Mercer Transportation


Congratulations to Geri Rilley, Our First Solo Female Driver in the Top 10!

Geri standing in front of her prized chariot.

Congratulations to Geraldine (Geri) Rilley, the first female solo driver to make the Mercer Top 10! “Geri is an absolute delight,” Amanda Harper in Contractor Relations said, “Since the moment she started in the beginning of 2020 and heard about Top 10, she has been pushing to get there. Geri set her eyes on the prize and made it happen for 2021.” Geri’s accomplishment is particularly impressive for someone with less than five years in the trucking industry. Coordinator Lexi Cunningham said, “From day one, Geri wanted to know every ‘in and out’ to be successful, and to be Top 10 at Mercer. I can recall when she first started, she wanted to piece as many loads as she could together to make the maximum revenue.”

The Long Road to Truck Driving Based in Millville, New Jersey, Geri comes from a big family. “I have a total of eight sisters and brothers and so many nieces and nephews I can’t count them! I don’t have any children of my own, but my nieces and nephews are like my kids.” Geri’s mother was also something of a pioneer, as the first woman to work in the “hot end” of a glass manufacturing company (the male-dominated area where they mold and formed the glass). In 1993, Geri got a BS in Airway Science Management and did an internship at the FAA. Instead of managing planes and airport traffic, she found a management job at her mother’s glass company. In 2002, Geri shifted gears to become a locomotive engineer, working on the railroad until 2011. Then she took a job as a chemical operator with Dupont. Several years later, in 2018, Dupont gave notice to Gerry and the rest of her division that their chemical work was getting transferred to China. While still working at Dupont, Geri researched the potential income for various career paths. She chose the transportation industry and went to truck driving school. A company driver job at Covenant Transport gave Geri some practical experience. After six months as a company driver, she was ready to buy her own truck. 

Choosing Mercer as an Owner Operator

“My cousin Norman told me that he would walk me through all aspects of being a successful owner operator,” Geri said. Initially, she worked with a company in Michigan, but just two years ago she met Mercer team drivers Carla and Brent at a fuel stop. “I struck up a conversation with Carla and asked her how Mercer was,” Geri said. “She told me that it was a great company and that the pay was really good. The thing that struck me most was that she said they treated you like family. That was important to me. At that point, I applied.”

As a contractor with Mercer, Geri appreciates the focus on safety and the open-door policy, knowing that she can talk directly to contractor relations or anyone else to get issues resolved. “And another thing that’s really important as a female driver with Mercer, I feel like they respect me as a driver first, and as a female driver,” Geri said. “They make sure that I am treated with respect at all times.”

Geri has many talents and interests outside of being one of Mercer’s best drivers.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of mentors and professional networking. Geri had a wide range of experience and training from past careers, but she knew that “as a new driver, it’s important to listen to experience.” She formed a family of mentors that she uses daily, from conversations about truck maintenance and efficiency to overcoming challenges on the road. “That’s how I manage,” Geri explained. “Some of the Mercer family mentors are Renard, Adolf, Richard, Jim, Bill, James, Joel in the International department and my cousins Norman and Hassan.” 

Advice for New Drivers and Women

Although Geri hasn’t spent many years behind the wheel, she hit the ground running to achieve her Top 10 goal. For new drivers, Geri’s top piece of advice is simply, “Stay SAFE. Protect your driving record…protect yourself…. protect your family…by being safe on the road.” You have to stay aware of your surroundings and watch for other drivers being inattentive. Even while she worked hard to achieve a Top 10 ranking, Gerry continued to prioritize safety. She said, “I still have a negative CSA score which means that I’m pretty safe!”

Breakdowns can get expensive, so Geri also recommends buying a reliable truck. Her trucking mentors pressured Geri into buying $1,000 worth of tools to do her own maintenance, including an Over the Road code reader for diagnostics. “I did not want to do it at all, but I tell you, they made me do it and in hindsight, I’m so glad they did.” From mud flaps to fuel filters, Geri got help from her mentors and YouTube videos and with those new tools, did it herself, saving a lot of money and unnecessary down time.

Drivers take a great pride in their profession and Gerry is no different.

For female drivers, Geri recommends stopping for the night at familiar and well-lit fuel stops. “And try not to have stickers or labels on your truck that identifies you as a female,” she said. “It just helps when people with ill intent don’t know who is in the truck. And as soon as I stop, I close my curtains so that people can’t see that I’m a female or that I am by myself.”

Trucking Resources and Networking

Geri enjoys long runs across the country. She often picks up forklifts out of Greenville, NC and then gets various loads coming out of California, from Kawasakis to kayaks. “I love ETM… especially Cory and Jay, the brokers at ETM,” she said. “They are super, super nice. So, I always try to run from Greenville, NC to California and back. Or, from Greenville to Canada or Alaska. It is important to me to be kind, and when you find people that treat you like family and care, you want them back. So, I love Greenville, and for me, every load leads back to Greenville.” For the 34-hour reset, California offers a lot of volunteering opportunities. Geri has volunteered with Delta Sigma Theta’s Youth Initiative Program, EMBODI (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence). Another favorite place to volunteer is with Seeds of Joy Caramel Connections Foundation.

Joel, an international driver, and mentor to Geri, told her about international loads while they were doing laundry one day. This interested Geri so she looked into it with Mercer. In Mercer’s International Department, Ron provided more help with paperwork and answered questions throughout the process. “I would call them 10 times…and they’re just as nice on the 10th phone call as they were on the first one,” Geri said. “One of the great things about Mercer is they make you call them once you cross the border, and when you come back. So, for me, it says that somebody is caring about you. Somebody wants to know that you are ok. And that is important!” 

When you cross into Alaska, you have to stop at the DMV for Alaskan plates. With her outgoing personality, it shouldn’t be surprising that Geri made friends with the woman working at the DMV. A true Alaskan, the woman had her own dogsled team. “So, when I came back, she took me mushing on her sled at nighttime, in the snow… it was SO AWESOME!” Geri rode on the sled at first, and then she took a turn running the dogs herself. Geri also discovered that her accountant’s best friend, Rosemary, lives in Alaska, and was able to get an amazing tour of Anchorage as well.

Celebrating Geri’s Accomplishment

Geri Rilley emphasized how she appreciates her mentors as well as her load coordinator, Lexi, “From the day I was hired, Lexi has been a great asset.” From walking through the process for obtaining loads to finding solutions when plans fall through, teamwork and perseverance were both crucial to Geri’s success. As Lexi said, “Geri has always shown she is a hard worker and a go-getter. Never once have I heard her complain about being out on the road or wanting to take time off.”

Congrats on being the first woman to get Top 10 at Mercer

Not everyone would want to cover the miles necessary to compete for a Top 10 ranking, but Geri has carried a lot of loads while continuing to work as a team player. Amanda Harper said, “Not only is Geri a hard runner, and a dedicated driver, but she is easy to get along with, and has earned everything on her own.” Both Lexi and Amanda remember Geri’s frequent phone calls to check on the rankings. Lexi said, “I am so proud of her accomplishments here at Mercer, and on the road. I can’t express in words how very honored I am to be a part of her journey and be her coordinator.” Geri’s accomplishment is an inspiration to all of us, and we’re proud to have her as part of the Mercer team. 

Geri is truly a pleasure to work with, and she worked hard to become the first woman to rank as a Top 10 solo driver. Winners of the Top 10 will be treated to a weekend in Louisville with meals, accommodations, and activities provided for. Past winners have enjoyed activities like Churchill Downs, a dinner cruise on the Belle of Louisville, or the mystery train in Bardstown. Talk to your load coordinator if you would like to know more about competing for a Top 10 ranking in your division, such as team drivers flatbed, team drivers dry van, solo flatbed, solo dry van, etc. Apart from one overall ranking of the Top 10 by loads, all of the other divisions are ranked by calendar year revenue.

Congratulations again to Geri Rilley and thank you for all your hard work as well as your great attitude! Go Geri and…GO MERCER!

For more stories like Geri’s, click here and enjoy

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