It has been an incredible year for my friend and fellow trucker Ingrid Brown. This special lady is a 35-year veteran, with over 3 million safe miles, who was recently chosen to be a part of some important trucker-advocacy teams and earned some top honors for her lifelong efforts in trucking. But, in the midst of her “good” year, she also lost her father – D.T. Brown – and I would like to dedicate this story about his “little girl” to him.
Much of Ingrid’s success can be credited to her mama and daddy who instilled in her the values and work ethic she has today. Unfortunately, on April 23, 2015, Ingrid (54) lost her beloved daddy, D.T. Brown. I’m sure that he is very proud of everything that she has accomplished – and continues to accomplish – while spending her life out on the road, looking over that big square hood of her beautiful blue 2007 Peterbilt 379 she named Miss Daisy, while making a multitude of friends who know her smile and laugh at her often-crazy antics.
Growing up on an apple farm that her mama and daddy ran, her daddy and uncle also ran an asphalt plant and road construction business, so Ingrid has been around heavy machinery all her life (she started moving trucks around when she was about nine or ten years old). There was never a question about “wanting” to drive when she grew up – she knew that’s what she was going to do.
In 1977, while on her way home from picking up her first car, she saw a big red Peterbilt and said, “Someday I’m going to have one just like that.” Well, in 1998 she bought a brand new red 379 Peterbilt (see one of the photos). Back then, she was leased to Mercer out of Louisville, KY. She owned a flatbed and a dry van at the time and, depending on how she felt that day, was how she determined which one to pull.
When asked about her mother, JoAnne, Ingrid told me, “Mama is my backbone – she taught me how to be a lady and do things right.” Her mama’s daddy (Ingrid’s grandpa, A.K.A. Daddy Gray) was a trucker that hauled produce out of Florida for Goodnight Bros. in North Carolina in the early 1940’s. Back in 1946, when JoAnne was 14, “Daddy Gray” made her learn to drive a truck (it was her job to haul the younger kids around to wherever they needed to go). Every morning and afternoon, she drove their old 1940-something International to take her brothers to milk the cows seven miles away.
When Ingrid was little, she loved to go out driving with her daddy in their ’66 needle-nose Pete and blow the horn. Her older brother Blake worked with their daddy at the construction company, and he is an amazing road-builder. Ingrid was like a shadow to her brother, and she was thrilled when he would let her drive the equipment. She remembered how one time she was having trouble driving a split 6-speed and he told her, “There ain’t nothing you can’t drive.” He made her drive up and down a hill, over and over again, until she figured it out. At the time she thought it was stupid, but later she realized he was a great teacher.
In those days, lessons were taught by doing. She fondly told me a story about a time she was running a motor grader. It was a piece of equipment that her daddy loved and did some of his best work on, but she hated it. She was going back and forth and not getting the grade level (on purpose) so he wouldn’t make her do it again. Well, that idea backfired when he came up and asked her, “Do you think you are funny? You are not getting off this machine until you get this right, and then you will never get in a motor grader with my name on it ever again!” Lesson learned – she fixed it, and, later, he let her get back in it.
Today, home is on the farm where Ingrid grew up in Zionville, NC, with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This farm has been in the family for 85 years. It’s always a happy time when she gets to go home and spend time there. Parked in the weeds is a red 1979 Diamond Reo dump truck that
Ingrid drove a long time ago (see photo). This is one of five new trucks that they flew to Harrisburg, PA to pick up and then drove to Richmond, VA to get beds put on. There is also an old track hoe, a dozer, a spreader and a couple trailers that reside with the Diamond Rio out in those weeds. For Ingrid, the fun part was getting on any of it and seeing what she could do. In a drawer in the house, she has two large rings that hold the keys to all of that old equipment.
Her two daughters, Tiffanie (29) and Lacie (27), are the lights of her life, and both of them have made her one very happy grammie. Tiffanie’s two girls, Hayleigh (5) and Kennedy (2), and Lacie’s little boy, Layton (3), are the apples of her eye. In May, another sweet baby will join the family, and it’s going to be a surprise as to whether it’s a boy or a girl. Little Hayleigh has made up her mind that she is going to be a truck driver when she grows up. She already has a great teacher, that’s for sure!
When Ingrid started driving the blue 379 Peterbilt, she decided to name the rig Miss Daisy. Yes, it is named from the movie of the same name. In that film, Jessica Tandy was a proud woman who was independent, and during the course of the movie she taught her chauffeur Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman, how to read. In the end, they shared many skills and life lessons with each other. Her mama said that Ingrid would be Miss Daisy’s chauffeur, and they would do the same thing – share skills and life lessons every day with each other.
Driving Miss Daisy for two years before reactivating her own authority (Rollin B LLC), she recently became an owner operator again. Presently, she hauls exclusively for Randall Miller of Boone, NC and Rabbit River Transport out of Holland, MI. Once you have that owner operator spirit in your blood, I don’t think it ever goes away – there’s just something about owning your own truck and running your own business.
In March of 2015, at the Women In Trucking (WIT) Salute to Women Behind the Wheel event, held at the truck show in Louisville, Ingrid was named as a member of the first-ever WIT Image Team, along with four others – Allyson Hay, Carol Nixon, Stephanie Klang and Wyzeena Heeny. The purpose of the Image Team is to represent goals while bringing awareness of the need for more female drivers and the challenges they face working in a male-dominated environment. They also speak to the media and other drivers at public events and industry trade shows. It was a real honor for Ingrid to be picked for this exclusive and influential team.
Another important “office” Ingrid held this year was President of the Board for the Chi-Town Large Cars (CTLC) club. Among other fun and important things they did throughout the year, their annual truck show was held on August 15th. Each year, this non-profit charity event raises money for a family in need. This year’s family was the Wonders, and they raised $10,500 to assist them with medical bills for their young son, Seth. Ingrid and Miss Daisy also made the club’s calendar for next year, which will be available beginning next month. If you are interested in getting one, go to www.chi-townlargecars.org.
In November, at the 25th annual National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) Conference, Ingrid was honored as one of 11 of America’s Best Drivers of the Year 2015. Ingrid is the only female in the group this year, and she was also awarded NASTC’s Woman Driver of the Year 2015. In both groups, the WIT Image Team and the NASTC team, she is the only one who represents owner operators (everyone else is a company driver). Again, she was very honored to win these prestigious awards, just for doing something she loves!
Ingrid Brown truly loves the open road and driving Miss Daisy to wherever the load takes her. She is a great woman, a terrific truck driver, and a fantastic representative and ambassador for the trucking industry. I am proud to call her my friend. Here’s wishing her safe travels and hoping that our paths cross soon. And although she misses her daddy dearly, I am sure that he is shining down on her and Miss Daisy for every mile.