A strong coach goes a long way

Drivers, Our People

Professional driver Debra Gates has been teaching student drivers for years, despite initially worrying she wouldn’t have the patience for the program.

Lucretia Richard was a new CDL holder looking for a place to launch her career when she posted on a Facebook group for professional drivers. Debra Gates, who has been over-the-road for U.S. Xpress for more than five years, replied to Lucretia’s comment.

“I knew from the moment she reached out and the way she kept in touch with me and followed up that she really wanted to help me,” Lucretia said.

Now Debra is Lucretia’s career coach, and the new driver’s time at the wheel is off to a strong start. The day Lucretia was seated, Debra handed her the keys and Lucretia drove the big rig for five hours, from Olive Branch, Mississippi, to the Georgia line.

Lucretia is excited about her new career, but nervous about some aspects of the work — backing and hooking and unhooking trailers in particular. But Debra has her back.

“I will teach it all,” Debra said. “Anything she’ll need out there we’re going to cover it and make sure she’s ready.”

Lucretia will work with Debra on developing her skills for about 175 hours of driving instruction, which means lots of time together on the road.

“We have a coach/student relationship, but you’re living in my house for a month,” Debra said. “So this is a friendship, and I will have your back no matter what.”

Lucretia earned her CDL in November 2022, but struggled to find a job. Some companies required experience, and she didn’t have any. Others weren’t hiring out of Louisiana, where she’s based. Others had training programs, but there was a long wait for a female trainer. When Lucretia heard from Debra, she was eager to get rolling. She applied to our team, and told them Debra had sent her. Not long after that, Lucretia was bound for orientation in Dallas.

Debra has been driving for more than five years, all of that time for U.S. Xpress. Lucretia is the 11th student driver she has trained in those years, but she wasn’t an easy sell on the idea of working as a career coach at first.

“My fleet owner and my manager said I needed to train, and I said I don’t have the patience,” Debra said.

But she decided to give it a try, and the rest is history. You need a combination of patience and high standards to be a career coach, Debra said.

“You have to be patient, but you also have to be a stickler for doing things the right way,” Debra said.

Career coaches play an essential role in training new drivers at U.S. Xpress, and we’re proud to have the best professional drivers on the road helping the next generation of truckers get their careers rolling. Learn more here.

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