Lolita Caldwell’s father was a truck driver and her mother owned and oversaw a private school day care. She’s managed to follow in both of their footsteps, but at different times.
Her father bought her mother the school building, and Caldwell later inherited the school when her mother turned it over to her.
“She got into it when I was nine and she started keeping kids at home. She got the day care center when I was 12. My daddy bought her a building and she turned it into a private school. The trucking life bought the school,” Caldwell, from Atlanta, said.
Caldwell ran the school for about 23 years, and said that when she got burnt out on it she knew trucking was what she wanted to do next.
When she was growing up she’d always help her father work on his truck, dirtying up her dresses as she helped him with repairs. She loved driving, and had always wanted to drive a big rig, so she turned over the school to another family member, put her belongings in storage, and went out to Phoenix to attend Swift’s driving school. She acquired her CDL in 2009 and has worked with Swift since. She’s now an owner-operator with Swift. She owns and drives a purple 2011 Prostar International, which she calls the “Cupcake Carriage.”
Making such a big change was scary at first, Caldwell says, but she didn’t want to let fear hold her back.
“I think it was always in my blood, but then I also had my mom at the school, so that became priority and I enjoyed the children,” Caldwell said. “When I got to a point in my life where I felt like I just wanted to do something different, trucking was the thing.”
When she owned the school, she was responsible for all aspects of its operation. She oversaw enrollment, administration, transportation, and nursing care for students who had conditions such as asthma or needed to have certain medicines administered. Her experience running the school has helped her as an owner-operator. While they’re different types of businesses, some of the management aspects are still the same.
“The business aspect is a little different but it also has some of the same aspects, as far as you have to make sure you have an accountant or a CPA. You want to have somebody like that,” Caldwell said. “You want to have a business attorney, to help you with the legalities and stuff like that. You want to pay your taxes so you want to make sure you have a good CPA and all of that. Those are some of the things that I brought over from the school into the trucking industry.”
Her patience, however, has been the biggest tool she’s carried over from her experience managing the school. Working with the children taught her a lot of patience, and that’s helped her be successful as a small business owner with her truck.
“You have to be patient with other drivers, whether they’re in a truck, a car, a motorcycle. You have to be patient with everybody. Not only is it your life that’s at stake, but their life is at stake,” Caldwell said.
One of her favorite things about trucking, outside of the travel, is all the people she gets to meet.
“I love the people that I meet everyday and our customers, because I meet somebody new basically everyday,” Caldwell said. “You have to be a real people person because you’re representing whatever company that you’re working for and you want to represent that company in a great and positive way.”