110: Owner Operator Highlight: Shawnta Wortham’s Story

During this week’s episode of the Oakley Podcast, host Jeremy Kellett is joined by Shawnta Wortham to talk about how she got into trucking and the success she’s found here at Oakley. Trucking may be seen as “a man’s world,” but Shawnta feels right at home.

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • In loving memory of Gene and Paul (1:29)
  • About Shawnta (5:57)
  • Shawnta’s trucking journey (7:00)
  • How Shawnta got connected with Oakley (12:53)
  • The hopper experience (16:47)
  • Transitioning between trucking companies (18:20)
  • Shawnta’s long term plan (20:55)
  • The great people in the trucking business (21:25)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Shawnta Wortham  0:12  

When I came here, I felt like family. Everybody was very welcoming. They paid for my hotel and everything and answered all of my questions, took me outside, and of course, I wanted to see the end dump because I was like, ‘I want to drive that one day. I want to drive that one day. Let me see that trailer.’

Jeremy Kellett  0:29  

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business, and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley Trucking, headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner-operators and their families by giving them up-to-date information concerning Oakley Trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an inside to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family.

Hi, this is Jeremy Kellett, Director of Recruiting here at Oakley Trucking and I’m your host for this podcast. This is the Oakley podcast and this is episode 110. So joining me today I have Shawnta Wortham to talk about her story at Oakley Trucking and actually before talking about her story getting into trucking and just how she has accomplished it and been success and we’re gonna visit with her just a little bit on a lot of stuff.

But first, before I do, I’ve got to start out on a sad note. I really do and I hate to do it but we always talked about family here at Oakley Trucking and how we’re all close. And that’s the truth. We tried to get to know everybody as much as possible along with their families will. A couple of weeks ago, we had two of our finest owner operators pass away and it was very unexpected and very sad. And we hate it, but I think they leave a legacy and we’d like to recognize that as how good a job they did and how good of owner operators and truck drivers they are.

The first one is Gene Howard out of Clarksville, Arkansas. Gene was with 16 years. He’d been here a long time he’s done end up he was currently with the pneumatic tank when he passed away. And it’s really a sad deal. Gene was just 59 years old. And that’s a whole nother story with the health. But he was such a good owner operator for us and just took care of customers. And he was one of those guys that he was steady every day. You didn’t have to worry about him. There was no confrontation with him. There was no drama with him. I mean, he was just a steady hard worker, and an excellent, excellent truck driver and did a great job. And I say this, I don’t know this for sure, but I do know Gene passed away while he was at the wheel going down the interstate. It says something that he was able to pull that truck off of the interstate and hit the trees, hit the shoulder, and hit the trees without hitting anybody. I just know in my heart he was doing what he knew was right to not injure anybody else. So Gene Howard and your family, our prayers go out to you and hope you’re able to get through this tragedy, but you can. You’ll do fine. You’ll get through it. So Gene Howard, great guy.

Also, the other one that was a tragedy was Mr. Paul and Paul was with us 13 years, almost 13 years. He’s out to Coolidge, Georgia, and he pulled an end up in a pneumatic he was currently pulling pneumatic when he passed away. On April the eighth. Paul, I actually had asked his dispatcher to give me a little insight on Paul and I want to read this to you real quick. So his dispatcher said, Paul was a proud Oakley owner operator that always represented us well. He always went above and beyond to provide excellent service to our customers as well as help fellow drivers. Paul was one of the first guys I talked to when I started here. Over the past several years, I learned all kinds of helpful information from him that I passed along to other dispatchers and drivers. He always had a great attitude and positive outlook no matter the situation. Paul was a top-notch guy and I will miss working with him. He says a lot coming from his dispatcher and I talked to his family the other day and they’re just distraught but they’re trying to deal with and it’s just a sad deal it happens and our prayers go out to Paul Morrison and his family, too.

Okay, before we get to talking to miss Shawnta, let’s hear from our sponsor, Arrow Truck Sales.

Keith Wilson at Arrow Truck Sales in Springfield, Missouri is currently offering $1,000 off your first month’s payment when you finance with transport funding, or $1,000 off the truck price if you bring your own financing. They’re also discounting the cost of an extended warranty by $500. Arrow Truck Sales has been a longtime partner with Oakley Trucking and that’s because they specialize in first-time truck buyers, they don’t do any leases, they have the best-used trucks money can buy (because used trucks is all they do, they don’t sell any new trucks), and the biggest reason that Arrow and Oakley are partners is service after the sale. It is very important to us at Oakley that when we refer you to a company, that they are a good company with good people, they do what they say, and they understand our requirements. So give Keith a call at 573-216-6047 for a good used truck and tell him you heard about it on the Oakley podcast.

So Miss Shawnta Wortham is sitting in with me today. I have somehow coerced her into sitting in here and trying to get some good information out of her. Brother Miles is gonna hang out with you and check out the cameras and make sure they work the whole time, which is good. We need some technical support up in here, Miles, but we’re not given Miles a microphone yet. So Miss Shawnta, you’re an Oakley owner operator. Please introduce yourself to your listeners out there. Where you from? Family, you got hobbies you do.

Shawnta Wortham  6:06  

Okay, well, my name, as you guys know, is Shawnta Wortham. I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina. What I like to do in my spare time is be with my family. I have five children, seven grandkids, and I just had a grandson that was recently born. His name is Shiloh. Beautiful name. Every time I say it, it’s just—Shiloh—it just flows.

Jeremy Kellett  6:28  

Big family.

Shawnta Wortham  6:29  

Yes, sir.

Jeremy Kellett  6:30  

Big family. Most of them in that area.

Shawnta Wortham  6:33  


Jeremy Kellett  6:34  

Then you married? You got a husband?

Shawnta Wortham  6:35  

I am married.

Jeremy Kellett  6:36  

How long?

Shawnta Wortham  6:37  

Oh, gosh, I stopped counting. I know my husband is probably going to be listening, but 20 something years we’ve been married. Probably like 20.

Jeremy Kellett  6:47  

He would probably say the same thing if we ask him.

Shawnta Wortham  6:50  

Oh, yeah.

Jeremy Kellett  6:50  

Oh, yeah. 20 something.

Shawnta Wortham  6:52  

20 something. Being married for so long, it’s like you stop counting.

Jeremy Kellett  6:57  

So to start, I guess, before we talk about being at Oakley, how long have you been a truck driver?

Shawnta Wortham  7:04  

I have been a truck driver for four and a half years. For Yeah, I have my CDL for four and a half years and I just recently paid for my truck. So Oh, my truck is paid off. So to chain. Yes, sir. So when I got into doing the business, I say, well, if I’m going to work, I’m gonna work hard. And on my own truck one day.

Jeremy Kellett  7:27  

What did you do before this? Prior to the four and a half years ago?

Shawnta Wortham  7:31  

Well, before this, I was in health care.

Jeremy Kellett  7:33  


Shawnta Wortham  7:34  

Yes, sir. I was in health care. And I know, a lot of people probably gonna wonder like, why would you get out of health care to come into trucking? That’s the number one question. Why are you trucking? What a woman like you like being a truck driver. But anyways.

Jeremy Kellett  7:50  

That’s what everybody’s gonna think.

Shawnta Wortham  7:52  

But at the time, my mother had breast cancer, so she passed away. So I had to take a break for a while to grieve. So during the grieving process, I decided I just woke up one morning and say, You know what? I think I’m gonna drive a truck. That’s what happened. So went through training and everything and did it.

Jeremy Kellett  8:13  

Sidenote here: My mother died of breast cancer.

Shawnta Wortham  8:17  

Oh, okay.

Jeremy Kellett  8:18  

Back in 2012, so yours was a little bit more recent than that.

Shawnta Wortham  8:23  

Her birthday’s this month also as well. So yeah, so coming up.

Jeremy Kellett  8:29  

We never forget that. It’s crazy sometimes. When they were alive, we didn’t know it.

Shawnta Wortham  8:35  

You’re right.

Jeremy Kellett  8:36  

I didn’t realize it, but she’s passed away and I sure know it. It’s crazy how that happens.

Shawnta Wortham  8:42  

It’s not the same anymore. My mama’s gone and daddy’s gone, so I don’t have a mother nor father.

Jeremy Kellett  8:47  

Oh, okay. It makes it a little difficult, I’m sure.

Shawnta Wortham  8:51  

But the difference is, they’re not here, but in spirit they are. So wherever I go, they’re here.

Jeremy Kellett  8:57  

All the time.

Shawnta Wortham  8:57  

All the time.

Jeremy Kellett  8:58  

That’s perfect. So you— I’m sorry, I get sidetracked. So you woke up one day, you were taking off because your mom passed away, you wake up and going, Hey, I’m gonna drive a truck. How many people do that? Not many, I don’t think. Not when they got a good job in healthcare.

Shawnta Wortham  9:16  

Yeah, not many.

Jeremy Kellett  9:17  

What’s your husband say?

Shawnta Wortham  9:19  

Well, of course, I talked to him about it and he was like, well, babe, if you want to do it, I support you. And that’s what he did. He supported me. But then later on, he was like, when you told me that he was going to drive trucks, I didn’t believe you, but you did it. And he said, I’m proud of you. He told me he said, I’m proud of you. When I paid that truck off, he said, I am so proud of you.

Jeremy Kellett  9:46  

You gotta be diligent to do that.

Shawnta Wortham  9:48  

Oh, yes. When I do things, I think about it. I pray about it. I have goals. I set them. I accomplish them.

Jeremy Kellett  9:59  

So tell me about when you started driving and how’d you end up here?

Shawnta Wortham  10:03  

Okay, I started driving for Prime. Before this, I was at highway diamond. So I went through training with Prime. I don’t know what highway diamond— that’s what they call their female drivers, “highway diamonds.” So I started with prime and when I started with prime, I was a lease operator. So I’ve never experienced being a company driver. So I just started, I just started big. And I was leasing my truck through them. And I had wanted to buy my truck. So I had to do homework, research to see, how can I buy my truck? I mean, would it be better for me to lease metro or cheaper for me to buy my truck? And that’s what I did. I decided to buy my truck rather than paying weekly payments. Just pay my payments monthly.

Jeremy Kellett  10:58  

And you did that at prime? You got out of the lease?

Shawnta Wortham  11:00  

When I left Prime. I was a lease operator with Prime. I did my lease operating contract and I decided to buy my truck. Okay, so then I left prime and went to Landstar. And was the owner operator with Landstar for four and a half years.

Jeremy Kellett  11:21  

What do you do over there? I know they got several different divisions.

Shawnta Wortham  11:24  

Well, with Landstar I did the driving. And then I did containers. All right. So yeah, did containers haul containers for half of the time probably like half of my contract, and intermodal is going in and out forks. And that was hard work. That was really hard work. opening those doors and dealing with stuff like that was some mornings you wake up your lights don’t work on the chassis and stuff like that I had no how to run ground wires and a whole lot of stuff going down the road. Tires blowing out and but now I met Oakley, I don’t have to worry about looking at my tires or lights going out. It was a good feeling.

Jeremy Kellett  12:05  

Wasn’t there some stress? Was that not stressful when you get started, you buy a truck and you get on your own and there’s really nobody there to help you. If you’re having problems. And when you got to figure it out yourself.

Shawnta Wortham  12:18  

I wasn’t stressed at all. Because before I got into doing it, I did research, homework, prayed about it before I did it. So I knew I could do it. So it wasn’t stressful for me at all. And how I’ve done it, the grace of God. That’s how I’ve done it. So when I look back and say, Gosh, how did I do this? I did it with God.

Jeremy Kellett  12:43  

And then at some point, He led you to Oakley.

Shawnta Wortham  12:46  

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, he did.

Jeremy Kellett  12:48  

How’d that happen?

Shawnta Wortham  12:49  

Okay, now how this happened was I had a mutual friend of mine, we both went through Lance training orientation together. And we stayed in contact. Okay, don’t want orientation. I was like, hey, you guys, we should all exchanged numbers in case we have questions or network or need agents or something, so me him and I stayed in contact. And he decided to leave Landstar And he came over to Oakley and he talks so highly of Oakley. And I was just asking him questions and UPS Harper’s, what’s that? Are you talking about them trucks that go down the road at speed and really fast with chicken lights, I think they call them. It’s the chicken lights. The little lights going down. He was like, Yeah, say, boy, when I see those trucks, they’d be going down a road pretty fast. I would like to drive one of those. I want to drive one. So yeah, so I basically want it to do end dump. Unfortunately, Mr. Randolph talked me out of it. He talked me out of it. I’m just going to go ahead and say, Mr. Randolph, I’m sorry, you talked me out of it.

Jeremy Kellett  14:04  

You came by here though first, didn’t yah?

Shawnta Wortham  14:06  

I did. I did but, like I said, a mutual friend of mine told me about Oakley and I did talk to a recruiter that was here. I guess he’s no longer here anymore. I can’t remember his name. But him and I talked. And so it took me probably about three years before I decided to come up with to Oakley, to make that three decision. Yeah, three years. I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know. Because I was calling my own shots. I didn’t have to worry about someone giving me loads or whatever. I was just used to dependent on myself. You got to get your own loads and do Yeah, yeah, do everything. And that’s what I was used to. Again, I had made a major purchase, which is a truck. So hey, you have to run to make those payments.

Jeremy Kellett  14:51  

So you settled. You came over here.

Shawnta Wortham  14:57  

Yes. One day I decided to go I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina, and just pop up and say, Hey, I’m here. And I spoke with what’s his name? Harrison hair. So I’m a little nervous. Harrison, I’m sorry. But I spoke with Harrison. And I told him that I was going to come here and I came. And when I got here, everybody was just, this made me feel welcome. Mr. Randolph, and like you said, it’s a family business. And when I came here, I felt like family. Everybody was very welcoming. They paid for my hotel and everything and answered all of my questions, took me outside, and of course, I wanted to see the end dump because I was like, “I want to drive that one day. I want to drive that one day. Let me see that trailer.” And get out there saw it. And Randolph tried to show me how to Roadstar use the handles and everything. And he showed me the hopper and all that good stuff.

Jeremy Kellett  15:53  

You just decided the Hopper was a better way to start out?

Shawnta Wortham  15:56  

Well, I said, I was gonna try it. Mr. Randolph said, “Just try it.” So again, it is I try. I’m doing it and I love it. I love the hopper bottom. I do. I do.

Jeremy Kellett  16:09  

He’s telling you that from experience. He’s done it a long time and he knows it’s a little more difficult than a hopper for sure.

Shawnta Wortham  16:18  

Well, actually, I did speak to several end dump drivers while I’ve been over here. Now some of these guys tell him, Hey, you can do it, you can do it. It’s not hard. It’s not hard work. But one guy had talked to probably about two weeks ago. He was like, Well, we got to take these bolts from the top and do this and that and get in there. And I’m like, oh, yeah, I’m so happy. Randolph told me to doing the hopper bottom. That’s too much work.

Jeremy Kellett  16:46  

Well, tell me about the hopper experience. You had no idea— Well, first of all, is your friend over here? Is he doing a hopper?

Shawnta Wortham  16:53  

Yes, he is. Yes, he drives for Oakley. A hopper bottom.

Jeremy Kellett  16:56  

Oh, okay. So good. So your experience pulling a hopper, how about it?

Shawnta Wortham  17:02  

My experience pulled out a hopper I love it is the easiest thing. Look, you have drive in refrigerated containers and hopper. Ladies, Hopper is the best. Seriously.

Jeremy Kellett  17:17  

Why do you say that?

Shawnta Wortham  17:19  

Well, as far as driving is all the same. But the wait time like doing refrigerate it you have to get up to three o’clock in the morning or you get there they come knocking on your door. Hey, we’re ready to unload a load. Everybody knows when you sleep. And someone knock on the door you don’t know where you were like, Hey, what’s going on? But anyways, that’s one thing on containers is just like I said, it’s just your lights, the tires born out left and right. You can get in and out. Hopper bottom you just a you just have a handle and unroll it. It’s easy. You have to get in there to clean it out. But I mean, roll the tarp, it’s not hard at all. It’s not hard. And I like it. It’s just I don’t know, it’s just easy. Different, easier is different. It is easy. I say that it’s easy. It’s really not hard.

Jeremy Kellett  18:20  

Was it hard for you to go from a place like Landstar controlling everything you did to Oakley where we tell you the loads, we plan for you?

Shawnta Wortham  18:33  

Yes, it is hard. I’m not gonna lie. It’s just sometimes I tell myself, okay, I have to get acclimated with things is really hard is hard. But I’m not gonna lie to you. It is because like I said, the whole time I’ve been doing things myself and the truck the proof and you got to put the trust into Oakley. Yes, he had to put that trust and Oakley dispatch, that you’re gonna make the money and stuff you need to make. So it’s hard.

Jeremy Kellett  19:04  

Sure. But, now that you’ve been here six months, is it a little less stressful than having to do everything yourself? At least here? You got the trailer, you don’t have to worry about all the upkeep on it. It’s paid for.

Shawnta Wortham  19:20  

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the best thing about Oakley to guys. When you’re talking about owner operators, or independent contractors or whatever the situation might be with I don’t want to call out names. Oakley is the way to go when you talk about the trailer, the upkeep on it. You don’t have to worry about anything. If the tires blow out or the maintenance on it, you don’t have to worry about that. Of course, if you damage something the right thing to do is pay for it, but far as the overall look at it, you are not being hit left and right for fees and stuff.

Jeremy Kellett  20:01  

And that that goes a long way with a lot of owner operators that we talk to, having that equipment. We’re known for good-looking equipment and well maintained and that goes a long way with owner operators because I see people here all the time, they want to: that’s my trailer. I want to pull my trailer. They don’t want to hook to a different trailer because maybe they take pride in that it feels like their own, which is what we want them to do.

Shawnta Wortham  20:29  

Oh, yeah, ’cause my trailer is my baby. I have a friend of mine say you just act like that’s just your Oh my Yes, it is. That’s mine. I don’t want to part by anyone or anything. That’s my baby. Oakley gave that to me, and my dispatch gave me good equipment. So you guys trust me with I’m gonna make sure I take care of it.

Jeremy Kellett  20:50  

What’s the long-term plan for Shawnta Wortham?

Shawnta Wortham  20:53  

My long-term plan. I’m hoping I can stay with Oakley, that’s my long term. I don’t like to job hop, but eventually, one day, I’m probably looking at probably getting my own authority or something like that, probably. Eventually.

Jeremy Kellett  21:12  

I think that’s everybody.

Shawnta Wortham  21:15  

But that’s a big responsibility. So you have to learn. I say homework and research, guys. It’s a lot of responsibility. And I’m like, Am I really ready for that? I don’t know.

Jeremy Kellett  21:27  

I’m sure a lot of people wonder, how does a woman deal every day in the trucking business? We’ve been known to be a man’s world, in the trucking business. Have you had issues, problems, or has everybody accepted you pretty good?

Shawnta Wortham  21:44  

I think everyone has always accepted me pretty good. I haven’t had any issues or problems with any male drivers or anything like that. I think trucking has been good to me. I love it.

Jeremy Kellett  21:59  

The reason I ask that is because trucking has got a bad reputation (and has had for years) and others don’t think people understand on the outside of trucking how good a people that are in trucking. There’s just some great, great— not only at Oakley, but all in trucking that make this world go around. What, three and a half million truck drivers in the United States?

Shawnta Wortham  22:23  

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jeremy Kellett  22:25  

A lot of good people out there.

Shawnta Wortham  22:26  

And I have met good people. Yes, I really have. I have one friend that we came in orientation together and we talk almost every day, or probably once a week he’ll call me to make sure I’m okay. And if he doesn’t hear from me, he’s worried.

Jeremy Kellett  22:41  

That’s great. Well, we want you to make good connections and good contacts here at Oakley, too. Hey, I appreciate you visiting with me and telling your story.

Shawnta Wortham  22:51  

Thank you.

Jeremy Kellett  22:52  

Anything else you’d like to add?

Shawnta Wortham  22:53  

Ladies, like I said, Hopper bottoms, you probably don’t know what they look like or anything, but it’s a 43 or 45-foot box. I say chicken-like. You see a little what you want to call a little door put underneath the bottom. It’s the way to go, ladies. Hopper. If you get into doing it, you will love it. You will love it. We don’t have too many females that’s doing it. We can do it. We need more. We really do. We need more females out here.

Jeremy Kellett  23:24  

Well maybe somebody listening to this will wake up one day and go I think, I’m gonna drive a truck.

Shawnta Wortham  23:32  

Oh, yeah. But homework and research first. Don’t just wake up.

Jeremy Kellett  23:35  

And pray. He’ll lead you in the right direction.

Shawnta Wortham  23:39  

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jeremy Kellett  23:41  

Well, great stuff, Shawnta. I appreciate you visiting with me. And as always, for our listeners out there, and there will be podcasts. You guys are great. appreciate you listening and giving me feedback. Every week, it helps us know what direction to go here at Oakley. We’re trying to give you good information to be successful as an owner operator. So please let me know for signs you want to hear wants to talk about we should watch this on YouTube if you want to do that. And just search for the Oakley podcast on YouTube will come up and share subscribe and comment and lock is on everything. Check out our social media. And once again, we’ll talk to you next week.

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