Diminutive 5-foot-3 Soboski isn’t flustered by that. She wrote down in elementary school that her dream was to become a truck driver, and more than 35 years later, she earned her Class A Commercial Driver’s License from Tidewater Community College.
Now she takes her 68-foot tractor-trailer on the road, back and forth on the East Coast, up and down the Catskill and Adirondack mountains, driving in all but 16 states thus far, enjoying the same career as her father, who died suddenly at age 47.
“I carry his driver’s license with me wherever I go,” said Soboski, who delivers flowers for White’s Nursery & Garden Center in Chesapeake. “His CB handle was Mr. Fantastic. Mine? Fantastic kid.”
Being a truck driver wasn’t encouraged for women when Soboski graduated from Indian River High School in 1985, the same year she lost her father. She fell into jobs in human resources and staffing management and even tried to satisfy her truck driver itch by driving a school bus for Virginia Beach Public Schools.
“It was too easy to navigate a turn,” she said. “It’s just like a car but longer.”
Soboski still yearned to drive a truck – excited about the challenge of navigating hairpin turns on a steep mountaintop – and when her husband retired from the Navy, he encouraged her to follow her dream.
She enrolled in TCC’s seven-week truck driving program to prepare.
“TCC was my first choice,” she said. It’s a college, not a trade school for profit. They don’t suck people in and then send them back out really fast. You’re going to get the most updated rules and regulations and the training necessary. The final test TCC gives you is more difficult than the test DMV gives you.”
Soboski graduated in July 2012 and had an immediate job waiting.
“Penney was a focused student and determine to make her father proud,” said Wallace Miller, program head for TCC trucking.
The new career offers the offbeat hours she prefers and allows her to spend plenty of quality time with her family. And it continues a family tradition; she is a third-generation truck driver.
“The first time I went to a truck stop and could hear the engines roaring, I felt like I was hearing a symphony,” Soboski said. “It sounded so perfect, and the smell of diesel – I just love it.”