“What I really love about my job is my connection to my drivers,” Account Manager Nicole said. “It’s hard to gain trust with a driver and easy to lose it.”
Nicole’s J.B. Hunt career and exchange with truck drivers began 10 years ago as a college intern. “For the first three weeks, I was clueless… I knew nothing about transportation!” she said. “I was transparent that I would learn from the drivers…I’d listen to them and learn how to avoid issues. I never want to set anyone up for failure.”
Once Nicole graduated from college, she became a manager in training, then an operations supervisor and now her current position as an account manager. Near the start of her career at J.B. Hunt, she met an owner operator named James who moved freight for her account as needed on a contract basis. Nicole and James recognized each other’s strong work ethic and soon became friends. “I appreciate James’ willingness to do what he can for J.B. Hunt… and do it safely,” she said.
With only nine drivers on her team – five being one million milers and two being two million milers –she had a rare opening for a company driving position on her team this past year. Nicole knew who would be a great asset to her team –James, who had moved from being an owner operator to a company driver in 2013. Nicole and James came to an agreement that if he could be flexible with freight demands, Nicole would get him home every week. And she’s kept her word.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with Nicole… we get the mission accomplished safely and on time,” James added. “She has nine older men drivers and we all give her the ultimate respect because she gets the job done. She’s always straight facts.”
James has had only two jobs in his life – a Marine and a truck driver. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, went to boot camp at 18, served in Vietnam at 19, continued to serve in the infantry for 30 years and retired at the age of 47 as a Sergeant Major. When deciding his civilian career path, James knew one thing for sure. “I wanted to do something where I didn’t have to be in charge of anyone but myself,” he said. Truck driving fit his requirement and he’s enjoyed his decision ever since. “I like getting up every day and I’m going somewhere different, like the military. I can’t go to the same job, same place every day. It makes me happy to do what I do,” James said.
Throughout his 18 years working with J.B. Hunt, James says that he’s been given numerous opportunities – leasing trucks and becoming an owner operator three times, receiving the Driver of the Year award and one and two million mile safe driver bonuses as a company driver, training fellow Veterans through the Hunt’s Heroes program, and with the support and nomination from Nicole, participating in Wreaths Across America.
James describes driving for Wreaths Across America and helping deliver wreaths from Maine to the Arlington National Cemetery as a “God blessing”. “I was in turmoil in my political stance this past year,” he said. “When I got back from Wreaths Across America, I knew we [Americans] were not divided. We have opinions, but we aren’t divided. Wreaths Across America allowed me to tell Veterans from Vietnam that we are appreciated.”
By driving on Nicole’s team this past year, James has developed an appreciation for her leadership skills. “I appreciate Nicole’s equality, compassion, professionalism, dedication and her capability to do her job… She’s able to manage her whole life and her job well. I admire her for that,” he said. “I learned from Nicole that you can work for a person and still feel equal to them. That’s how Nicole makes you feel – you are on equal ground.”
Nicole continues to learn from all the drivers on her team, but James, in particular, manages to keep her in check. “James constantly reminds me what’s important – being kind and generous and your family. He’s my moral compass,” she said. “…and don’t take for granted any moment you have, make every day count.”
This past January, James had planned to finish his career at J.B. Hunt with retirement, but he was persuaded to stay on an extra six months. “I was supposed to retire in January. I gave Nicole my word that I’d stay until June. I’m staying because of her,” he said.
James is looking forward to enjoying more time with his high school sweetheart and wife, Shelia and his three grandchildren, tinkering with his 12 hot rods and sharpening his golfing and bowling skills.
Nicole has a deep gratitude for James’ hard work and dedication to his job and J.B. Hunt. She knows June will be here too soon. “When he does retire, it’ll be a sad day. I’ll lose him as a driver, but I’ll keep him as a friend,” she said.
Interested in driving with J.B. Hunt? Call 1-877-791-9458 to speak to a placement specialist to discuss regional, truckload and local truck driving jobs or contract opportunities or fill out a short form online.