April 12, 2016 1:55 PM, EDT

Annette Womack Named First Female Maryland Truck Driver of the Year

Maryland Motor Truck Association

Annette Womack, 54, has an impressive resume as a truck driver. The Howard County, Maryland, resident has driven more than 1.7 million accident-free miles over 30 years.

Womack added another accomplishment to her record on April 8 when she was the first woman named the Maryland Motor Truck Association's Driver of the Year.

Womack, who drives for Giant Food Stores, has made what she calls a fulfilling career out of truck driving. She sleeps at home every night and travels around the world as a hobby; her next trip will take her to London.

"I do everything I want to do. … I've had a wonderful life," Womack said. "Women can do this."

But when she introduces herself to others, she leaves out her work until she is completely comfortable.

"People judge you," Womack said. "I'm not ashamed. I just want [people] to like me for me. We all look on the outside before we look on the inside. That's why it's hard to be a truck driver."

Womack said the requirements to maintain her position have exposed her to a wide array of information about transportation, management and the trucking industry.

Womack first got behind the wheel of a truck when she was 24. Her father's friend, who owned a trucking company, trained her. One day, she saw a newspaper ad for truck drivers at Citco. Soon after accepting the job, she was hauling Citgo gas to 7-Elevens.

In 1995, when Womack joined Giant as a truck driver. "There weren't many women in the field. It was a great honor to do it," she said. "It's becoming harder and harder for people who don't drive very well to stay in the industry."

Jamie Miller, manager of public and community relations at Giant in Landover, said, "We're incredibly proud of Annette. ... She is one of Giant's finest."

Off the road, Womack wants others to broaden their understanding of truck drivers. Through outreach initiatives by Giant, Womack visited 10 schools last year to share her experiences behind the wheel with kids.

She also started "Transportation News," a communication tool that alerts Giant's transportation management of safety issues at stores and distribution centers.

The tool, which allows drivers to submit photos and notes about needed improvements, has helped remove Dumpsters blocking trucks, added lights to dark parking areas for trucks and added lines on the pavement to guide drivers as they back into loading docks at Giant, Womack said.

"The company is listening to us because of this," said Womack.

With her years of experience driving in some of the most congested areas of the state, Womack said she has found her "driving zone."

"I need my zone. And I stay in my zone. I control everything around me. ... I don't let anything beat [me] down," said Womack. "That's just been my motto all these years."

Twenty years ago, Womack said, truck drivers could coast through many roads. The advent of technology at driver's fingertips and spikes in traffic volume have created dangerous driving situations.

"People's habits have just gotten terrible behind the wheel," Womack said, recalling the days when Route 66 was just two lanes.

Going forward, Womack wants to pull up her truck and trailer to high school parking lots to advise students about safe driving habits.

"They need to be off their cellphones," Womack said. "Don't talk on the phone. Just drive."