In The News
Women in Expedited Trucking: Petra Webb
Meet Petra Webb. Originally from the Netherlands, Petra moved to the States in 2001 after marrying her husband Jason, a U.S. Army veteran.
Before joining Jason as an over-the-road driver in 2005, she worked as a front office manager at a hotel in Orlando, Fla. And 10 years later, in 2015, the couple made the transition to expedited trucking. Today, Petra and Jason drive a tractor-trailer for MSR Transport Services, an Ohio-based expedited trucking firm founded by Army and Navy veterans who started the company to provide post-military career opportunities for veterans.
So, what led Petra and Jason to become expediters? And what advice does Petra have for other women who may be considering a career in expedited trucking?
EO recently caught up with Petra to learn more about her story--how she got started in expediting and what she likes most about the expediter lifestyle. Here are edited highlights from our conversation.
EO: What caused you to leave the hotel industry to try over-the-road trucking?
Petra Webb: I was working in Orlando for a Homewood Suites by Hilton, where I was the front office manager. I got along great with my general manager; we just worked together perfectly. But then we got a new GM, and she and I did not get along at all.
I tried to stick it out for almost a year [after the management change], but then the relationship just collapsed to the point where I didn't trust her anymore. I decided to give my two weeks notice and leave.
At the time, my husband had been driving a truck, which he had done on and off since 1998. He said, "Why don't you come with me on the road and see some of the country?" Because I came from the Netherlands and hadn't really seen anything [in America] yet, I said, "Okay," and went on the road with him. But I was bored within a month because I wasn’t driving. I said, "Well, I need to get my CDL and drive or go find another job because I can't just sit here.”
EO: After several years driving over-the-road, what led you and Jason to try expedited trucking in 2015?
PW: At the time, the company we were with dropped the team rate for the account we were running for. We thought, "Okay, we're running our butts off for this account, and you're gonna pay us even less?"
And with over-the-road, you just don't get any time to spend together. You're constantly driving, sleeping, driving, sleeping. We were just tired of that.
So, we were like, "No, that's it." And it happened that, about the same time, we met a team from MSR when we were parked in Ontario, California at the Petro.
The MSR driver saw my husband sitting in the truck, and he came over to chat about whether Jason had served in the military. My husband said, "Yes,” and the driver started talking about how much he liked their company and what they were doing as expediters and how much more money they were making by doing half the actual work that they were doing before.
So, we said, "Okay, we need to try this. If it's not what they say it is, we can just go somewhere else.”
The move has really paid off because we're making more now than we did over-the-road, and we're only doing half the work.
And a whole new world opened up before us. In expediting, you get a lot more respect from shippers and receivers. That's the first thing that was really a big difference to us--how you get treated.
EO: Why do you think there was such a big difference between over-the-road and expedite in terms of how you’re treated?
PW: I honestly don't know. I think maybe it's just the way that you're being perceived. The customer pays a lot more money to get their freight taken care of in expediting. If you go to grocery warehouses, they just really don't care so much as long as their freight gets there. But with the kind of customers we have now, it's just a lot more involved.
And you’re just treated differently. One of the first customers we went to when we started expediting greeted us outside and said, "If you guys want any coffee or you need to use the restroom, just come on inside." We were just like, "Wow!” A lot of the grocery warehouses we used to run to would have big signs up saying that they don't have restrooms or that they don't want you to do this, that, and the other--it’s a completely different experience.
EO: Have you experienced any challenges unique to being a woman in expediting?
PW: No. I just feel that you do get a lot more respect in expediting. Especially as a woman, I feel that a lot of folks really want to help you a lot more than if you're in a regular OTR job.
EO: What do you like most about the expedite life?
PW: I like that you have the opportunity to meet up with friends and just enjoy life more. You have the flexibility to go some place or just take a weekend off. And I enjoy driving for a company where you generally feel appreciated by the owners because they really take good care of us. That has made a huge difference. Now, I'm enjoying my job again.
EO: What advice do you have to give to other women who are thinking about getting into the expedite life?
PW: Expediting is not for everyone. I can say that because we've had friends try it, but it just didn't work out for them, most likely because they wanted to run hard. If you want to run hard then this is not the life for you. You have to have patience, not really caring if you have to sit a day or two before you get another load.
But if you want to feel more respected in trucking and if you want some more free time, then expediting is the thing for you.
Each woman spotlighted in “Women in Expediting” will receive a one year membership to the Women In Trucking Association, a non profit organization representing all women employed within the trucking industry. For information visit www.womenintrucking.org.