For Jacobus Nel, the journey to live the American Dream has been a long road. Jaco has used the wheels of the trucking industry to carry him a distance that spans from his native South Africa to business ownership in the U.S. The most recent miles of this incredible ride have been powered in large part by the program offerings at ES. In fact, Jaco’s experience with the team at ES and the company’s Path To Ownership (PTO) program opened doors to the type of opportunities and success that he could only imagine during his youth.
At an early age, Jaco became fascinated with trucking. The more Jaco learned about the industry, the greater his desire became to find his route to America to become a professional driver. Jaco’s first experience behind the wheel of a big rig in South Africa only served to fuel his desire to obtain a visa and pursue his dream in the United States.
Shortly after his arrival in the U.S., Jaco began working as a farmhand in Indiana. It was through his work on the farm that he met the woman who would become his wife in 2016. It was also during his time on the Indiana farm that Jaco got his first opportunity to drive a big rig in America. The owner of the farm had acquired trucks for his business, and Jaco earned his CDL, allowing him to begin his driving career in the U.S.
In 2019, Jaco was looking for new opportunities in the trucking industry when he spotted advertising from Success In Trucking Powered By ES promoting the company’s inaugural Success In Trucking Expo (SITE), which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early June of last year.
“I saw the advertising on Facebook, and I told my wife that I wanted to go the SITE and check it out. At the time, I had just been in a lease-purchase program and I had gotten my fingers burned with it. But the SITE looked like a good opportunity, and my wife and I both went to check it out.” recalled Jaco. “While we were at the SITE, I was impressed with what I saw and with the team at ES and their partner motor carriers which inlcuded FedEx Custom Critical, Forward Air and Panther Premium Logistics A Service of ArcBest. I could see this was different and that the ES Community cared about my success.”
Within weeks of attending the SITE, Jaco had entered into the Path To Ownership (PTO) Program from ES, which allows independent contract drivers to drive a truck that ES owns while operating under the authority of one of the ES partner carriers. The PTO program provides the opportunity to get a feel for the responsibilities involved as an independent contractor and a potential business owner. It also gives the program participant and ES an opportunity to get to know each other. Jaco picked Forward Air as the partner motor carrier he wanted to operate at on his PTO (Path To Ownership).
Slightly less than a year after entering the PTO program, Jaco was in a position to purchase a truck from ES and establish his own small trucking business operating at Forward Air. In 2020, Jaco became an owner-operator within the ES Community, buying his first truck from ES and continuing to drive as part of the Forward Air fleet. Jaco’s small business is J Nel Trucking, LLC.
To get a sense of the confidence and support that ES and the ES Community provides for program participants, Jaco purchased his truck and launched his business just a few weeks after the COVID-19 National Emergency had been declared.
“It was kind of scary in the early stages of COVID. The key that I found was to just stay calm and to push forward – keep going and look at the positive side of what you can achieve,” said Jaco, whose work ethic helped him power through the first days of the COVID crisis to see his business now benefit from a freight market that is heating up. “I have been very busy, and it’s been great. Communication is one of the keys to success. I have a great team behind me with ES and Forward Air. Forward Air has had record-setting freight levels and is keeping my truck and my business moving forward.”
“I have the support that I need to be successful. In trucking, you have to understand that all weeks are not the same. One week may be good one and another week may not be good,” he continued. “It’s never a perfect climb. There are ups and downs. You have to be ready to roll with the punches. They key is to keep your head up and to keep moving – making sure that you are available to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.”
“I’ve been working with the ES team now for about the last year and a half, and one of the greatest things about is ES is that they are true to their word” ~ Jacobus Nel
In late September, Jaco joined other business owners in the ES Community to be a part of a panel discussion for the third webinar in the IN-SITE 2020 Online Series. If you would like to watch the webinar featuring Jaco or access any of the webinars in the IN-SITE 2020 Series, please click here.
“I must say that I have dealt with a couple of other companies within the trucking industry, and there’s a different atmosphere around ES. They always make you feel welcome,” said Jaco. “Plus, the programs they have in place for fuel, maintenance, insurance and business support, for example, really make a difference for those of us who are running a business while we are out on the road.
“I’ve been working with the ES team now for about the last year and a half, and one of the greatest things about is ES is that they are true to their word,” he added. “I am very grateful for the help and the advice they have provided for me. Anytime that I’ve a question they have helped me in finding the answer.”