ATLANTA — In May, NBA superstar Kyrie Irving invested $500,000 in Fleeting, a Black-owned, New York-based commercial trucking and fleet management services company. This investment didn’t come out of the blue for Irving, who has been an activist for seven years, and recently started his own consulting firm and venture fund to help support Black- and women-owned businesses.
It also wasn’t out of the blue for Fleeting’s founder and CEO, Pierre Laguerre, to support and train formerly incarcerated men and women to the trucking industry.
Fleeting is preparing to launch a three-month training program to provide former inmates with the tools needed to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The program is also designed to address the nationwide truck driver shortage and expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.
“Right now, this transportation industry is on the brink of being short 900,000 drivers,” Laguerre said. “Too often, we live in a world where people think that a trucking industry problem is just a trucking industry problem, and I’m here to tell everyone that’s not true. A trucking industry problem is one that can affect every American citizen in this country.”
Laguerre’s goal is also to destigmatize truck driving and employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. By removing bias from Fleeting’s hiring process, it can give employees equal access to more financial freedoms, he said. More distinctly, it’s about destigmatizing female employment.
“It’s 2021, and I think you’re supposed to be in a place now where we can provide tools for young women and young men to be able to make better financial decisions,” Laguerre said. “I think as men truckers, we have a moral obligation to make trucking a safe space for women so we can attract more women into the industry. Women face the same challenges as men truckers, if not more.”
With current employees, Fleeting provides incentives for women truckers and those with families by providing flexible hours and access to shorter trips. His primary business model is to provide a platform for independent truck owners and small carriers to have large carrier resources.
Although Fleeting has the resources, owner-operators and drivers still have the freedom to control earnings and schedules. This also applies to truck drivers who would like to have their own truck but do not have the flexibility or earnings to purchase one.
“By taking those existing assets that aren’t being utilized, putting them into our platform, it (allows) drivers in the industry to operate like an owner-operator without the headaches of owning the truck or the entire pain point of going through owning a truck,” he said.
While Laguerre was creating his company, he captured the attention of Marcus Glover, co-founder and managing director of Irving’s Lockstep Ventures. When Irving discovered an interest in Black-owned farms and how trucking impacted the agriculture industry, Laguerre’s business seemed a perfect fit.
“It just turned out that we both had, for different reasons, this tremendous interest in the venture that Pierre was leading,” Glover said. With the joint KAI 11 Consulting and Lockstep Ventures investment, curriculum and community directors will be added on to the program. Incarcerated individuals will be informed of the program three months before their release.
“Prior to their release, we want them to really get the understanding of general knowledge of transportation,” Laguerre said.
To do this, participants will be given a CDL handbook to study before eventually being matched to a training school. Once the individuals obtain a CDL, they will be placed with Fleeting’s existing drivers for six months to understand safety, customer interactions and trucking regulations.
Laguerre’s inspiration to support others comes from his own background. At age 16, he had dreams of becoming a neurologist, but his normal day-to-day picture of life was watching his peers being locked up for one reason or another.
“My fear of becoming a statistic, my fear of becoming a part of that environment … I wanted to escape,” he said. “Trucking was my only escape.”
Trucking also turned out to be Laguerre’s fate — in a good way. While his dreams landed him in college, financial hardship led him to become a truck driver. He continued his career and eventually created his own company, but he never forgot the streets that built him.
“I felt like I had a moral obligation to build this platform to give drivers the true flexibility and upward mobility that they deserve and give the shippers the transparency and access that they desperately need today,” he said. “With me being a driver, I can relate to drivers. I can show them empathy, and exactly what they need to do to be successful, or just how I was able to be successful myself.”
While on that mission, Laguerre has found a way transform the fate he avoided into an opportunity for those who have been incarcerated. The training program to turn inmates into truck drivers will begin later this year.