According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of around 80,000 drivers. The industry is taking many different strategies to address that deficit, and two former inmates are taking a different approach to first help people and trucking.
Joining Jason and Matt this week on CCJ's 10-44 are Aaron Smith and Ed Hennings, former inmates who are now trying to help others beat the odds, and in turn help the trucking industry, with their Escaping the Odds box truck course.
The course is aimed at helping the formerly incarcerated and others looking for a new direction in life learn the ins and outs of getting started in non-CDL trucking and teaching them how to eventually start their own companies.
Contents of this episode
00:00 Two former inmates and a box truck course
05:14 A podcast about overcoming the odds
06:49 Creating an online box truck course
09:21 Becoming an entrepreneur in trucking
13:09 Bringing more people into trucking
14:48 Learning the industry through non-CDL training
How trucking has helped two former inmates turn their lives around, and impact the lives of others.
Hey, everybody. And welcome back to the 10-44, a weekly episode from the editors here at CCJ. I'm Jason Cannon and my co-host on the other side is Matt Cole. According to American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry is currently facing a driver shortage of about 80,000. The industry has taken many different strategies to address that deficit, but two former inmates are taking a different approach to help people, and in turn help the industry.
Aaron Smith and Ed Hennings both spent time in prison. But when they got out, they were determined to turn their own lives around, as well as help others. To do that, they started a box truck class to help other formerly incarcerated people, or anyone else, looking for new opportunity. Today, we are joined by Aaron and Ed who talk about how they got involved in trucking after their time in prison, their Escaping the Odds online box truck class, and how it's helping introduce people to trucking.
I knew education was a big part of what I wanted to go in life, but I also had one foot in and one foot out. That one foot in one foot out led to a 12-year sentence in federal prison for heroin. And that was at the age of 25, and I went to prison when I was 27. And I always been like an entrepreneur. I never really had any experience in trucking, but I knew that it was a viable opportunity.
And so when I was released, nine years later after spending close to a decade inside, I knew that trucking was an option for me. Because I did have a little bit of experience, enough to wet my appetite to know that okay, this can be something potentially lucrative. And not only just that, but also the opportunity to put people in position to do it themselves as well.
I started working for a freight broker, getting that information and experience, which led to the trucking company that I created as well. Which led to the trucking course that Ed and I partnered on, that we're here to talk about today. Which led to the podcast that Ed and I is also working on, and it's called Urban Truckers. So that's a quick synopsis of over the last 15 years or so, what led to the trucking industry for myself.
Very similar to Aaron. I served time in prison. I served 20 years in prison. And while I was in prison I had to make a lot of changes, and I took a barber and cosmetology course while I was in prison. And I got my barber and cosmetology license with a dream and a promise to one day own my own barber and beauty salon. About a year after being released, I got out in October, 2016. Late 2017, early 2018, I had accomplished that dream of opening my own barber shop and beauty salon. But about four months into that business, a young man sat in my chair and told me about a truck that he had purchased and about the amount of money he was making in that truck. And the entrepreneur in me made me go out and buy a truck. And by the time he came back for that next haircut, I had bought my own truck and I just needed a few more nuggets to get started, man.
And I got involved in trucking. It's been a journey the last, I'm going to say since 2018 up until now. The thing about trucking is that it captivated my attention. It was so many different things that I didn't know about trucking, that once I got started in the business, I've just been fascinated with the people that I've been meeting. Aaron is one of them. Just people that I've been meeting in this industry.
And now it's just a big push of me just highlighting through the podcast, even in my own neighborhood, where they watched me walk out of prison after serving 20 years. And buy a home and do a lot of things because of trucking. In turn, I started trying to help people in my own neighborhood that was gang affiliated, that was in making the fast money and living the fast life. I've been using my time and say, "Hey man, you should get a truck. You should not pick up drugs, you should get a truck, man. The money is comparable."
Just to say that, and once me and Aaron partnered with Stretch, we started to formulate a lot more polished version of what you may be doing with your friends, and what you may be doing in your neighborhood. And we put together a very extensive product as far as the class is concerned.
And me and Aaron just take it a step further and started the podcast where we just highlighting the new face of trucking, where Burt Reynolds was Smokey and the Bandit back in the day when I was growing up. Now that face looks totally different. You might see a truck and might see some beautiful young lady walk out of that truck and you are like, "Wow, I didn't expect that." So that's what we seeing more and more nowadays, man. And that just really got my attention and I love what I'm seeing.
Not long after Aaron got out of prison, he started a podcast to highlight the stories of people who had overcome difficult odds to be successful. And he came across Ed's story. That connection is what led them to start their box truck class together in partnership with financial tech firm, Stretch Finance.
I started the podcast. And so I'm looking for people to come on and I came across Ed's profile, "Okay, cool, definitely would like to get his story." And we clicked since then. He came on one time. I started the podcast in 2019, about six months after my own release. And Ed came on maybe like 2020, somewhere around there. And I brought him back on in 2021 or last year. And from there I'm like, "Hey, I want to create this box truck course with this other company. I think that you'd be great for it. You know, have the experience. And we both understand trucking and we both had the experience of escaping the odds, and overcoming something. And I think that the audience will really resonate with that and we can give them really something extensive from an unlikely source."
And so we partnered up and done that and I'm like, "Hey, let's take it a step further since I have the experience with the podcast. Just media." Ed wanted to create a podcast and I've been telling him, "Hey, let's work together on that." And so finally we've been able to do that. And so we are with filming the Urban Trucker as we speak. And so that's pretty much sums it up.
Aaron says Stretch Finance approached him about a partnership after the company came across an article he was featured in, which in time led to the start of the box truck course.
That was an article that was written up on me back in 2020 or so. I was featuring in the Wall Street Journal just about banking for the formerly incarcerated, the hurdles that some experienced post-incarceration with bank accounts. And they came across my article, and they were already in a space of microfinance and the things of that nature. They was like, "Hey, I think we want to kind of start a bank for the formerly incarcerated or quasi kind of bank for the formerly incarcerated."
I was like, "Oh, okay, cool." So I started working with them on there and on that front. And they also wanted to create content that'll be relevant to some of their potential clients. And I was like, "Hey, well trucking is really... A lot of people want to get into that and I have experience in it, and I know somebody else that'll be perfect to be the face and host it." And so since I already had a rapport with Ed, I reached out, I said, "Hey man, look, let's go in on this thing. I think it'll be a right fit for all parties involved." And so that's how that kind of came about. And so here we are.
Ed explains that the goal of their box truck course is to help people learn from start to finish, how to be an entrepreneur and start their own business in trucking. We're going to hear more about that after a word from our 10-44 sponsor. Chevron Lubricants.
Protecting your diesel engine and its after treatment system has traditionally been a double edged sword. The same engine oil that is so essential to protecting your engine's internal parts is also responsible for 90% of the ash that is clogging up your DP, and upping your fuel and maintenance costs. Outdated industry thinking still sees a trade off between engine and emission system protection and Chevron was tired of it. So they spent a decade of R&D developing a no compromise formulation.
Chevron Lubricants developed a new ultra low ash diesel engine oil that is specifically designed to combat DPF ash clogging Delo 600 ADF with OmniMax technology cuts sulfate ash by whopping 60%, which reduces the rate of DPF clogging and extends DPF service life by two and a half times. And just think what you can do with all the NPGs you're going to add from cutting your number of regions. But Delo 600 ADF isn't just about after treatment. It provides complete protection, extending drain intervals by preventing oil breakdown before you had to choose between protecting your engine or your after treatment system. And now you don't. 600 ADF from Delo with OmniMax technology. It's time to kick some ash.
With the box truck course, it's from A to Z. Starting from start to finish, being able to take somebody that has absolutely not any knowledge at all of trucking. And being able to take that person and walk them step by step from not knowing anything to starting their own trucking business. And once again, targeting people like the formally incarcerated, targeting people that haven't got their feet wet in the field of entrepreneurship yet. But these people are more than capable of jumping and doing this type of work. They just don't know it. And it takes somebody like us to have probably went and fell further than they have. But in this box truck course, we definitely get extensive with numbers. We have templates and we also have firsthand knowledge, because me and Aaron alike, we both run our own trucking companies.
Not only are we giving them the templates for the numbers, we're giving them firsthand experience that we're in the trenches every day in these trucks. So we are able to bring back valuable information that maybe some other courses that's just from a standpoint of theory, this is all hands on right here, this is not any theory. I think that really puts us in a position to say, "Hey man, I'm going to broadcast live from the truck today and talk to the class members while I'm out here in the trenches working." That's a whole different angle that our class can offer.
And to add to that, every week we hold a Zoom call. Where some weeks we may bring on a freight broker. Other week we may bring on an insurance broker. All of the professionals that a person would need to be successful in this space. We want to make sure that we connect them so they can be successful on their journey. And like I say, we are holding their hand through the process because that's what some people need. That's what we're working on. I think we have a fantastic offering, product. And it's different from others because we do have that hands on with no additional costs and we consistently building on the product as we grow the content increases as well. We find that a lot of people like that as well.
Ed says the driver shortage was a big part of the decision to start the course. Adding that his own experience as a trucking company owner let him experience firsthand the industry's need for drivers
80,000 is in the back of every trucker's mind. When we start looking for drivers for our own companies, when we start looking for other entrepreneurs to get involved in this industry, we definitely make that number. The first one or two things we bring up is that 80,000 short man. You're not entering into a saturated field. This thing is wide open, and it is begging for more to get involved because we need it. So that 80,000 is something that I mention right away.
When we first kind of conceptualize this program. Of course, being formerly incarcerated, that's Ed and I's story. And that's a lot of people's story, that they drive trucks. However, the course is not only just for people who have been impacted by the system it's for anyone to kind of just want to change in their career. But just so happened, we do know oftentimes trucking industry is a career that many individuals who have a criminal background, this is what they want to do. That's probably the top three careers of someone who's formerly incarcerated or who's incarcerated. Now this is what they want to do when they come home. And we recognize that because that's part of our story, but we also know that other people who doesn't have a background, they want to get involved in this too. So we open it up for everyone.
Going forward with the course. Aaron and Ed are looking to partner with other organizations in trucking to help expand the class and provide more opportunities for people who want to get into trucking.
We're partnering up with, not only just organizations, whether they're non-profits or not, but then also with companies that want to tap in to some of these students. We do have something in play right now, or we have an agreement with a nice size organization in the trucking industry. And we want to continue to build those relationships to bring the box truck course to the forefront and make it mainstream. But then also reaching out to these non-profit organizations that, they have a pool of a population of people that want to get into the space. So we offer scholarship program. And so that's what we are looking to do more of with organizations out there, where that we can kind of distribute those scholarships to their particular demographic. And just kind of have impact within the community as well.
And while the course is designed for non-CDL holders to get their foot in the door of trucking, Aaron says many of the same business principles apply for people wanting to get into bigger trucks as well.
It is a non-CDL, you don't have to have your commercial driver's license for it. However, some of the same things that you may learn about getting you MC, DOT number, dealing with brokers, dispatchers, financial models, Ed talked about. That could be applied if you do have a CDL, you can still take the course and learn the business behind it.
That's it for this week's 10-44. You can read more on ccjdigital.com and as always, you can find the 10-44 each week on CCJ's YouTube channel. If you've got questions, comments, criticisms or feedback, please hit us up at email@example.com or give us a call at 404-491-1380. Until next week, everybody stays safe.