As we entered the final month of 2022, I found myself in Lake Charles, Louisiana, admiring the beauty of the sunset reflecting off the lake, the rich colors of another day coming to an end. For so many of us, the holidays are the season of giving, with the sending of gifts and donations to charities of choice. Service organizations rely a great deal on our support.
There in Lake Charles December 3-10, more than 1,300 volunteers for the “Eight Days of Hope” organization came in to help a community devastated by two hurricanes, a flood, and an ice storm. This was the 18th time since 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, that the organization had helped here, marshalling 48,556 volunteers who've completed nearly 2 million combined hours of service. That’s all valued at an estimated $68.4 million worth of time and materials serving 8,600 families with rebuilding and repairing homes -- and lives, ultimately.
As I first pulled into the parking lot to check in, I couldn’t help but notice a beautiful Western Star tractor. It was obvious the owner took great pride in the truck, with the company name “Jaybird Express” of Diamondhead, Mississippi, scripted on the doors. Later at supper, in an auditorium full of people, I took notice of the man with the OOIDA jacket and was pleasantly surprised to again meet Jay Hosty, a Landstar-leased owner-operator I had briefly crossed paths with at events in years gone by.
It was positively inspiring to see a truck owner not unlike myself choosing to volunteer, pausing the business for the week to help “strangers,” people to whom our only real connection is being human. The reasons people volunteer vary greatly, and every person’s story contains moments that have redirected their lives, often after persevering through their own tragedies and feeling the call to give back whenever and however possible. While Jay and family survived Katrina so many years ago now, they lost their home, truck and trailer at the time. Yet they never gave up hope, and about a year after relocated and started over.
Jay arrived in Lake Charles to volunteer and hooked up with a work team whose purpose was to remove old shingles, then repairing and replacing several roofs. Jay and his wife, Katt, have been happily married for 41 years. In addition to volunteer efforts like this one, the couple has been committed to supporting the needs of displaced children. For decades at home, they’ve served every day by providing foster care for more than 100 children, fully adopting eight. I can only imagine the struggles that Katt and Jay have faced in their efforts to provide hope for these children.
Building the business
The starting line for the Hosty business was crossed before the couple's marriage. In the fall of 1979, more than a year before Jay purchased his first truck, he found a golden nugget, you might say, that became a cornerstone of the business in the form of an old publication then by the Chilton company called, simply, Owner Operator. In that issue of the bi-monthly magazine Jay found a detailed article outlining the cost to operate a tractor. The article made an impression that continues to influence the way Jay calculates his costs.
No family in trucking, no truck-driving school, no company-driver job at all -- Jay and Katt jumped straight into the business as owner-operators late in their first year of marriage, following closely on the heels of deregulation beginning its transformational impacts on the trucking business writ large.
[Related: Updated Partners in Business owner-operator manual now available]
In so many ways, for them and for trucking, this was uncharted territory, yet chart it they did. Jay Hosty has since come a long way from that first used, gas-powered International single-drive-axle tractor, which he’d contracted to haul under another carrier’s authority pulling containers in the New Orleans area. The evolution of the business began later in the first year he was an owner, in fact, when he purchased a 1970 Freightliner cabover for $5,500.
Opportunities lead to a greater purpose
There is a direct correlation between a person’s ability to volunteer and their employment/business status. At once, a truck owner doesn’t have to be the highest earner, necessarily, to commit to a personal-priorities plan in addition to the business plan. Jay served on the OOIDA board of directors for 16 years, selected for the role in 1994 at only 32 years old. In the year 2000, with his church, he volunteered to travel to a small Mexican village where he assisted in digging a well. The interaction with the families was an experience he described as both rewarding and humbling -- one he won't soon forget.
Working with Jay in Lake Charles, and listening to his stories of other volunteer experiences, I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice his respect for the people he’d been invited to help. When asked to enter someone’s home, whatever the need, it is important to remind ourselves that this is their home. We are not invited in only as volunteer workers but treated as guests. It’s important to respect all people when acting as a servant, to embrace an attitude of openness without discrimination.
During my own volunteer experiences, I’ve changed, and I’ve observed others changing as well. Gradually, these experiences began to impact how I conducted business, leading to more of an attitude of gratitude, and a greater focus on customer service. I began to recognize that once I had booked my loads the money wasn’t likely to change. So I adjusted my mindset to focus on the services needed -- exactly what you do as a volunteer. Behavioral psychology research recognizes that people will more often commit to working harder for a cause than for money. I see this acted out in the hours volunteers commit to, likewise the quality of the work provided.
The long-term return on a person’s honest investment in volunteering far outweighs what may appear at first to be merely a week of lost income opportunity. I want to encourage owners to find a way to live a purposeful life outside of the truck.
Look around your community and see how you could help others. Among the most-publicized of volunteer-powered events touching trucking every year is Wreaths Across America. In the last several weeks, we have seen the stories shared by the truckers and companies that have come together to help with transportation efforts. At thousands of locations, millions of wreaths were distributed by thousands of volunteers. I want to encourage others not to be afraid to take that first step forward, to humbly help others. My own extended family in Ohio received a wreath to place on grave of my Uncle, a World War II veteran, at a small cemetery in Ohio.
For that, I am grateful.
[Related: Delivering hope in volunteer hurricane-relief efforts]
Find more information about managing life outside the truck, and plenty within it, among a myriad other topics, in the Overdrive/ATBS-coproduced "Partners in Business" manual for new and established owner-operators, a comprehensive guide to running a small trucking business. Click here to download the updated 2022 edition of the Partners in Business manual free of charge.