Brittney Nicole Richardson is a female trucker and YouTuber. She is featured in "My Reality: A Hidden America," a special report by ABC News' Diane Sawyer, which features potential solutions for women who work in fear. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.
I have been a truck driver for over six years and driven across both the U.S. and Canada.
I got into truck driving because it was an opportunity to make a good living and be independent. With a few years' experience, you can qualify for home-daily positions, which get you home with your family.
After revealing my plans to attend truck school, I was told by guys I knew that I'd never make it in trucking and that "It's a man's job." That only encouraged me to work harder and show them up.
Some things I've learned...
It's definitely different in an industry that is predominantly male. As a woman, I often get overtalked or ignored if there is another man talking.
I have learned, though, that guys respond well to blunt, direct communication. They also respond much better to honey and a little humor.
I quickly noticed that if I'm overtalked, I can put on a little female charm and say something funny to instantly get their attention back. Growing up around a brother and serving on a police department really helped with this skill.
The challenge is to be charming but not to come off flirtatious and get myself into a bad situation. That is where being blunt and direct works well as long as it's done in a charming manner.
Truck stops and rest areas can be dangerous enough as is but as a female, I find myself even more of a target. If there is one piece of safety advice I'd give in this industry, it's "Keep your head on a swivel."
A friend of mine recently had a lot on her mind and for the first time, she let her guard down. She was attacked from behind. Unluckily for him, she is a highly trained martial arts instructor. Even with that being the case, she nearly lost the fight because he had the element of surprise.
She also had the quick thinking to claw into the guy's skin so police would have a DNA sample. Her thought: "If he kills me, this b---- won't get away with it to hurt anyone else." Thanks to this, the man was later brought to justice. He had attacked five other women in the area.
If you think someone is following you, don't be afraid to lock eyes with them and let them know you see them and will not be an easy target.
Don't walk between trucks if possible at night. Stay out in the open where everyone can see you. In my experience, the far majority of drivers I meet these days are former police, fire and military. They do watch out for the women out here because of the higher safety risk we face.
Chances are if you get attacked in the open, somebody will drive by or see it as many truckers sit and watch from the truck while they are drinking their midnight or early morning coffee.
One of my biggest concerns getting into trucking was how much hassle I would face from the guys at various truck stops but I must say that the vast majority have been extremely polite and respectful. There are those that harass but they are the minority.
The biggest thing is getting asked out a lot by drivers. But once again, that is where being polite and direct has helped tremendously.
I always thank them and say I'm flattered but let them know I'm currently taken. Sometimes I'll even joke and say I'll add them to the waiting list and that usually gets a laugh. They drop it 99.9 percent of the time without getting upset because I wasn't rude about it.
All and all, I feel this is a great industry to be in but like any work environment, it is crucial to know the risks and how to avoid them. It's also important to know how to deal with people in general to deescalate potential situations versus escalate them.