From Company Driver to an Owner and Operator

posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

For most of us, March 19 was just another Monday. Sure, you might have rolled into work a little late after having a fun St. Patrick’s Day weekend or perhaps were still reeling over the most recent March Madness upsets. But for the most part, it was just your average workday.

For Zach Hawley it was the first day of the biggest career change of his life.

“I never thought buying my own truck would be possible,” said Hawley. “It has always been a dream of mine, but I thought maybe 10 or 15 years down the road. To have it be an option this early in my life is just incredible.”

Hawley, who was recently employed with Iowa Select Farms as a full-time company driver, had the sudden opportunity to purchase a 2011 379 Peterbilt truck from his brother-in-law, Adam. Oddly enough, Hawley had already been driving the truck for three years as an employee of Adam’s, transporting market hogs for Iowa Select.

“Even though I’ve driven this truck before, today was unlike any other,” explained Hawley. “I didn’t hardly sleep a wink last night because I was so nervous, which is funny because this job is second-nature to me. Every time I hit a bump or heard a noise I was praying something wasn’t falling off the truck. There’s a lot more ownership when you actually own the truck and if you do something dumb, you’re the one paying for it.”

Luckily for Hawley, he and his truck avoided any bumps and bruises as he safely hauled pigs within the company’s central Iowa production system for the first time as an owner operator.

“I am so happy for Zach because I know that running his own truck has been a dream of his,” said Ron Rush, director of transportation at Iowa Select. “I’m disappointed we are losing him as a company driver, but thrilled he’s chosen to continue driving for us as an owner operator. I’m proud that Iowa Select could play a small part in making this dream a reality for him.”

If you would have asked Hawley even just a year ago if he was planning to purchase his own truck, he would have laughed in your face. However, in recent weeks, the thought of owning his own truck wouldn’t leave the back of his mind and his wife, Victoria, convinced him to set up an appointment at the bank to see what the reality of him getting a loan would be.

But the day before the bank appointment, Adam called.

“Believe it or not I was actually delivering a load of gilts to Sow 117 in Dows, where my wife Victoria works,” recalled Hawley. “It was Adam saying he had an opportunity to go over-the-road again and that he’d be selling two of his three trucks. I went to the appointment at the bank the next day, got a loan and here I am less than two weeks later with my own truck. It is almost too good to be true.”

In addition to owning his own truck, Hawley is excited that the job transition won’t mean any less time with his wife Victoria and two daughters, Brooklyn and Brealyn. “I loved driving day shifts as an employee driver and am excited to continue that as an owner operator,” said Hawley. “I can work a solid day, yet make it home by early afternoon to spend time with my girls. Family is the most important thing and Iowa Select has been so flexible to work with.”

And speaking of family, Hawley seems to have gained a second family of owner operators who were once just like him.

“Honestly, one of the coolest things about this transition has been all of the other drivers, many of whom are my close friends, stepping up and offering a helping hand,” said Hawley. “They say things like, ‘Hey man, if you ever need anything just bring your truck over to my shop for a day and I’ll help you out.’ I know they’re being genuine and it really means a lot.”

Hopefully for Hawley the future includes more family time than it does truck repair time, but at this point he’s just taking things one day at a time.

“I’d love to have multiple trucks one day, but for now we’ll just see if I can handle this one,” joked Hawley. “But in all seriousness, I feel lucky to have this opportunity with Iowa Select, my family beside me and other drivers behind me. We’re all looking out for each other and it means a lot knowing that everyone has each other’s backs. Sure, we all have our days, but at the end of the day we’re all in this together.”