said, "is the big thing."
"Every single person alive has inner beauty. It's whether you display and use it that counts --and that you use it to help somebody else," she said.
Brown is the daughter of Joanne Hartley and D.T. Brown Jr. and the proud "little sister" of Blake Brown, all of Boone.
"My brother has always been the biggest influence in my entire life," she said. "He taught me more about life than anyone else. He's awesome."
Life as a trucker is not for everyone, Brown said, but it's a career choice that she made many years ago and she's never looked back.
She has more than three decades of memories of her life on the road, more of which she will share in the September issue of All About Women magazine. Look for her on the cover.
To cast your vote for Brown, visit http://www.overdriveonline.com.