Ina Daly has become a staple in the truck driving competition arena. Not only has she proved her skills as a driver, but that she belongs in the male-dominated industry.
With her 5-Axle Grand Champion win in Tempe, Ariz., on April 13, Daly advances to her 14th National Truck Driving Championships, on Aug. 14-17 in Pittsburgh.
Daly picked up a national division win in 2013, driving Tank Truck. That victory marked the first time a female driver won a national title.
Breaking down barriers and stereotypes are all in a day’s work for Daly.
“A man doesn’t get a second look as they move their con-gear or unload a trailer, but people will watch you to make sure that you can handle your job,” Daly said of the extra scrutiny women in the field receive.
Growing up, Daly’s father was a driver, hauling twins in Arizona, and it was her father who encouraged her to get behind the wheel. While studying in junior college, Daly drove to save up money for university tuition.
“I loved it and never looked back, just as he had predicted,” Daly said.
When the chance to compete in trucking came up, she saw it as a great opportunity.
“I’ve always been competitive with horses, ever since high school, so when I was asked to enter a truck rodeo by my company, it was only fitting,” Daly said.
Her first attempt at a truck driving championship, Daly clinched the Rookie of the Year title.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 14-17
Throughout her years of competition, she says the support from coworkers and her company has been encouraging. Daly has been driving for XPO Logistics for almost 35 years, honing her talents to become a top-of-the-line competitor. Now, as a seasoned veteran, Daly is turning to coaching the next generation of competitors.
“This year, I coached two rookies from my Phoenix terminal,” she said. “One was an older driver, and the other a young and ambitious type who has the competitive spirit like me.”
Watching young drivers come up has kept Daly on her toes. A young driver said to her that he is looking forward to being crowned Grand Champion next year and hoped to get in some practice time with her.
“I thought that was a great compliment,” Daly said.
Mentoring is a large part of preparing for the competition and grows the knowledge and skills of all drivers, no matter the age or experience.
“After [the competition] is over, we share the things that we’ve learned with other drivers, who in turn share with other drivers,” Daly said. She noted that the safety benefits of competing are the real objective and reward for drivers.
If it isn’t other women in the industry, or rookies rooting for Daly, she can count on grandson Evan to be a proud cheerleader.
“He told me that he Googled me at school and showed his class. I laughed hard at that,” Daly said.
Many hours are put in preparing for the state and national levels of competition.
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“It’s hard to give up so much of your own time off, but it’s had a great payback for me over the years,” she said. Past state winners and rookies are her biggest motivators to get out and practice, knowing that putting in the hours is the only way to improve.
Competing can be a humbling experience for veteran drivers who have enjoyed success.
“You can be the greatest and come in first one time and last the next time; it’s good for grounding the soul,” she said.
The truck driving championships are put on to promote safety and showcase drivers’ skills. Several companies encourage drivers to get involved, and some sponsor state and national competitions.
“XPO Logistics had faith in me and believed that I would someday become the first female national champion,” Daly said. “I was glad to have delivered on that for my company, as well as my family.”
Since paving the way with her nationals win in 2013, other women have competed at the same caliber, fighting the same stereotypes.
“I would have to say that like any woman working in a male dominated field, it’s having to prove yourself over and over to each new coworker or customer that you deliver to,” Daly said.
At XPO, Daly says the men she works with are supportive and quick to reassure people she is, in fact, a very capable driver.
While her practice for the state event is over, there still is work to be done in preparation for this summer.
“I’ll get fired up again after Memorial Day weekend,” she said, “and practice, practice, practice for the nationals.”