By Jordan Parker
Kathy Tuccaro never thought she’d feel right at home in the cab of a Caterpillar 797F — one of the biggest trucks in the world.
But now, operating her Caterpillar 797F haul truck is a whole lot more than a job for her — it’s a way of life.
“Driving the biggest truck in the world is a rush in itself,” said Tuccaro, an Alberta haul truck operator working in the oil sands. “I’ve been driving this beast of a truck for the last five years and every single time I come back to work, I look up and thank God for this amazing opportunity to be here.”
Tuccaro has overcome a great deal of adversity to get where she is today. She “crashed” while working as a nurse, and all her issues came to a head.
“It was literally a lifetime of undealt trauma and abuse that I had stored away and pretended that it never happened,” she said.
She went to Hope Mission’s Wellspring Recovery Program, but relapsed. She lost her apartment and job. She became homeless, and would live on the streets for a week.
“Going from place to place where they offer free food and shelter was very traumatizing; I walked around in a zombie-like state of shock,” she said.
But on her third try in rehab, it stuck, and after taking an aptitude test, she was matched with a career as a heavy equipment operator, which lead to driving the Caterpillar 797F.
“I had never even looked at equipment before,” Tuccaro said. “But I was a good driver after all, and had a perfect driving record. I decided to give it a shot.”
Alongside the 400 tonne Caterpillar 797F, Tuccaro also drives a 208,000 litre water truck. Now that she’s spent five years on the road, she loves the rush associated with her career.
“The weather can change 10 times a day and anything is possible. It only takes a split second and the truck can slide down the ramp,” Tuccaro said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times because the danger is real.”
She said anyone looking to get into the trades or a new career should not delay.
“Do not wait. If you allow yourself to be trapped in the handcuffs of fear and worry, how do you expect to be free to conquer your dreams?” she said. “Break those cuffs, conquer those fears and don’t settle until your dreams become a reality.”
Since entering the world of heavy equipment, Tuccaro has started a work boot recycling program. Since 2014, she has collected more than 1,800 pairs of work boots. The foot wear is distributed to various safety programs offering free safety classes to those who can’t afford it.
Most recently, she has published the book Dream Big: Overcoming a Lifetime of Trauma & Abuse That Led to Dreams of Success, which chronicles her story from nurse to haul truck operator.