Lawrence Jenkins got started in the trucking business by hauling sod in Louisiana. He became an owner-operator in 2005, and with the help of the extra business he’s been getting from the Getloaded load board, he purchased a second truck last year. He plans to buy a third next year. Jenkins is also a longtime member of the National Guard, and he runs his business with the same sense of duty and service.
"I just like serving my country because I'm able," he says. "I'm healthy, I'm able to do it, I'm good at it, and I’m able to make a difference and help out."
As a member of the National Guard, Jenkins has led hurricane relief efforts, served in Homeland Security, and done tours of duty in Haiti, Honduras, Belize, and Azores.
What led you to join the National Guard?
JENKINS: I had a friend who joined, and he was trying to talk me into it. I weighed 106 pounds at the time. Everybody kept telling me that I was too little – I would never make it. It started out as joking around, and then I said "I’m going to do it just to show everybody I can do it." My grandpa, he served in the Army, and I wanted to serve my country, and with everyone telling me I couldn't do it, I just wanted to prove to everybody that I could.
What did you train to do?
In the National Guard and Army, you have different duties you trained for, and I picked carpentry. Whenever we’d go overseas, I'd do a lot of carpentry work, building schools and different things. We built schools in Haiti, Honduras and Belize. I also did a lot of driving equipment. In my unit, I was the main driving instructor, training everyone to drive.
So that was your transition into what you’re doing now?
Yes. Before I got into trucking, I did a few deals where I drove dump trucks, and I liked driving dump trucks a lot, so I decided to check out driving for a living. I found out that Schneider would put me through school and pay to train me to get my CDL if I did a year, so that’s what I ended up doing.
In your email, you talked about how hard it was to juggle work with your Guard duties.
Yeah, at that time my drill days counted as my days off, so I had four days off a month, and two of them I had to do with the National Guard. It made it a little hard, so I had to take a little break from the National Guard. In my next job, I was going to get back in. I started hauling sod locally, and my boss told me that if I got back in the military, he was going to have to get rid of me, because he couldn't take chances on needing me to work and me getting called out for hurricanes or whatever. I was out six years before I ended up rejoining for another six years.
What kept pulling you back to it, even though it made things more difficult?
I just like serving my country, because I'm able. When I'm in uniform, sometimes people will stop me and say, "I appreciate what you’re doing. I wish I could do it." They respect me a lot just because I was in and they weren't able to be in. I'm healthy; I'm able to do it. I'm good at it, and I'm able to make a difference and help out.
Were you in the Guard when Katrina hit?
No, that was actually during my six years out, but I did get called out during Gustav in 2008 for a month. When it hit, they called – no notice or anything – as soon as it got in the Gulf [of Mexico]. It was a little hard on my wife and kids, being gone a whole month and them having to evacuate without me. I was 20 minutes away from my house, but not allowed to go home or anything. We would drive as far as we could, wade through waist deep water and go knock on doors, see if anybody needed help. The third and fourth week, we were helping with clean up.
It sounds like if you’re going to be in the National Guard and you’re in Louisiana, you’re going to be busy.
Yeah, anytime a hurricane gets into the gulf. It used to be volunteer call-out, but now it's 100 percent National Guard call-out. You live on the military salary during that time, but it’s really easy to lose your business, which a lot of guys did during Katrina. They were out six months. I knew when I rejoined that I was taking that chance. And for the oil spill, they called us out for two weeks. That one I didn’t expect.
And this whole time you were building your trucking business?
Yeah, I became an owner-operator in 2005. I hauled sod for one person. In 2008 I started getting more customers, and then I found out about Getloaded.com, so I started using the load board to help me learn.
Has the business been growing since then?
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of research in the last couple of years, trying to learn a lot. One of the things that inspired me a lot was hearing the story about Schneider trucking. The guy started his trucking business by selling his family car and selling everything he had, and now he owns thousands of trucks. I’m always thinking about that. I keep doing my homework, starting out small. The second truck is doing pretty good, and next year I’ll get my third truck and from there I’ll see if I can add a truck every year.
I decided just to check Getloaded out to be nosey and see what loads paid on the internet. Really, the first year I paid the subscription just to do my homework, just to ask questions and see what was going where. The second year, I started getting one load a month off the board and still doing my homework. When it got to the point where I could grow, I had all my homework done, so these past few years I’ve been taking more loads off the board. I try to find the ones that pay quickly. And now that I have Getloaded on my phone, I can pull over and see what’s available.
What are there tools you use the most?
I use it to gather information and finding the loads. It tells me the credit scores of the customers. I’ve tried several other load boards, but I find Getloaded a whole lot more useful. A lot of load boards will have a few of the same things, but Getloaded always has a lot more loads than the competition.
Is there anything in your training with that Guard that better equipped you for this industry?
In basic training, you start out working 16 hours a day. You have to work until the job gets done. I'm the same way now. Whenever I have work, I don't just go out there and work 6 or 8 hours. I work until the job gets done. And in the military, you're always keeping things clean, checking the oil and your tires in your truck. Don’t get lazy with any of it.
I12 TRUCKING LLC
As part of our Loaded With Pride campaign, Getloaded will donate $250 in Lawrence Jenkins' name to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency financial and other assistance to military families and wounded warriors. If you’re a Getloaded member who’s also a military veteran, contact us here. We’d love to share your story and donate another $250 in your name. Visit here to find out more about Loaded With Pride and read more stories about military veterans in the trucking industry.
About Operation Homefront: Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers across a network of field offices, and has met more than 750,000 needs since 2002. Ninety-three percent of all donations to Operation Homefront goes to its programs. For more information about Operation Homefront, please visit www.operationhomefront.net.