With a passion for driving semi-trucks as well as ensuring the safety of all drivers on the road, a Zionville native was chosen as a voice for a national campaign aiming to raise awareness of how to share the road with larger vehicles.
Ingrid Brown is a local woman who has been trucking for 40 years this December. She was notified this past December that she would be featured in a campaign launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — called “Our Roads, Our Safety.”
A voices in safety video series includes Brown as a truck driver, a bus driver and passenger vehicle driver to offer perspectives, experiences and advice on driving safely around large trucks and buses, according to the FMCSA. This campaign includes billboard images, radio commercials and handout materials, Brown said.
Brown said she was trucking through Michigan when she all of a sudden heard her safety message on the SiriusXM radio, and her friend had told her she saw Brown’s face on a billboard in Chicago.
Starting her truck driving career at 18 in 1979, Brown said she grew up around big machinery and decided the industry was for her. She has driven through all 48 of the U.S. mainland states and through Canada — logging more than four million miles of safe driving.
“I don’t care if you’re in it four months, four years or 40 years, there’s no two days that are alike,” Brown said.
Her truck goes by the name of Miss Faith “because I have faith with me every mile I go,” she told the FMCSA.
As an independent hauler, Brown is a dedicated carrier for Rabbit River Transport based out of Holland, Mich. She said she lately has been hauling Boar’s Head meat, produce and cattle trailers. A typical day consists of picking up the item she’s hauling and driving it to its next destination. She said she’s allowed to work 14-hour days that consist of a maximum of 11-hour drives, with a 10-hour break afterwards. She then loads back up and is on the road again after the break.
On her long drives Brown said she likes to listen to audiobooks or talk shows on SiriusXM Radio. Mostly she likes to observe her surroundings and pay attention to the details of places and people she passes by. She said she always tries to make herself aware of her surroundings and assess situations for safety, such as what location she’s going to, the type of load that’s being picking up, parking lot layouts, traffic and weather conditions.
Brown hopes this safety campaign reaches drivers across all age groups. She said everyone can benefit by learning the blind spots around semi-trucks and the dangers of cutting off a truck in traffic. She mentioned that it takes a semi-truck driver the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop when traveling 65 miles an hour.
Safety goes beyond the laws of the road for a trucker, though. As a woman who is often trucking alone, Brown said she is especially hyperaware of safety precautions.
For example, she said when she picks up items from a market in downtown Detroit, it’s often between 2 and 4 a.m. She has once been to the area to pick up a load the morning after a shooting, and even mentioned that a truck driver was robbed and killed just last year at the market.
For this reason Brown makes sure to park in a safe location and doesn’t walk inbetween trailers in parking lots at night.
Over the years Brown has garnered several safety awards and various accolades.
In 2015 she was named to the National Association of Small Trucking Companies Driver of the Year team and was also named the Woman Driver of the Year. In the same year, she was selected to serve on — and still currently sits on — the Women in Trucking image team. Information on Women in Trucking can be found at www.womenintrucking.org.
According to Ellen Voie, the president and CEO of the Women In Trucking Association, the organization was formed to increase the ranks of women in the industry.
“Ingrid is a role model and a pioneer, not only as a woman in the industry but as an owner-operator and someone with a passion for helping us change the industry,” Voie said.
Additionally, Brown is on the board of the United States Transportation Alliance — an advocacy group for safer roads and better conditions for drivers. With USTA, Brown travels to Washington, D.C. with other board members once a month to talk to congressmen, senators and members of a transportation infrastructure committee to discuss first-hand what a trucker experiences.
Brown was nominated last June to be a nominee for the TA-Petro “Citizen Driver Program.” After a year-long process, Brown was chosen as one of four people to achieve the award. Brown was able to choose any TravelCenters of America location to be named after her. The Petro location in Oklahoma City, Okla. is now renamed the “Ingrid R. Brown Petro.” To add to her list of accomplishments, Brown appeared on the cover of USA Today in March.
Brown also works with a nonprofit called 18 Wheels of Hope and is an ambassador with an organization called Trucker Buddy International. With Trucker Buddy International, Brown serves as a pen pal with a classroom of students and keeps in touch with mail, photos and email. Her pen pal relationship with the students helps them learn geography of where she has traveled, English to write letters to her and math to track the mileage she has driven.
“I’m so blessed and I’m so humbled for what God has given me,” Brown said. “This is all God; this isn’t Ingrid. I’m just a vessel.”
Brown has two daughters and six grandchildren. While she said she doesn’t get to return to her Zionville farm often, it is still her home. She said she wouldn’t be where she is today without her family and friends in the Watauga community.