The Tamera Sturgis story, wherein a smoking-hot millennial decides that the up-and-down life of a long-haul trucker is the one for her, really belongs on TV as a reality show.
Oh wait... it is.
Or was anyway, and may soon be again, with the dynamic Miss S. and her thousand-watt smile in the starring role.
“There’s something in development, but it’s top secret right now,” Sturgis coyly revealed, accompanied by her contagious laugh. It would follow two-plus successful seasons with husband Todd on A&E’s Shipping Wars, then landing a sweet gig for Cummins after spending decades traveling America by truck.
And all from Tamera simply asking a cute guy to dance some 23 years ago.
The Sturgises look way younger than their years, and have been driving as a tandem since 1994, when they booked their first co-piloting job from Los Angeles to New Jersey. They mostly worked for a small independent firm, loved being together on the road, and up to a few years ago had no idea they would become nationally known via the small screen.
They met when Todd was a stand-up comic in California. Tamera saw his routine at a club one night, thought he was cute, and asked him to dance. Yada, yada, yada they dated and were soon married. “But we were barely making it,” she recalled. “Todd found a second job counting freight on a loading dock. He spoke with some of the people there, came home one night and asked me what I thought about the two of us driving a truck together. I was a tomboy anyway and said it sounded great. We went to truck driving school to get our CDLs, then four weeks later were hired, trained and in a brand new truck going cross country.”
Tamera and Todd spent years on the road, loving every moment. Well, almost every moment.
“It isn’t all roses… it’s a hard lifestyle, but we have a great time,” said Tamera. “I came to realize it was an incredible career and amazing adventure. I love driving the big trucks, shifting and maneuvering.
“I started a Facebook page, Trucking Is Glamorous, to show the positive side of truck driving.”
Proving herself along the way in a mostly male-dominated industry was a challenge she met head on.
“I’ve had people accuse me of lying when I said I was a truck driver,” she stated. “They thought I just accompanied Todd. When we arrived at a destination, I made sure I was the one to back it in. I couldn’t be the woman driver who had to let the man back it in. When they opened up, all the workers would stop and watch me back in. They say I’m as good or better than any man.”
The Sturgises spent two years on Shipping Wars (see sidebar), then were hired by Cummins last year to drive the company’s exhibit truck and trailer to various events.
“That went so well that they kept us busy driving their trucks and equipment to grand openings and customer appreciation events, and we were doing that exclusively for about a year,” said Tamera.
The queen of the road said she felt good showing and telling women that driving a truck could be a fun and profitable career.
“The last I heard, the average truck driver only lasts nine months,” she said. “I feel like a pioneer for women especially, but also for any potential driver. This job is about attitude. Trucks are like motorhomes now. Once you get past the first year of driving, you can pretty much go wherever you want. Maybe I’m a freak, but I love the road life, the travel and seeing new places.”
After driving company trucks for so long, the Sturgises would like to chart their own course.
“We’re looking into buying our own truck,” said Tamera. “And I want to start something called Millennial Monday, where we bring a millennial on a week-long trucking trip to let them see that this is a viable career option.”
Tamera stays in peak shape by roller-skating whenever she’s not in a truck that’s cruising down the highway. She takes her skates on the road and has competed in roller derby leagues all over the U.S. It’s upgraded her confidence, strength and stamina.
Asked if Todd keeps an eye on her at truck stops, she laughed and said, “No, not so much anymore. I guess he knows I can take care of myself. I’ll throw a good elbow if I need to, or hip check you right into the bushes.”
Tamera has a pat answer for who’s the better driver, her or hubby.
“I say me and he says me too, so it’s unanimous!”
From obscure haulers to Shipping Wars celebrities
In two and a half seasons, Tamera and Todd Sturgis were featured on the popular A&E reality TV show, Shipping Wars, which follows independent truckers who make their living hauling unusual items traditional carriers won’t touch. At the end of each episode, a carrier’s net profit or loss is tallied on screen, with the expenses (fuel, labor, late-delivery penalties, fines, etc.) subtracted from the bid amount to determine the overall profit or loss.
Here, the dynamic duo tells American Trucker how they found the show—and their remembrances.
Todd: “A friend of Tamera’s saw a Facebook post on Shipping Wars and sent it to her. Tamera emailed, and the next day a casting director called, and then we Skyped. They sent us a camera next-day air. We took it on a run and shot some footage. Two weeks later, they sent an actual crew to shoot us picking up and transporting some equipment for a friend. A month later, we were on the road, shooting a full season. We actually did two and a half seasons, 38 episodes in all. We came late to the show, and only left because it went off the air. Shipping Wars seasons were 13 episodes long. We did two full seasons and then they did more to get to 100 episodes. We were lucky enough to be in the 100th episode.”
Tamera: “Shipping Wars was definitely fun. It was hard work, but fun. Yes, we actually did the work, but it was formatted to be consistently entertaining. Think about it; if a camera just followed you around while you drove your truck 2,000 miles cross country, how exciting would that be? It was formatted to show the highlights and interesting parts, like interactions with customers, and of course when things would go wrong.”
Todd: “Trucking is an extremely difficult job, where Murphy’s Law comes into play a lot. Making a television show is also a very difficult task, and Murphy’s Law again plays a big part. Shipping Wars was a combination of both, so as you can imagine the days were long and difficult. One of the great things that came out of the whole experience was we left with a total respect for what the crew must do to create an exciting TV show, and I think they left with a great respect for what it takes for truckers to keep this nation’s commerce moving.”
Tamera: “Here’s a behind-the-scenes tidbit: The crew members are obviously never on screen so when one of them would break something, Todd and I would have to take responsibility for it. What made it unusual is that they would film for hours on end for days and days and end up using about 11 minutes for the episode.”
Todd: “I like to say the show was 85% realistic. No, we didn’t always get the freight strapped and loaded as the sun was setting. We didn’t always wrap up with the customers and drive off into the sunset. Sometimes we would drive off slowly, get our sunset shot, then I would pull over and secure the load properly so we could make a cross country trip safely.” – M.C.
Husband Todd revels in role behind scenes
On Shipping Wars, Todd Sturgis was clearly the lesser half of America’s most dynamic trucking power couple. But don’t let Tamera’s good looks fool you. Todd may do less talking, but he makes sure things go smoothly personally and professionally for him and his crowd-pleasing wife. American Trucker asked him all about it.
What’s it been like all these years long-hauling with Tamera?
“Being on the road with her is always an adventure. From the second we get a dispatch, she starts thinking about what or who we get to see during our route. She doesn’t seem to get tired. You know that time right after you deliver your load you hope to find a nice spot to rest? Tamera doesn’t look for a spot to rest. She finds some place to explore.”
What do you talk about when you’re traveling all around?
“We still talk about how beautiful this country is and how lucky we are to meet people from all walks of life. We meet great people within the industry during our work responsibilities and interesting people exploring our nation on our downtime.”
Do you notice Tamera getting looks since most truckers are not as photogenic?
“Ha-ha. Is that a politically correct way to say because Tamera is hot? It happens every day. When we ran the CB radio, I used to wake up to ‘Wow baby’ echoing through the speaker. I was often asked, ‘Are you guys brother and sister?’ by drivers hoping beyond hope she was single. She may get a little special treatment at a dock from time to time. But Tamera has earned 1.8 million accident-free miles on the road. No one can drive for you out here. We’re all on our own behind the wheel.”
How was it working for Cummins for a year or so?
“We decided to take a break from Cummins to go back to driving longhaul. It was a great experience where we got to do different and exciting things. We were able to see emerging technologies and judge for ourselves how and if they would improve our time on the road. It was an interesting gig, and the people we worked with at Cummins were amazing.”
What does the future hold for you and Tamera?
“We just moved to Oklahoma after living in California for our entire lives. We downsized from a 2,300-sq.-ft. house to a 700-sq.-ft. house. We had a small lot in town in California; now we have a large lot on a hill in a rural area of Oklahoma. We will be sharing some do-it-yourself projects on Facebook as we renovate the house. After they are done, we have vowed to not let our house own us. It will be a simple place to rest when we’re not driving.
Having a smaller overhead at our new home will allow us to take more time off between loads while we are out on the road. We plan to explore the country in a more in-depth way. We also want to explore our new home state during our time off. We will try to share as much as we can on Facebook, including Tamera’s Trucking Is Glamorous page. We will continue to drive and seek out adventure.” – M.C.
Still want more?
See more of Tamera and Todd Sturgis in our photo gallery!