Women in Expedited Trucking: Linda Caffee
If you've had any exposure to expedited trucking, you've come across Linda Caffee's name. Linda and her husband Bob got started as expedite owner-operators in 2005 and have since grown into highly sought-after ambassadors and mentors to the industry, sharing the lessons they've learned on the road to inspire other expediters to fulfill their business dreams.
EO recently caught up with Linda to learn more about her personal story--how she got started in expediting, what challenges she has faced over the years, and what she likes most about the expediter life. Here are edited highlights from our conversation.
EO: What were you doing prior to getting into expediting?
Linda Caffee: I worked at the Morton County Courthouse in Kansas as the director of IT for 14 years.
EO: Wait...You worked on computers?
LC: Yep. I spent a lot of time underneath people's desks.
EO: So, what led you to leave your job as an IT director to pursue a career in trucking?
LC: Empty nest syndrome--pure and simple. I have girls who are super active. They were just involved in so much. Our lives were about doing things with the girls, getting them from one event to another and taking care of animals that they had. It was just like, you know, when they leave home, it's going to be very boring. So let's do something for ourselves.
Bob and I got married when we were 17. We had both of our girls by the time we were 21, and so we'd never done anything. It was like, let's do something for us. That's really it: between the empty nest syndrome and deciding we wanted to do something exciting for the two of us, it's how we did it.
EO: What then got you interested in trucking? Was it because of Bob's background in working in fleets? What got you thinking about that?
LC: [In the late 1990's], we had a side business where Bob fixed trucks after he got off his normal job. [A customer] was building a show truck, and Bob helped him on that. They went to a show in Atlanta, they went to a show in Louisville, and then they talked me into going to a show in Las Vegas. Bob kept saying, "Linda, there's a whole other world out there, and there are these couples that drive these trucks."
So, in 1998, we went to Las Vegas. I talked to all these different couples, and they shared with me about their life on the road and the stuff they did and the stuff they saw. All the way home from Las Vegas, Bob and I talked about how we could do it and what we needed to do to get ready to do it.
We knew we had at that time several cars that were all fun cars, all paid for. It was like, 'Alright, we have to get rid of all of that in order to go trucking. We also had horses. And when we got home, we told our youngest daughter, "When you leave, we're leaving, too. We're going to start working on this."
Slowly but surely, we got rid of the horses. We got rid of vehicles--which was really hard. We had some really cool, old vehicles, and we just started trimming up our whole life to make it work.
EO: What, then, led you to expedited trucking versus over-the-road?
LC: We first tried to do tractor-trailer as drivers. Bob was a driver, and I rode with him. I had a driver's license, but I didn't have log booking experience. We were going to do tractor-trailer, but we pretty much figured out I did not like being a driver and quit. But we knew that we wanted to try to get back into trucking to where we would enjoy it.
And that's when I came across ExpeditersOnline.com and started searching the articles. In 2004, we went to Detroit to where the Expedite Expo was being held at that time. And we talked to everybody who was there--drivers, recruiters, truck salesmen. We figured out what truck we wanted to buy and what [trucking] company we were going to go with. It took us about six months to get everything organized so we could get started. The Expedite Expo was really how we got into it.
EO: Have you experienced any unique challenges as a woman in expediting?
LC: There's a lot of things I think women have to overcome that men just bull their way through. One of the hard things to me was learning to back [up the truck]. You know, I thought everybody was watching me back. But I had to learn that, 'You know what? It doesn't matter if they watch you or not; just do the job.' I practiced a lot backing up, which drove Bob crazy, but I did back up a lot.
EO: Have you experienced people giving you a hard time?
LC: There are always jerks, so don't get me wrong. But overall, I think that one of my greatest surprises when we got into trucking was how many men are still old-time gentlemen here, who stop to open the door or come back to open the door and say hello.
My favorite part of the trucking industry is the fact that it doesn't know gender. Your pay is the same as anybody else's. You're treated like everybody. You're treated as an equal. I like that. The other thing I like about it is it doesn't recognize age. It doesn't matter if you're 22 or you're 72, you get the same load.
EO: What do you like most about expedite life?
LC: I think it's an adventure for you and your spouse. It's a lot of fun. But for the woman who's addicted to her bathtub and that kind of stuff, this might not be the lifestyle for them. I've had women talk to me about that, and I'm like, 'You know, there aren't a lot of tubs out here. But there are private showers. You've just got to try and get over that part.' I think, personally, that expediting is a great career because it's something you can do together with your spouse and see the world.