“I told my boss that if nobody ever recognized me again in my life, I will take this one day forever,” says Connie Coleman, about being the recipient of the 2016 Woman Driver of Excellence for Ace Doran. “I felt real special.”
A professional driver for 10 years, Connie is part of Ace Doran’s unique and relatively new van division. “Connie Coleman is a very important part of our dry van operation,” says Andrea Cegledy, logistics manager for A&H Trucking, part of Ace Doran. “She is always available to help other drivers within the company or out on the road! She goes the extra mile. She has always said from the moment we hired her, ‘I just love to drive’.”
Described by her colleagues as a spiritual and honest woman, Connie is known for being a mentor to younger women. “If somebody asks me a question, I feel like my life is an open book,” she says. “If anyone can learn anything from my life, then I’m happy to help.”
Today, Connie has a rich, rewarding life, but things were not always that good. When her children were very young, Connie was still married to their father, who struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine. Connie had to go on welfare and live in a shelter with her children, and that’s when she decided to learn how to become a professional driver.
While living at the shelter, Connie went to a local trucking school where she earned her commercial driver’s license (CDL). While still at the shelter, she began driving locally, delivering magazines to grocery stores and picking up freight to deliver to retail establishments. She started out slow and eventually was earning enough money to move out of the shelter and support her family on her own.
In the early years, Connie only took trucking jobs in which she could be home in the evenings for her children. As the children got older, they would stay with her sister so Connie could stay out on longer jobs one or two nights a week, transporting a variety of goods ranging from clothes, Coke and Pepsi to plastic pellets and containers, to chemicals.
Passionate about driving and fiercely independent, Connie once got stuck in a snow storm. She pulled into a gas station so that she could go to the bathroom. The snow was coming down so strong that by the time she came back outside, the truck was stuck. Instead of calling for help, she spent hours digging herself out with rock salt and a shovel that she bought at the gas station, and was able to deliver her goods on time.
All of these years later, Connie has raised her three children and has four grandchildren. She owns a four-bedroom house and has a devoted husband, Bennie, a major change from her younger years when she would go for the “bad boys,” which got her into trouble. Connie describes Bennie, also a professional driver for A&H Trucking with Ace Doran, as supportive and responsible. She met him when she was still in the shelter and says he was a big part of changing her life for the better.
Now, Connie is in the position to use her experience to help others. “I don’t think my life is anything I should be phony about,” she says. “I have never been perfect. I have not been a perfect mom or wife. If my experiences can help, I’m willing to help anybody. I’m just a good-hearted person. I’d rather help people than have people help me.”