Clarissa Rankin, mother of two, 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, big old beard and wearing overalls,” she says, adding that, “I love to get that expression on people’s faces like, ‘Can you really 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 how she’s changing people’s minds about what trucking can really be.
Rankin, who’s 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 himself and encouraged her to make the 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 can maneuver that big old thing,” she says about the instructor, “and I got the license the very first time.”
‘I got turned down so many times’
Despite her immediate love of the job, it was hard for Rankin 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, too, wasn’t enough.
Instead, she decided to start her own trucking business: JC Rankins Transport.
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 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.
There are costs, though: In 2021, her truck lease was $49,200. Maintenance was $2,665. Fuel was $19,336. But, ultimately, her take home pay was $73,007, considerably more than she’s made on other jobs.
Rankin now makes money documenting her trucker life on social media. She has nearly 2 million followers on TikTok and was able to make an additional $36,000 in 2021 from promotional videos and advertising.
Even as she’s found a career she loves, Rankin still encounters challenges. Women make up less than 8% of professional drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations. Truck stops, roadside service stations for truck drivers including restaurants, fueling stations and sometimes showers, don’t cater to women, and don’t necessarily provide items like tampons or pads. Male drivers also criticize her for what she’s wearing, like shorts over the summer. And people judge her life choices.
Rankin’s husband works from home as a videographer and stays with their boys while she’s on the road. “We get told like, ‘Why is she on the road and you at home with them kids? She needed to be home with them kids. She there with another man,’” she says.
Still, Rankin wouldn’t change what she does. “I love my job so much,” she says, because she gets to provide a service and ensure people get the goods they need.
“I love being that superhero.”