In July, the Women In Trucking Association selected Donna as one of the honorees for the organization’s Top Women-Owned Business Award
For Donna Sleasman, the road she took in being recognized by the Women In Trucking Association as one of the industry’s top women business owners has been both rewarding and challenging. Earning acknowledgement as a trailblazing entrepreneur never entered Donna’s thoughts as she considered her career options in 1980 while working at a gas station in West Sacramento, California.
Today, Donna is the business owner of an expedited fleet that delivered $1.8 million in revenue in 2018. Donna’s company is on track to expand to 10 units before the end of 2019, and she is seeking to reach the goal of 20 trucks by the end of 2020. Part of Donna’s fleet growth has been achieved through the 150 Business Challenge, the collaborative initiative between ES and the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) to create 150 women-owned businesses in transportation. Donna’s relationship with ES dates back more than seven years when she began utilizing the discounts and support services available to the participants in the ES Community.
“ES has become a valued business partner, and they have helped me become more successful as a business owner. The discounts ES provides are some of the best in the trucking industry, and the support they offer to me and to everyone in their program is first-rate,” explained Donna. “I can walk right into (ES President) Jason Williams’ office and ask him a question. He will take the time to listen and to get me with the right people who can address what I need.
“ES backs up what they tell you and they truly care about your success as a business owner,” she added. “The biggest thing is that they have been there when I have needed them, and that’s the way they work with everyone in their program. If ES had been in business and with the program they have today back when I started, it would have been incredible. It’s been a long road to get to where I am today.”
The Long Road To Success In Trucking
Looking back to 1980 and her days in West Sacramento, Donna knew there was a better life available to her when she started to take a greater interest in the trucks that went past the filling station. As Donna did her research on entering the industry, she was also inspired by the memory of a family connection to trucking. During her childhood, Donna had to the opportunity to ride with her father back in the days when he drove a truck in the oil fields.
“I was always ‘Daddy’s Girl,’ and I loved spending time with him wherever he went,” said Donna, who would name the company she founded in 1983 Daddy’s Girl Trucking in honor of her father.
Donna understood that getting started in trucking as a woman in the early 1980s would not be easy, but she was determined to succeed by finding the right opportunity. Rather than enter a driving school and pay $3,000, Donna found an opportunity through the commercial transport division of North American Van Lines in which she could take the same $3,000 and put a down payment on a truck she would own.
At the time that Donna went through orientation with North American, she was the only woman in a class of 35 people. And while she met a few women professional drivers during the early days of her career (mostly wives who had gotten their CDLs to team with their husbands), Donna recalls only meeting one other woman who was running as a solo owner-operator at that time.
“The industry has changed so much since I started, and it has changed for the better,” Donna observed. “There just weren’t a lot of us out on the road back then. Now women have all kinds of opportunities.”
A New Day: Discovering & Entering The Expedited Sector
The expedited sector of trucking was barely in its infancy when Donna entered the industry. As she continued to work as an owner-operator in the world of big trucks, Donna kept her eye on what was happening within expedite. By 1999, the opportunities began to look more attractive on the expedited side of the fence, and Donna, having met so many husband-and-wife teams over her long-haul years on the road, had an idea that would eventually change the course of her career in trucking and her time as an entrepreneur.
Donna’s husband had been looking to possibly make a career change toward the end of the 1990s. Donna clearly understood the earning potential for an expedited team, and she shared a plan with her husband, who then obtained his Class B license. And while they achieved some early success when they started in expedite in 1999, Donna and her husband realized team trucking was not something that they wanted to pursue together long term. At the same time, the experience in expedite was a revelation for Donna, who began looking for the best solo opportunity within the sector that could fit her needs. FedEx opened a new door for Donna in 2000. Today, Donna and her fleet are part of the FedEx Custom Critical operation.
Enjoying a nearly 20-year association with FedEx, Donna’s approach to trucking is a stark contrast to the high turnover rates that are a part of the trucking industry’s landscape. Donna believes in the value of building relationships and finding a home.
“I have been able build a pretty good rapport with the people at FedEx over the years. I learned a long time ago in this industry it can cost you a lot of money to simply cut and run when something goes wrong,” said Donna. “If you leave some place because of an issue, you have to start somewhere else. You lose money in between carriers and you can lose money learning a new system. The learning curve can take up to three months, and that’s where people fall deeper into a (financial) hole. It’s much better if you can stick around and try to work things out when you have an issue.
“With FedEx, you have the brand recognition of the FedEx name. I have learned their system and I know what to expect,” added Donna. “They have kept my trucks running and their rates have always been pretty good.”
Earning WIT’s Recognition as a Top Women-Owned Business Owner
Donna was aware that ES had nominated her six-truck operation at the time for consideration by WIT for the association’s Top Women-Owned Business Award. ES had also submitted additional nominations for the WIT honor from the group of participants in the 150 Business Challenge program. While the other ES nominees had strong credentials in what amounted to the start-ups of their small businesses, Donna’s results with a year-over-year growth of more than 30 percent, the company’s 2018 revenue total and her experience of nearly 40 years in trucking presented a compelling case to the WIT panel choosing the honorees.
Though she remained hopeful that she might be recognized by WIT for the award, Donna admits that she was quite stunned when she learned that her Daddy’s Girl Trucking Company had been included among WIT’s list of Top Women-Owned Business Award winners for 2019.
“I was very shocked, I really was,” said Donna. “There are some really big companies out there that got recognized on this list. To think that someone like me who has a company with five or six trucks (at the time) could be on this list is quite flattering. It’s a tremendous honor, and I am very grateful to ES for the time and effort they took to nominate me for the award.”
“We were proud to nominate Donna for WIT’s Top Women-Owned Business Award, and we are thrilled that the association selected her company as one of this year’s honorees,” said ES President Jason Williams. “What Donna has accomplished during her career in the trucking industry is truly inspiring. To be an owner-operator and successful business owner in this industry for nearly 40 years makes Donna not only deserving of the award she received from WIT, but, in looking at her achievements, she should be considered as a real trailblazer.
“We are very grateful that Donna is part of the ES Community. She has been a mentor to a number of the owner-operators and independent contractors in our ownership programs,” Jason added. “Donna is someone you can look up to in this industry, and she is an example of what is possible with hard work and a determination to succeed.”
Inspiring Continued Growth of Ownership Opportunities for Women
Long before the collaboration with WIT on the 150 Business Challenge, ES had established a reputation in the industry for opening doors for women who are seeking to become business owners in trucking. Today, the number of women within the ES Community who are fleet owners, owner-operators or independent contractors involved in the programs offered by the company now exceeds 38 percent of the ES fleet. When compared to the overall industry average of women behind the wheel, the percentage of women participating in the ES truck ownership programs and utilizing the company’s support services is nearly five times greater than the current national average.
Having worked with ES for the past seven years and having witnessed the change that has occurred in the industry over the past four decades, Donna has not been surprised to see an increasing number of women use the truck ownership programs from ES to launch their respective businesses.
“You can come across a lot of empty promises in this industry, but ES is the real deal. They stand behind everything that they tell you,” observed Donna. “ES has always been there for me. They are good, honest people who, if you can show that you have a good work ethic, will provide you with an opportunity to start your own business and they will support you in your efforts to be successful. I have been doing this for a long time, and I’m glad that ES is on my side.”
While earning a well-deserved place on WIT’s Top-Women Owned Business List stands as one of the high points of her career in trucking, Donna is not allowing the recognition to take her focus away from the goals of running her fleet and growing her business. Amid all the congratulations she has received since the award was announced in late July, she has remained humble by never forgetting her roots and the route that brought her to this level of success.
“This is a great award and it still amazes me that I am a part of a list recognizing the top women-owned businesses in the trucking industry,” she explained. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it, and I try to stay humble. I don’t look at myself as a big-time business owner who is in an office. I still see myself as a truck driver, because I am a truck driver. If I need to get out there and take one of my trucks wherever it needs to go, I know that I can do that. I am willing to do the work that needs to be done for my business. But, no matter what I do or where I go, I’m still a truck driver.”
ES’s growth over the years is a direct result of the support we’ve gotten from you: the drivers, owner-operators, fleet owners and motor carriers. Our commitment to the community manifests itself in the ongoing investment in the infrastructure, people and resources necessary to provide opportunities for you and your business to become a Success in Trucking. As a result ES enjoys one of the highest owner-operator retention rates in the industry, as well as a fleet comprised of 38% women. We’re anticipating even more growth and success as we gear up for the future!
NEW ES Recruiting Offices
We’re excited to announce that the ES recruiting team moved into their new offices this week! Recruiting is an important service that we offer and we wanted to make the recruiting process as streamlined as possible. According to David Withers, ES Recruiting Director, the move will help make ES recruiting services better. “We’re pleased about the move. The new office gives our recruiting team more space and capabilities that will make the entire recruiting process more efficient. The new offices also gives us space to grow as we add more members to our team.”
The new recruiting office is located just off of the HUB contractor lounge, so it’s easy to get to and its accessible to anyone who visits. Click to learn more about The Hub
Our recruiting team is ready to serve you! Contact us at 877-349-9303, ext. 4
New Upstairs Office Space
In anticipation of future growth, the entire upper floor of the ES headquarters has been expanded to include additional office space. We’re looking forward to the road ahead as we gear up to serve you now and into the future!
Never Stand Alone! Contact us for more opportunities at 877-349-9303.
The SITE 2019 & 2020
June 6 & 7, we launched the inaugural SITE (Success in Trucking Expo) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was an invitation only event designed to continue and expand opportunities to help drivers become owners, owners become fleet owners, and fleet owners expand their fleets. Proving once again, with ES: If you can drive a truck, you can own the truck! Click to see what happened at the SITE 2019.
The addition of the HUB, ES’s contractor’s lounge, in 2017 has proven to be a hit! The Hub brings together a number of amenities to help make contractors feel at home. The common area is clean, spacious and well-lit, with a large flat-screen TV, comfortable lounge chairs where you can put your feet up, and a kitchen area featuring free coffee. In addition, The Hub also provides a free shower and a washer & dryer. And if the mood strikes, you can sit outside on our patio. Access to The Hub is monitored and controlled, so you don’t have to worry about unwanted “guests” hassling you the moment you step out of your cab — so you can simply enjoy your visit. Click to learn more about The Hub.
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.
The inaugural SITE was such a success, we’re doing it again in 2020!
The SITE is a truly unique trucking event that’s unlike any other gathering in transportation — and next year’s Success In Trucking Expo 2020 will continue and expand upon opportunities to help drivers become owners, owners become fleet owners, and fleet owners expand their fleets. Proving once again that with the opportunities offered by ES: If you can drive a truck, you can own the truck!
Building upon the success of last year’s SITE, Stoops Freightliner will once again be our Title Sponsor. The ES community will feature a gathering of top motor carriers including: Panther Premium Logistics, Forward Air and FedEx Custom Critical. In addition, our roster of vendors, guest speakers and ES team members will be on hand to answer questions and get to know you on a personal level, so you Never Stand Alone.
“In 2019, we worked diligently to develop the Success In Trucking Expo into an event that would be meaningful and have a positive impact for professional drivers interested in ownership, as well as current owner-operators and fleet owners who are looking to grow their businesses. We’re looking forward to continuing this success at the 2020 SITE,” said ES President Jason Williams.
MORE ABOUT THE SITE
• TheSITE (Success in Trucking Expo) 2020 takes place June 5 – 6 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the largest permanent sport facility in the world. At the SITE, your dreams of truck ownership can become a reality.
• Join us for food and fellowship! We look forward to dining with you and getting to know you better as we eat together with meals provided by the Success In Trucking Expo. Our wonderful venue located at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway will overlook a selection of new trucks for you to review and test drive.
We’re excited about the SITE 2020 and hope to see you there!
If you have questions, please contact our team at 877-349-9303.
Stay tuned! We will be posting more details about the SITE 2020 as more information becomes available.
You Don’t Have to Wait for the SITE to buy a truck. It’s What We Do Everyday!
Dean and Jenice Andres are a husband and wife transportation team whose dream was to own their own truck. After a short retirement, they overcame health and financial issues to become a Success In Trucking — with support from the right motor carrier, ES’s Path To Ownership and a trip to the SITE. This is their story of success.
Dean, how did you and Jenice get started in Transportation? I started in the transportation industry thirty eight years ago. When I was younger, I drove a truck for a car rental company picking up equipment. Later, I managed an automobile dealership and just got tired of wearing a suit and tie everyday. I got to thinking about how much I enjoyed driving a truck and got a job as a company driver. I also taught people how to drive a truck and that’s how I met my wife Jenice. That was twenty years ago and we’ve been together ever since, driving and having our own transportation business.
How did you hear about ES and the Path To Ownership? After being on the road for many years, I decided to retire from driving in 2016 at the age of sixty-two. During my retirement, Jenice drove a truck locally. After about eight months, I was tired of being retired and got my medical card back and decided to get back on the road. This time we were looking for an opportunity where we could be owners. We did a lot of research and found Forward Air. We told their recruiter about our business goals and our desire to become owner-operators. They told us about ES and their PTO (Path To Ownership). We contacted ES right away.
We spoke to the ES recruiter who told us how the PTO worked. He explained how 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. It sounded like a great opportunity, but we were still a bit apprehensive because a few years ago Jenice and I had experienced a financial setback due to some health issues. The ES recruiter set our minds at ease, explaining that the ES program was different than any other in the industry because they take the above factors into account in order to overcome past financial problems. We were so excited at the opportunity to prove ourselves!
Approval and Visiting the SITE In February of this year, Jenice and I began our Path To Ownership, driving a truck from ES’s fleet. During our entire evaluation period, we had been in close contact with our Service Coordinator, Lee Brukhalter. During our fourth month, he told us our revenue was strong and we had the attitude, aptitude, work ethic needed to become owners. We were thrilled and ready to take the next step on our Path To Ownership! He also told us about the SITE (Success In Trucking Expo) in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 6 & 7th, and asked if we’d like to attend. Even though we hadn’t gotten our new truck yet, we immediately agreed to attend!
Attending the SITE helped us learn even more about ES, the Path To Ownership and their programs designed to support us so we Never Stand Alone. We got the opportunity to talk with ES Equipment Finance folks, as well as other members of the ES team. We also learned about important industry trends from the ES panel experts who spoke at the SITE. It was great to meet and speak with other owners and drivers, too.
The food and fellowship at the SITE was first rate. We got to meet the keynote speaker, Pro Football Hall of Famer, Anthony Muñoz — my wife even won one of his signed jerseys! The SITE was a great experience and I would recommend that anyone looking into entering the transportation business should attend future events hosted by ES.
Tell us about getting your new truck? Shortly after attending the SITE, we got with Danny Vernon, ES Truck Sales Manager, who helped find us a brand new 2020 Peterbilt 579 tractor. It’s everything we wanted in a truck. It’s well equipped with lots of room, a nice sleeper and a TheremoKing APU that helps us save on fuel. Once we found our truck, we submitted our paperwork to ES Equipment Finance. Within a short time, we were approved and we picked up our truck on June 16th.
Since being in our new truck for only a few short weeks, we can already see that truck ownership has its perks. Our truck is set up the way we want it, and we greatly enjoy working for ourselves. And the greater earning potential is a definite plus. I can see building a small fleet of trucks over the next few years, while utilizing the support offered by ES. We’re extremely excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
A Woman in Transportation’s Perspective
Jenice, what has your experience been like as a woman in transportation? It’s been good! I enjoy running my own business. It’s a field that a woman can get into and do well. It’s also a business that I can share with my husband. It’s great being able to work with your spouse.
What advice would you give women who are looking to get into the business? The best advice I can tell women is to just go for it. If the trucking business is something you’re interested in, do your research and jump in with both feet. There is a lot of opportunity for women nowadays (especially with ES’s support and their 150 women-owned business challenge), and you can make a very good living. I’ve been at it for just over 20 years and I’ve just now found the best opportunity with ES. I also appreciate the fact that their fleet is 38% women-owned, an impressive number in this industry! Read more about the WIT/ES 150 women-owned business initiative by clicking here.