Forty Years in a Rapidly Changing Trucking Industry Makes Couple’s Dreams Come True
The trucking industry is changing, and no one knows that better than Sam and Pam Sutherland.
Sam started his trucking career 40 years ago, hauling LTL throughout the oil fields of Louisiana. From there, he worked his way up to becoming a manager, a dispatcher, a safety director, and finally, the owner-operator of his own truck, which he and his wife Pam drive for Transport America.
“I even tried dispatch for a year, but it wasn’t for me,” he continues. “But you can’t help but respect someone, such as your dispatcher, who does something that you have attempted. I learned a lot of lessons that year.”
Sam continued to climb the ladder in the trucking industry, eventually earning a safety director position with another trucking company with just a high school degree.
“Experience was more important in that case,” Sam explains. “I realized then, with just a high school degree, that I could make good money without a college degree.”
After working as safety director for four years, Sam was able to apply all of his skills to becoming an owner-operator. He bought his own truck, hitting the open roads as his own boss with his own goals. He has been driving as an owner-operator for the last 17 years; the last 11 of which have been with Transport America.
In fact, trucking has been so good for Sam and Pam that they are planning to retire early. Sam, at 59, and Pam, at 58, plan to call it a career within the next year and settle down near Charleston, South Carolina, where they are in the final stages of building a new home.
Mile by mile, Pam and Sam have been building their dream. They help each other out on the road and have lots of quality time to spend together, all while building a comfortable life for themselves and their family.
“We’re debt-free and we have a brand new home in South Carolina,” says Sam. “Simply put, we’ve earned the peace of mind we’ve always wanted. And that’s important to us. When you reach our age, every day counts.”
As an owner-operator, Sam is able to make sure that his 40 years of hard work and experience don’t go to waste. And Transport America has given him the flexibility and respect he needs to be successful and support him and Pam well into the future.
“We’re with Transport America for a reason,” Sam says. “As an owner-operator, they have the program that we, as owner-operators, feel we can be financially successful with.”
After seeing an advertisement for Transport America in a trucking magazine 11 years ago, Sam and Pam gave them a call.
“We were really impressed by that first conversation,” Sam says. “We realized that Transport America was serious in making things work for us.”
“At times, I’m asked by other truck drivers – especially company drivers – if I like the company that I’m driving for,” adds Sam. “When I say that Pam and I have been driving with Transport America for 11 years, that about says it all (because we all know that that’s unheard of anymore in the world of trucking). I like to see the reaction in their faces; especially their jaws dropping.”
The first thing that Sam noticed was Transport America’s common-sense policies, which set the company apart from other trucking companies.
“At other companies, there’s a total lack of respect for truck drivers and their personal lives,” says Sam. “From day one, we’ve always felt respected by Transport America.”
Transport America has been making changes to the trucking industry, they give drivers the freedom to make their own calls about when it’s safe to drive. Transport America also is dedicated to creating a more respectful environment for drivers, which is clear to Sam based on a lifetime of experience in the trucking industry.
For example, when Sam had some issues several years ago, he was pleasantly surprised when Katie Talcott, Transport America’s Vice President of Enterprise Driver Relations, personally called him to work things out.
“I’ve never met her, but I had an issue and she actually cared. You won’t find a negative word about her from anyone who knows her,” Sam says.
So what advice would Sam give to owner-operators thinking about making a move, or company drivers who’ve dreamed about becoming an owner-operator?
First off, Sam stresses the importance of finding a trucking company that’s a good fit. Be sure that you want to be there, ask questions, and write down what the company tells you. “Hold them accountable to the promises they make,” he insists.
Second, Sam advises, “Learn the business.” This means understanding that whether you’re an owner-operator or a company driver, you are responsible for setting your goals and committing to keeping your expenses down to enhance your personal profits.
Third, “keep the wheels moving,” Sam says. “Pam and I usually run five or six weeks at a time, throughout the entire country, to obtain the maximum possible mileage for the time we’re out on the road.”
And fourth, when buying a truck, Sam recommends buying used and treating it like a John Deere: as a piece of equipment rather than a home on wheels. “Look at the specs and look hard,” Sam says. “And avoid the chrome and all of the other trinkets that some drivers put into their vehicles.”
All of these habits have allowed Sam and Pam to achieve the financial independence that they’ve always dreamed of.
“Pam loves to fish,” Sam says. “We’ve got a boat and three acres in the county. There’s going to be no shortage of things for us to do when we finally settle down.”
“We’d like to be local missionaries,” he adds. “We want to keep being helpful to our neighbors. Show up with a baked apple pie and play cards.”
In respecting Sam and Pam, Transport America have helped to make their dream of freedom come true.