Husband and wife transportation team Norris and Zakiya Simmons’ background started in the warehousing industry, when a chance discussion with a co-worker made them question their current profession and look into the opportunities offered in transportation. Ride along with us as we tell their story of Success In Trucking.
Norris, how did you and Zakiya get started in transportation?
We both worked in the warehousing industry. One day I was training a new employee at the company where we worked and he asked me if I had ever been a truck driver. I hadn’t really thought about driving a truck before, even though my mother was a truck driver. But the more I thought about it and started doing research, I began to realize just what a great opportunity transportation could be. I mentioned it to my wife and she was onboard with the idea as well. We immediately started making plans, packed up our things and began pursuing our dreams on the road. That was in 2016.
I went to work for a trucking company and got my CDL. I drove for them for about eighteen months, but I just wasn’t happy with the way things were going. I had entered into a traditional lease purchase agreement during this time and didn’t get the loads I needed to maintain it, so I walked away from the lease. By this time, Zakiya was driving for a chemical company and I started driving there. Things were going great until her contract got cancelled. We approached the company about letting us drive as a team, but they wouldn’t agree to it. That’s when we began looking for other opportunities.
What was your next move?
We did a lot of research online and talked to a lot of other drivers. Many of them had good things to say about Forward Air, so I contacted them. We told the recruiter about our past experiences as company drivers and that we wanted to do more with our careers and become owner-operators. The recruiter told us about ES and their Path to Ownership (PTO) — that we could drive one of their trucks, while running under Forward Air’s authority and after a specified amount of time, if we qualified, we could get our own truck. The opportunity sounded great and it was a way for us to become owners in a much shorter time period. I called ES right away.
Tell us about your experience with ES’s Path to Ownership?
I contacted ES and spoke to recruiter EJ Jackson. He went into even more details about the PTO — that we could drive one of ES’s trucks (while running for Forward Air), for a specified amount of time. During that time period, our attitude, aptitude, work ethic and work history would be evaluated, along with our ability to generate revenue. And if we met all of the criteria, we could qualify to buy our own truck.
In May, we started our Path to Ownership driving a very nice 2018 Kenworth T680 from ES’s fleet. During this time, we drove hard and learned as much as we could. The ES team was very helpful during this time supporting us with advice on loads and how to run our business more efficiently. After about three months, we got the word that our revenue was good. Our ES Service Coordinator asked if we’d like to continue our Path to Ownership by taking the next step. Of course, we said YES!!!
A visit to the SITE and Seeing our truck
Along with the fantastic news about our taking the next step in our Path to Ownership, we were invited to the Success In Trucking Expo at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 7 & 8. We were thrilled to be invited to the SITE! We really didn’t know what to expect, but once we got there, we were extremely impressed. The food was outstanding and their speakers were interesting and informative. We learned a lot about ES as a company and got to know them personally. On top of that, we got to actually see and drive the type of truck we wanted: a 2020 Volvo VNL 860. Being able to see this truck in person really helped us know that this was the type of truck for us. We even got to drive it on the Indy infield track! How many people can say that? Overall, the SITE was very helpful to us. We also got to meet Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz. His message of positivity and spirituality touched our hearts. We knew were were amongst good people.
Tell us about finding your truck and your experience with ES Equipment Finance?
Shortly after returning from the SITE, we got with Danny Vernon at ES Truck Sales. We all discussed what Zakiya and I wanted in a truck and he helped us spec a 2020 Volvo VNL 860 (just like the one we drove at the SITE). It’s an awesome truck and is equipped just the way we wanted it, including a Carrier APU that helps us save on fuel. We then submitted our paperwork to ES Equipment Finance and it wasn’t long before we were approved! We’ve been in our truck since July10th and our business as truck owners is already starting to show signs of success. This is where our aptitude, attitude and work ethic begins to pay off, and the ES team is behind us all the way, so we Never Stand Alone.
A Woman in Transportation’s Perspective
What has your experience been like in the transportation business?
I’ve had a good experience, especially since coming on board with ES. Being a truck owner has its own challenges compared to being a company driver. You have more responsibility, but you also have much more opportunity and the rewards are that much greater. That’s why it’s important to have someone standing in your corner with you, like the ES team. It also means a lot to me that ES backs women in this industry with the 150 woman-owned business challenge. Read more about the WIT/ES 150 women-owned business initiative by clicking here.
How do you and Norris balance work priorities?
I think it all comes down to being a team. Even though we both drive, I’m very good at keeping up with the paperwork and finances. Norris is good at keeping up with the many tasks involved with keeping the equipment running properly. We feel blessed to have such a great opportunity and we’re going to work hard in order to have something to build upon in the future. We hope to build a fleet in the not too distant future.