By Carmen K. Sisson | Randall-Reilly/J.B. Hunt Transport Services
By the time Sam Shifflett could walk, he knew he wanted to drive. Dump trucks, fire trucks, big rigs — he loved them all. So when he signed on with J.B. Hunt Transport Services in January 1997, he immediately felt at home.
There was only one problem — he didn’t want to live on the road. His wife, Robyn, and his baby girl, Chyanne, needed him, and though he loved trucking, he loved his family more.
I’m able to be home and see Chyanne grow up instead of being on the road one and two weeks at a time. I don’t hesitate to request time off. With me being (a DCS driver), they have no problem with it. They go out of their way and do their best to give me home time. ~ Sam Shifflett, driver
J.B. Hunt’s Dedicated Contract Services offered the best of both worlds — local and regional routes, fair pay, flexible hours, and plenty of home time.
Shifflett, now 50, had been driving a dump truck for another company, but the DCS program lured him to J.B. Hunt and has kept him here for nearly two decades.
Every morning, he packs a sandwich, kisses his wife and daughter goodbye, and slides behind the wheel to begin another day of hauling for Target Corporation’s distribution center and retail stores.
On a good day, he travels 550 to 600 miles, driving from his home in Staunton, Va., to northeast Virginia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and sometimes Delaware and New Jersey. By 10 p.m., he’s home again, helping his daughter with her homework and catching up with his wife about her day.
His rotating Sunday through Friday, Sunday through Thursday schedule has allowed him to do many things he might have otherwise missed. Chyanne, now 15, is a member of her high school marching band, and Shifflett enjoys watching her perform in parades and at Friday night football games. As for himself, he loves spending weekends in what he calls “heaven” — lounging in his recliner, watching football on his 52-inch plasma TV, or snuggled on the couch with Robyn, watching a horror movie or the latest action flick.
He attributes it all to J.B. Hunt’s family-friendly schedules and accommodating staff personnel.
J.B. Hunt really treated us with respect. The gratitude they showed is something I’ll remember forever. They treated us like rock stars. ~ Sam Shifflett, driver
“I’m glad about the Dedicated Contract Services accounts,” Shifflett says. “I’m able to be home and see Chyanne grow up instead of being on the road one and two weeks at a time. I don’t hesitate to request time off. With me being (a DCS driver), they have no problem with it. They go out of their way and do their best to give me home time.”
J.B. Hunt’s DCS team is made up of approximately 4,900 drivers serving more than 400 customer locations, with new accounts being added daily.
Not only do drivers receive extensive training, they are also rewarded for their efforts, Shifflett says. As a self-professed “old-school driver,” he already had a solid background in safety, but J.B. Hunt’s training has allowed him to achieve more than he ever imagined.
In 2013, he was named Regional Driver of the Month and Southeast Regional Driver of the Year. He was also recognized with 39 other drivers for two million miles of safe driving. The special awards banquet and custom-made decal they placed on his truck made him feel good, he says.
I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and there’s always something new. There’s an open feeling in being able to be out there, driving down the road, seeing my part of the country. There’s a pride I feel when I can get my load from point A to point B and do it safely. ~ Sam Shifflett, driver
“J.B. Hunt really treated us with respect,” Shifflett says of himself and the other honorees. “The gratitude they showed is something I’ll remember forever. They treated us like rock stars.”
The management team makes him feel appreciated and understood, Shifflett says. And lately, he’s thinking of retiring with the company.
But first, there’s one thing he still wants to do — earn the three million mile safety award.
“It gives you a challenge,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and there’s always something new. There’s an open feeling in being able to be out there, driving down the road, seeing my part of the country. There’s a pride I feel when I can get my load from point A to point B and do it safely.”
But whether he is behind wheel or walking through his front door, Shifflett agrees — there is no place like home.
Q: Why did you choose J.B. Hunt?
A: I had tried other jobs in areas such as heating and cooling — I really wasn’t happy with that. I started driving with my late stepdad, and he trained me the old-school way. J.B. Hunt is really the first big company I’ve worked with since I started my driving career.
Q: What’s the best part about being a dedicated driver?
A: I’m in the same dedicated area all the time. I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder. I’m making a good living. I’m able to sleep in my own bed and rest comfortably. There are drivers that aren’t able to come home every night. I just got to where I was over that and asked, “Can you get me home more often?”
Q: What gets you excited about trucking?
A: All the drivers I work with feel a sense of camaraderie, and even the ones I don’t work with – we’ll pass each other and throw up a hand and wave. We’re all in it together. Even though I’ve been driving for 17 years, there’s always something new. You always expect the unexpected. It’s a challenge.
Q: What is your best safety practice?
A: When it rains, slow down. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time out on the highway. You don’t need to get in the truck with a chip on your shoulder. Make sure you get in the truck in a good mood, because a bad mood can lead to something you don’t want to happen.
Q: If you could change anything about the trucking industry, what would it be?
A: If I didn’t have to deal with all the inconsiderate people on the highway that don’t respect trucks, I would enjoy it more. I’d like all the other drivers to respect each other out there. You have some old drivers who don’t respect the new guys. They forget that they were at one time new themselves.
Q: What is your favorite trucking song?
A: I like rock and roll, all kinds of hard rock and some classic rock. I don’t like too much country music — the trucks are slow enough.
Q: Tell us your all-time favorite book or movie.
A: When I’m reading a book, I always think I can be doing something more productive, but I used to buy a lot of DVDs of horror movies and action movies. My favorite actors are Samuel Jackson, Will Smith and Vin Diesel. A couple of weeks ago, they had the original “Smokey and the Bandit” on TV. It brought back memories of what I was doing back in those days.