Ngan often surprises passing motorists when they spot her behind the wheel of her tractor trailer, but after 10 years on the job, the 34-year-old Thu Duc City resident is used to surprised stares.
Ngan’s skills behind the wheel have earned her a reputation of having impeccable problem solving skill and the ability to remain calm and collected in the face of crisis thanks to a career spent driving four- and seven- seater cars, tour buses, mid-to-full-size box trucks, and 40-metric-ton tractor trailers.
Currently, most of her days are spent delivering new trucks to clients across Vietnam for a Ho Chi Minh City-based automobile sales firm.
Though she has plenty of experience on the job, there are still many aspects of her work that are less than pleasant.
“I often find myself covered in mud and lubricants after crawling under vehicles to collect chassis numbers for registry,” Ngan shared.
Other difficulties involve not being able to find roadside assistance when a vehicle breaks down and long-haul driving during pregnancy.
Still, according to Ngan, the rewards far outweigh the hardships.
A legacy from her deceased husband
For Ngan, truck driving is a way of honoring a dream she shared with her late husband.
Originally from the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, Ngan went to a university in Ho Chi Minh City. She met and married her first husband, a trucker, in her second year of college.
Ngan and her husband had a dream of one day saving up money to purchase a truck together, but those hopes were shattered when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after.
A 24-year-old widow, Ngan set her mind to uphold her late husband truck driving legacy by taking a job at a firm responsible for registering newly purchased automobiles and soon became addicted to life behind the wheel.
It was during those early years as a truck driver that she met her second and current husband, Le Hong Phong, also a long-distance truck driver.
“I’m a few years her senior, but we’ve both been in the trucking business the same amount of time,” Phong said.
When Ngan, just 1.5 meters tall, first began trucking, she was worried she would not be capable of such a physically demanding job.
|Le Thi Kieu Ngan, a devoted wife, enjoys happy moments with her current husband and their two young sons at their tenanted house in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam when she is not behind the wheel. Photo: Le Van/ Tuoi Tre
“The driver’s seat in the truck was too high for me. I had to lower it so I could reach the clutch and brake pedals,” Ngan shared.
“Now that I’m used to it, driving big trucks is a piece of cake.”
In fact, trucking has become such a large part of Ngan’s life that she continued driving throughout her pregnancies.
“Police officers never expect to see an eighth or ninth month-pregnant women when they stop to check licenses,” she said.
“I’ve even heard officers joke I might deliver my babies unassisted on the road.”
According to Ngan, though she enjoys her job, it is not without its risks, particularly in central provinces where thieves often steal truck parts.
“A mirror costs a few million dong [VND1 million = US$44] and wheel rim is even more expensive,” Ngan revealed.
“If thieves steal the truck’s registry documents, I wouldn’t even afford to buy a new one for several years.”
Not only do lost registry documents cost money, but they cost significant time considering they take several months to reprint.
In the meantime, the firm must provide a replacement automobile and offer discounts to clients whose orders are put on hold due to the lost documents.
When Ngan is not on the road, she is a devoted wife and a mother to two sons, aged seven and three.
On her days off in Thu Duc City, her house resounds with laughter from her two sons, who also serve as her ‘assistants’ during their summer holidays.
At seven, Tony, her elder son, has a fantastic memory. He is able to remember all the passes and tunnels on routes spanning from Ho Chi Minh City to the central province of Nghe An and to the northern province of Lang Son.
But it is not just her sons who have learnt from her, even Ngan’s male colleagues applaud her skill and work etiquette.
“She’s the only female driver at the company and she always handles the toughest cases,” said Tran The Tuan, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City-based The Gioi Xe Tai Company.
According to Tuan, Ngan’s strengths include a high sense of responsibility and a range of driving licenses from B2 to FC.
“Sales staff sometimes even turn to her for help in completing the registry paperwork or apologizing to clients for late deliveries without claims for compensation,” Tuan noted.
The Anh, head of the company’s sales department, said that what he appreciates most about Ngan is her conscientious mindset and brimming energy, even after long hours on the road.
Ngan recently found a new way to document her joy on the road: vlogging.
Her Youtube channel, started nearly a year ago, is essentially a showcase of the journeys she has taken across the country.
Intended initially to help her shrug off exhaustion while driving long hours, her vlog entries, which show people the beauty of the places she has visited, have received unexpected applause from netizens.
Inspired by another local Vlogger who rose to fame by preparing outrageous meals, her channel, Ngan tai xe Vlog (Ngan the driver Vlog), now earns her fame and a few million dong each month.
“I just turned on the camera and shared what I’ve seen along the road to stay alert while driving,” Ngan shared.
“I didn’t expect to receive so many likes.”
Ngan’s channel has become an exploratory opportunity for her viewers, both at home and abroad, and she also finds a great source of encouragement from their positive comments.