Timing and opportunity are often unforeseen forces that can act upon the best laid business plans. Experience and knowledge can play a key factor when it comes to recognizing a great opportunity and when it’s the right time to act upon it. Zach and Charlotte Ertel are two former contract drivers who knew the timing was right to take the PTO (Path to Ownership) to benefit from ES’s MBA (Much Better Alternative) to truck finance. Charlotte takes us through their journey to become first-time truck owners and how a timely opportunity helped them achieve greater earning power and control of their business.
How did you & Zach get into transportation?
In 2000 Zach went to truck driving school & got his CDL. He & I met in January of 2001, he wasn’t working and I was working a temp job. He asked if I had ever thought about driving a truck. My dad had been a truck driver and I thought that maybe it would be a good thing to try. In April we called one of the big trucking companies and applied for a contractor position and that’s how we got started. We stayed at this company for two years. After that, I drove locally for the next eight years to be closer to my children, while Zach pursued other opportunities.
What made you want to purchase your own truck?
Over the last few years, we drove for a fleet owner who moved us around to several different carriers. The last one was All State Express in Kernersville, North Carolina, which we really liked. After we had been there only about six months, our fleet owner wanted to move us again, but we decided to stay because we were making good money at All State, they’re a great company and we’ve been happy here. Zach and I have talked about owning our own truck for several years when our fleet owner decided to pull out. His decision actually pushed us into taking action and finding a way to become owners.
What brought you to ES?
I called All State’s recruiter, Mike Walker, and told him about our desire to become owners. He said we called at a good time because a low mileage truck had recently been turned back in to Expediter Truck Sales from a former driver at All State, and they can even help us with financing. He gave us the Expediter Truck Sales number and we called Danny Vernon, Expediter Truck Sales Manager about the status of the truck.
Danny told us we could probably be in the truck and back on the road in just a few weeks. He sent us photos and gave us a lot of information about the truck. The previous owner only drove it for about a month and it had only about 22,000 miles on it. It’s a 2017 Western Star with a very nice eighty-two inch sleeper and a ThermoKing Tri-pack APU. We were also pleased that the truck has an automatic transmission and it was white, which is exactly the color we wanted.
Once we settled on the truck, we submitted our paperwork to Steve Kochensparger at Expediter Equipment Finance for approval. The process was smooth and easy. He looked at our work history and our work ethic with All State along with our credit. The approval on this truck was easier than when we bought our house — and this truck cost three times more than our house! And sure enough, after we fulfilled our obligation to our previous fleet owner and signed all of the paperwork, we were able to get into the truck in the time frame that Danny had mentioned. We were able to get on the road and start back to work generating an income.
What are the benefits and advantages of being an owner?
From the time we started working in our new truck last November until the Christmas break, we noticed a very nice increase in our bottom line. As owners, there’s just so much potential to make more money. You just have more control over practically all aspects of your business because you are the owner. It truly is a great feeling and motivates you to want to work even harder to be more successful.
We also appreciate and benefit from the support the staff at ES when we need it, especially Lee Burkhalter. They were helpful as we transitioned from contractors into being owners. We’ve made a few rookie mistakes along the way, but we’re now up to speed and being true owners is really paying off for us. We also like the fuel card. It’s easy to use and saves us money.
Tell us about your experience as a woman in the transportation field?
I mentioned earlier that my dad was a truck driver. When Zach and I first started in the business I fell in love with it immediately. I ran solo for about eight years and I know that the business can be tough for a woman, especially if she’s alone. Also, it’s rare, but sometimes shipping and receiving offices can show bias towards a female driver. But all through the years I’ve been in the business, I’ve never felt scared or intimidated, even at truck stops. I always act professionally and even have done my own off-loading of freight. I want women to know that transportation can be a great career choice. I’m glad to hear about ES & WIT’s 150 Women-Owned Business Challenge. I hope women look into it to see what opportunities are available to them.
What are the different tasks that you and Zach share in your business?
That’s an easy question! I do all of the paperwork (writing up the loads, etc.) and I also manage our finances through a number of mobile apps. I’m also proud to say that I do most of the backing of the truck! I am a much better backer than Zach and he realizes this, so I’m the one who takes care of this task. Zach is responsible for most of the fueling and maintenance and upkeep when it comes to the truck. The thing is, you and your partner have to know your strengths and weaknesses, and do what each of you do best. After all, you are a team and you have to work together to be a Success in Trucking.