Professional truck driver Clarissa Rankin brings in $144,000 a year

Clarissa Rankin challenges stereotypes.

The 36-year-old resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a professional truck driver who hauls a range of goods from diapers to televisions to canned goods on the East Coast.

“People always have this image in their mind that a truck driver is a guy with a big ol’ belly, a big ol’ beard and overalls,” she says, adding, “I love seeing that look on people’s faces Having people like ‘Can’ you really drive that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I have this treasure.’”

Rankin loves her job and her trucking company made $144,208 last year. But getting there wasn’t easy. Here’s how she built her successful career and how she changed people’s minds about what trucking can really be.

“I showed him how to maneuver the big old thing”

Rankin, who is married with two children, attended criminal justice school but was unable to find work in the field. Instead, she took a job as a substitute teacher, earning $1,900 a month. That wasn’t enough to feed her family.

Rankin’s husband had worked in the trucking industry himself and encouraged her to make the pivot. She immediately found that she loved driving a truck. The job was outdoors, much better than an office job where she would stay indoors all day.

“I showed him how to maneuver the big old thing during the truck driver’s license test,” she says of the instructor, “and I got my driver’s license the first time.”

“I’ve been rejected so many times”

Despite her immediate love of the job, Rankin found it difficult to find work. “I’m not like your ordinary truck driver,” she says. “I’m so girly. So I got rejected so many times.”

Clarissa Rankin with her truck Sparkle.

Mickey Todiwala | CNBC does it

She was finally hired after her sixth interview, but was making less than $50,000 a year and felt that even that wasn’t enough.

Instead, she decided to start her own haulage company: JC Rankins Transport.

‘Having your own truck brings a lot of freedom’

Rankin’s company has now been in existence for four years.

She works sporadically throughout the week, depending on how often she finds jobs on apps like TruckLoads, which show pickup and drop-off orders across the country that need to be completed by different companies. She’s driven as far north as Massachusetts and south as far as Florida. “Having your own truck gives you a lot of freedom,” she says.

There are costs, however: In 2021, her truck lease was $49,200. Maintenance was $2,665. The fuel cost $19,336. But ultimately, her salary home was $73,007, significantly more than she made at other jobs.

Additionally, Rankin is now making money documenting her trucking life on social media. She has nearly 2 million followers on TikTok and was able to earn another $36,000 in 2021 from promotional videos and advertising.

“I love being that superhero”

Even though she’s found a career she loves, Rankin still faces challenges. According to the American Trucking Associations, women make up less than 8% of professional drivers. Truck stops, service stations for truck drivers, including restaurants, gas stations, and sometimes showers, are not geared toward women and do not necessarily offer items such as tampons or pads. Male drivers also criticize her for what she wears, like shorts in the summer. And people judge their life choices.

Clarissa Rankin and her family.

Mickey Todiwala | CNBC does it