Before driving nearly four million miles across the country, Nora Black’s dream as a little girl was to see the sprawling landscape of American countryside through the window of a long-haul tractor trailer.

This September, after a more than 30-year career, Black, a company driver for Orscheln Farm and Home stationed out of Moberly, will be inducted into the Driver Hall of Fame by the National Private Truck Council.

The honor is awarded to drivers who have recorded three million miles on the road, 20 years or 50,000 hours of consecutive driving without a preventable accident to qualify. Women make up a small fraction of the trucker drivers in the Driver Hall of Fame.

“Driving a truck is not a job, it is a lifestyle,” Black said. “I figured I would never get a chance to see the country otherwise.”

The world of trucking is a tight knit family, Black says. It is also one of the most male-dominated industries in the country with women making up only 10% of on-the-road truck drivers. Since 2018, the percentage of women on the road has grown from 7% to 10%. Despite the lack of representation, Black’s dream of travel and adventure as a trucker was too appealing to give up. Her father hauled livestock in a cattle liner, as did his father. Black felt she had it in her blood to be on the open road.

“You’ve got freedom on the road,” Black said. “Back in the early days of trucking we were all outlaws. We ran the way we wanted to run and that’s how it was.”

Whether the allure to drive is in the family or simply a passion, Black says the trucking community attracts fiercely independent people who don’t mind the reputation as modern cowboys hauling goods from Miami to San Diego in 60,000 pound freightliners. Black believes it is in her family. She has three sons, two of which are now truck drivers. The oldest owns his own transportation company.

Black’s family grew in 2005 when she and her husband, David, made the decision to become foster parents to a then nine-year-old girl from a troubled family named Alexis.

After retirement, David cared for Alexis while Black continued to drive, returning to the family in Rochelle on the weekends.

“It was very meaningful to us,” Black said. “You are teaching them [foster children] that what they came from is not what every house is like.”

David, also a truck driver, had suffered a stroke forcing an early retirement. In the early part of Black’s career, the couple worked as team drivers. As a team, they were able to cut time on the road in half since they would take turns sleeping in the truck’s cab, stopping only for gas. They worked as a team on the road for 14 years, spending every moment together just four feet apart.

The secret to team driving is a good relationship and avoiding bumpy roads while the other person sleeps, Black said. They have been together for 47 years.

Alexis went back to live with her father two years ago and is doing fine, Black said. She still affectionately calls her foster parents grandma and grandpa.

Black’s retirement is around the corner. A compact travel trailer waits for her back home in Rochelle, though. She anticipates driving it to all the places she has passed for years longing to stop, but due to time constraints, never had the chance. She wants to see the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California or the winding mountains in Tennessee.

“You say to yourself, one of these days, I am going to have time to stop, but you never do,” Black said. “Well soon enough, I want to be able to stop and finally take it all in.”

Black will continue to drive across the country delivering goods for Orscheln and updating her mental notebook detailing places to return in the coming years.

Due to the self-isolated nature of truck driving, she says her day-to-day job has not been greatly affected by the coronavirus apart from wearing a mask and gloves when she fuels and she keeping her distance when dropping off or picking up loads.

“We’re all independent,” Black said. “Because it’s a lonesome job, and you face a challenge every day. The day I stop learning out here is the day I stop driving the truck.”

The cab of her truck has been converted into a small kitchen area where Black cooks all her meals. She can make $20 stretch for an entire week and stay in her vehicle as much as possible. When her career is over, Black says she will miss the lifestyle these past millions of miles provided.

“I have got a lot of knowledge of the world now,” Black said. “And I don’t rely on anyone for anything.”