A long road: Scottville truck driver aims to inspire others
SCOTTVILLE — Tina Holey, age 26 of Scottville, is a full-time commercial truck driver. Her semi hauls a 53-foot trailer of refrigerated goods across the central United States.
As a driver, she’s on the road solo for runs of 17 days or more. She’s on the clock for a 70-hour work week. That’s 14 hours of work each day, 11 of which is driving.
Being a truck driver isn’t an easy job, but it is an occupation she’s wanted since she was young, and for Holey, it hasn’t been an easy road to get there.
“Honestly, I never imagined myself being in a semi-truck,” she said.
Holey was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affected the development of her facial structure. She had no cheek bones or jaw bone, no tear ducts and a cleft pallet when she was a born. This made it difficult for her breathe, eat and drink.
But nearly 200 cosmetic surgeries later, she’s now able to live and work independently.
“I just wanted something, and I fought to get it. That was really it,” she said.
Holey wants to inspire people who are going through struggles of their own to persevere and keep pursuing their dreams.
“Your imagination is the limit of what you can do,” she said. “Don’t let anyone hold you back. If you can believe it, that you can do it, take a chance.”
Family is important to Holey. When she’s not on the road, Holey uses her allotted 34-hour “reset” from work to spend time with family and friends.
Holey grew up in Mason County, living in Walhalla, Fountain and Ludington, and now she lives in Scottville. She has three siblings — an older brother, younger brother and younger sister.
Holey said that for her parents, raising a child with Treacher Collins syndrome, “opened their eyes” and encouraged them to have a greater respect for people.
“It’s a 1 out of 100 chance for anyone to get (the syndrome),” Holey said. “When someone gets it, their children have a 1 out of 50 chance of getting it.”
None of her close family members have the syndrome, she said.
“Because I was the lucky one to get it in the family, it allowed my family to understand the difference,” she said. “It was difficult for me and it was difficult for my family because of all the medical procedures I went through. It was hard on my parents because of all the medical equipment they had to have for me.
“But because of it, it allowed me and my family to grow stronger.”
Her family has been a wonderful support for her to achieve her goals.
“It’s because of them, I had the courage to go get my (commercial driver’s license),” she said.
Holey said that having her syndrome has drawn unwanted attention or discrimination from people who don’t bother to get to know her as a person, but she likes to use the opportunities she can to help open their eyes too.
“It is hard having it — people talking about you, not understanding and not wanting to ask questions. But other than that, I don’t really see it as a challenge,” she said. “I’m able to educate people. I can do research, I can learn about it myself and explain to others who are willing to listen.”
Many of her family members, including her grandpa, dad, older brother, aunts, uncles and cousins, have been truck drivers, she said.
“We’re a family of truck drivers,” she said. “The ones that really inspired me were my grandfather and my father.”
Her older brother, Dustin, was the one who prompted her to go to school to earn her commercial driver’s license. She wanted to attend a driving school at a college close to home.
A career development specialist at Michigan Works! Service Center in Ludington, Shayla Savich, suggested the driver training at Muskegon Community College, and she helped Holey put together a resume and other needed paperwork. Michigan Works also helped secure funding for her tuition and books to attend the college, Holey said.
Holey said she’s grateful for Michigan Works and Savich’s help.
“She kept tabs on me to make sure I was OK and see how my career was going,” Holey said.
In college, Holey had to do at least 160 hours of driver’s training to get her license. Even in the midst of that schooling, Holey wasted no time in finding employment as a truck driver.
“I wanted to be out on the road as fast as I could,” she said. “I’d already started filling out job applications in the middle of the class semester.”
That effort paid off. Trucking company Werner Enterprises called her two weeks before graduation, in January 2018, offering her the job she has now. Another 270 hours of the company’s own mandatory driver’s training later, and Holey was feeling more than ready for the road.
She’s enjoyed it since.
“I like being out on the road and just being around the semis,” she said, adding later, “I love it. I get to see new places, new people, taste new food.”
Ask her what her favorite eatery is, and Holey is quick to say that her go-to stop is a Mexican restaurant in Texas, on I-30, exit 111. She always orders a steak dish with cooked jalapenos.
“It is hot. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I love it,” she said, laughing. “Every time I go to Laredo, I try to stop there and get at least one plate.”
Holey said she and her family also want to start their own trucking business someday. She and her father are putting together a business plan, wherein he’d be the dispatcher and Holey and some of their other relatives would be drivers.
“It’ll take a little while,” she said. “I want to get more experience, that way I can prove that I’m a good liability to start up a business.”
Holey said truck drivers need knowledge and many different skills to do their job, and that it takes more than just being in a driver’s seat for 11 hours a day.
“I’ve met quite a few people who are not truck drivers who say it’s easy, that all you do is sit and drive, and that’s not true,” she said.
Drivers must do maintenance checks on their trucks and trailers, which all have specific requirements that need to be monitored and met. But the biggest sacrifice is the time alone, on the road, away from loved ones, Holey said.
“It takes a lot to give up seeing your family every day,” she said. “That’s pretty much the hardest thing any truck driver can do.”
In February, Holey received a Michigan Works! Impact Award, recognizing her for her perseverance and success in the face of overcoming adversity, along with a special tribute from the Michigan senate, presented by State Sen. Curt VanderWall at a ceremony in Lansing.
Holey said she’s earned other recognitions before, such as a Future Leaders Award from the Ludington Area Jaycees, but this latest honor does stand out.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’ve been awarded other awards, but this one shows that I can actually achieve what I want.”