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Freightliner makes it over 3 million miles alongside lady trucker

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A 1996 Freightliner has traveled over 3 million miles with the help of a 77-year-old lady trucker who grew up on the truck. 

77-year-old Jackie Gardner of Bloomfield, Indiana, has been driving a truck for more than 20 years, but her life in trucking started long before that. 

“My mother died when I was four and a half years old. My dad was an over-the-road trucker, so I went on the road with him until I had to go to school. My daddy’s dad drove, so did my uncle,” Gardner said to The Herald-Times

Once she grew up, Gardner team-drove with her husband for almost a decade. She says they split the driving, but he was the one who always did the backing up. When the two divorced, Gardner figured she had to learn to back up the truck if she was going to hit the road on her own, so that’s what she did. 

“I taught myself how to back up properly in the parking lot at the old Walmart in Linton,” she said. “I spray painted some rolls of paper towels fluorescent orange and set them up like pylons. It was just me, my dog and those paper towels.”

After that, Gardner drove leased trucks for years, so when her Laredo, Texas company unexpectedly went under in March of 2000, she was left without a job and without a ride. She says she parked the leased truck outside of the company and walked to a motel to regroup. 

“I hadn’t been paid for three weeks and couldn’t get ahold of anyone, so I walked back to the motel with my dog,” she said. “It was me, my dog, everything I owned and $7.”

When they heard what had happened, two trucker friends of Gardner decided to help her buy the truck she had just dropped off at the now-defunct company. 

“I charged the motel room bill and they came and picked me up for lunch. They had a contract all written up for $54,000, and it was a good deal. They let me pick the date of the month payments were due. I was pretty scared. I’d never owned anything worth that much. The truck was mine.”

Gardner named the 1996 FLD Freightliner “Baby Girl,” and got it registered on March 3rd, 2000. 

The very next day I pulled out with my first load,” she said. “We’ve been everywhere, 48 states and Canada, me and my Baby Girl, and I wouldn’t trade her for a new truck. It’s not all fancy like some of these you see. She’s a work truck and she does her job well.”

“We’ve been through three tornadoes and that last hurricane that came through Florida, where I sat in the parking lot at the Great American Chrome shop parking lot watching everything blow sideways,” she continued. 

Now 28-years-old with over 3 million miles, Baby Girl is kept in tip top shape thanks to the help of Gardner’s current husband, who often diagnoses any mechanical issues over the phone while Gardner is over the road, and sometimes travels in his personal car to help Gardner fix Baby Girl if they ever break down. 

Gardner has been at home with Baby Girl parked in her special spot since October due to health issues, but Gardner says she is anxious to get back out there and hit that 4 million mile mark.

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