America relies on trucks. The highways are filled with steel and chrome beasts hauling everything from Walmart groceries to iPhones ordered for same-day delivery on Amazon. Behind the steering wheel of a huge Freightliner in New York sits a petite Kazakh woman in sunglasses and gym clothes. Assol Mukhamejanova is a native of Aktobe who breaks gender stereotypes in a dominantly male industry of freight shipping, where only 7.9% of US truck drivers are women.
QazMonitor took the passenger seat to watch her find the best truck stops, stay in shape while on the road, and keep her TikTok feed updated with clips that are straight out of a road movie.
Wasting no time on the road
Assol is sitting inside her 20-ton truck, waiting for cargo at a warehouse. She had just arrived from a truck stop, having spent about $600 on gas. Not wasting another second, she finishes up her English practice and is about to do a plank right next to her house on wheels.
All of these moments on the road are recorded and posted on her TikTok, Instagram and Youtube accounts, which she uses to blog. In between videos of her life as a truck driver, she also advocates healthy eating and sports. She takes intermittent fasting seriously and says she has lost 25kg since starting her fitness journey. The fridge in Assol’s truck is stocked with fruit and, of course, some good-ole Kazakh food.
She also happens to edit her own videos. Seriously, how does she do it?
Passing on the first try
Assol first fell in love with truck driving in 2011, when she was in the US on the Work and Travel program. She saw her friends getting into trucking and was charmed by the idea of getting to travel across every state and meeting new people. Ten years later the dream came true when sshe passed her commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam on her first try.
“I was worried since my driving exam officer was really strict; people in the US take CDL seriously. I thoroughly prepared for it which gave me more confidence.My first cargo delivery was so scary and stressful, but I tried to keep my cool—it’s a responsible job. [laughs] People in the industry are welcoming and always try to help you outs.”
Don’t judge a car by its make
Assol’s vlogs are entertaining enough, with fun shots of the highway landscapes and warehouse routines, but the occasional doubtful glances of (male) drivers also get caught on camera.
“I've experienced [gender stereotyping] on social media, but I've also had this happen at gas stations. People would give me strange looks, but then probably think I was driving in a team and wouldn’t say anything.
The common belief is that dispatcher jobs are for girls, and truck driving is for men [laughs]. But as you can see, I’ve managed to go against this stereotype. Still, I rarely see women behind the wheel. Sometimes I see them driving with their husbands as a team.”
Drive fast, stay safe
The truck enthusiast loves the roads of Arizona, Utah and California for the view and warm weather. Assol knows these roads well, and the driver behavior too.
“Now I can already tell you about each state, how people drive there, what the best time to go there is, and basically give some kind of structured opinion of people based on how they behave on the roads. For example, in Georgia and New Jersey, people drive like crazy; big fines don’t stop them. From 5 a.m. to 12 p.m., heavy traffic is guaranteed, so you either avoid these states or drive through them at nighttime. But overall, the culture of driving in the US is decent”
Some roads, however, are best to avoid for other reasons.
“Memphis, Tennessee has very few truck stops, so I try not to go to this city. It is almost impossible to find a parking place there and the roads are really unsafe. That’s the place where I first saw security guards carrying guns at the truck stops; a lot of strange people walk around, scattering trash, banging on the trucks, and shouting.”
Country roads, take me home
Some truck drivers experience emotional burnout, as they must meet the needs of their company, shippers, and receivers, and not to mention comply with safety regulations. To protect her health, after a month of hard work, Assol gets ready to take a one-week break to recharge her batteries (ha!). Her cute Shiba Inu named Tesla is usually there to help.
“I love yoga and jogging: that’s what I do to recover at home. I mostly rest and read books. I don’t bother too much with socializing since I’m an introvert. My friends and relatives know this and give me the space I need for myself.”
Free time at home gives Assol a chance to edit her content and come up with ideas for future videos.
“I will try to shoot more useful content and find companies to cooperate with to help people move abroad. Also, I love this kind of light-hearted content. After all, social networking is originally an entertainment platform”