Happy Pride Month, y’all! In honor of Pride, we’re introducing you to LGBTQIA+ folks working in the trucking and transportation industries. In this blog, you’ll get to know Dallas-based company flatbed driver Tim Sanchez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has been working in the industry for the last three years following a career in the corporate world. We’re also showcasing owner operator Rob Chatlos, who has been an owner op for nearly 20 years. Rob is a U.S. Army veteran who currently contracts with a company based out of Fargo, N.D.
Before getting his CDL and becoming a trucker, Tim worked in the medical device industry with a focus on quality control and regulation. After being laid off in 2020, Tim decided to do something he’d always wanted to do – get his CDL and become a trucker.
“I like the freedom of trucking and I love that I’m not behind a desk anymore,” Tim said. “I don’t deal with emails. I don’t deal with Zoom calls. I don’t manage people anymore, which I did really love, but there was a time and place for that. I’m pretty fortunate with what I do now because I’m a Monday through Friday guy, unless I want to go over the road longer. I love that I have the ability to kind of make my own schedule as long as I get the deliveries there.”
Tim and his husband have been together for 10 years and he’s out at work. According to Tim, he’s never felt like he’s been treated badly or differently in his job because he’s gay.
“With the colleagues and different truck drivers I’ve worked with, I’ve never felt discriminated against,” Tim shared. “When I learned to drive, I had to spend six weeks over the road with another guy. When you’re on the road together, the typical first questions are, ‘Are you married? Do you have kids?’ After about the third or fourth week, I finally told my trainer that I was married to a man and very happy. Like most people I’ve encountered, he was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ I tend to not share a lot of personal information about myself initially. I just do my job and do it well and then I find that people don’t care once they get to know you.”
The first company that Tim drove for wasn’t openly welcome to drivers who identify as LGBTQIA+. The company he currently runs for is interested in having a diverse workforce and supporting LGBTQIA+ truckers. His health insurance at the company includes coverage for his husband, which he appreciates.
A friend of Tim’s came out a few years ago and after coming out, felt almost blacklisted by the company for being gay. After he came out, he didn’t get the good jobs anymore so he ultimately left the company. Tim feels larger companies often are more progressive, particularly in welcoming trans folks, though he sees the acceptance of trans truckers as an area where the trucking industry still needs to do some work.
“When you look at trans people, I would say that’s a place in this industry that has not come as far,” said Tim. “I think we’re kind of in a conundrum – as a nation, as well – in accepting trans people. I think working in this industry as a gay man or lesbian woman is far more acceptable than being trans right now but I think it’s going to change. It has to change over time because whether you agree or disagree with it, it’s what’s happening. We’ve got to accept people, no matter who they are. Being trans doesn’t affect that person’s ability to do their job.”
Rob dreamed about becoming a trucker as a kid but didn’t immediately work in the trucking industry as an adult. Before getting his CDL, Rob worked in the aviation industry, in the corporate world and in nursing.
“Ever since I was three or four years old, I wanted to drive a semi-truck over the road,” Rob said. “I always thought I should put it off because I thought I should be doing something better but what I really wanted to do in my heart was drive a truck. I was always fascinated by the big rigs as a kid and would draw and play with trucks. So it’s no surprise that I eventually settled into doing it because I really wasn’t happy anywhere else. I found I was happiest behind the wheel and even happier when I got my own truck and could call the shots.”
Today Rob runs all over the lower 48 hauling dry van freight, though he’s previously run a lot of reefer loads in his career. Rob’s husband, Derek, also works in trucking as a company driver, which according to Rob can be challenging at times since they’re both on the road so much. Rob came out in 1998 and shared that he has found trucking to be much more accepting than other industries.
“I’ve been fired for being gay and I’ve been backstabbed for being gay in other industries,” Rob shared. “I was in nursing for a while and I thought that would be a better, more accepting place for me, but at that time it wasn’t. You wouldn’t think that trucking, a blue collar trade, would be a positive place for somebody in the LGBT community, but it really has been for me. I don’t just work with these people — I love these people and I care about these people, even if we have differences. We all get along and we all look out for each other. We want what’s best for each other.”
As far as the trucking industry has come in its acceptance of LGBTQIA+ folks, Rob does worry that the current political climate could erode some of that progress. However, he remains hopeful that Gen Zers and Millennials will continue to be open and accepting of all types of people and push the industry forward.
“Everybody is just so wound up and we’re so divided in this country,” Rob said. “That’s the scary part and what I don’t like. I think my husband and I have demonstrated that despite differences in political agendas with the people that we work with, we’ve developed a community, a bond, a family. Like I said, I love and care about the people in my office and they care about me.”
After marrying his long-time partner two years ago, Rob says they’re living a great life together and doing things that he never thought would be possible when he first came out in the late 1990s.
“We finally got hitched about two years ago after being together for 10 years,” said Rob. “We weren’t even allowed to get married when we first met. When we did get married, I was very open about it at work. We have a house together now and have just been building this amazing life together. I never thought that I would have what we have but Derek and I wanted to put down roots and we’ve done that together.”