People come to the trucking industry from all walks of life. Many find that, once they get to the industry, they find a purpose and fulfillment they missed in an earlier career. That’s certainly true of April Taylor, who set aside a lucrative career in real estate law to work alongside her husband and family in the trucking industry. She says she hasn’t looked back.
Taylor had already earned an undergraduate degree in business administration when a friendly competition with a sister pushed her to go for a law degree. She graduated from South Texas College of Law in 2017.
At the time, her husband, Damon, owned a truck and was hauling flatbed freight. He added two more tractors and then found an opportunity with Amazon’s AFP (Amazon Freight Partners) program. The agreement added more tractors to the family business, but it also added more management and administration tasks, so Damon asked April to help him out.
“It’s his fault,” she told The Trucker. “It’s his fault that we spent all that money on me going to law school, and I only practice on the side.”
The trucking business doesn’t leave much time for anything “on the side.”
The family’s company, branded Opulent Transport LLC, currently runs 18 CNG (compressed natural gas) tractors in the Amazon system, plus seven more that are dedicated to the flatbed side of the business. In addition, they’re looking to move into intermodal hauling. Amazon plans to expand its contracted fleet to haul its own intermodal loads from railyards to distribution centers.
“I mean, all of this was new,” Taylor said of her transition into trucking. “I had to learn this whole new terminology, to figure out, ‘What’s a bobtail?’ and, ‘What’s intermodal?’”
Taylor learned quickly and found that she enjoyed the business of keeping everything running smoothly.
“I get up in the morning, and I’m excited to find loads,” she said. “It’s really crazy. And when the drivers are calling us in the middle of the night, I’m excited about it. It doesn’t bother me, because I know what we’re doing and what it’s leading to.”
Taylor has a hand in everything that passes through the office.
“My husband is the heavy-duty technician and, of course, he drives, too,” she said. “I’m uploading the BOLs (bills of lading) and the invoices and doing the billing, but then things happen. I had a driver call me today and he’s like, ‘Look, they started unloading me, and then they call me out,’ so I got to call the broker and say, ‘Hey look, my driver has a backhaul he’s got to get to.’”
She doesn’t spend the entire day behind a desk.
“I go to the yard. I’ll clean out the trucks, follow them to go get tires put on the tractors, carry the tires in the back of our pickup truck,” she shared.
Because the Amazon tractors run on CNG, she makes sure each driver knows how to fuel the truck.
“I make sure that they watched the YouTube videos, and I’m able to walk them through it,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten a touch on everything except driving.”
Due to the unique nature of the Amazon runs, most of the drivers are highly experienced people who were looking for a way to get off the road.
“We have two drivers per tractor, and those drivers run 13-hour shifts three days. Our rigs run Sunday through Saturday,” Taylor explained.
The runs are generally less than 300-miles and the drivers are home every night. That’s a schedule that women drivers, in particular, have found attractive.
“A lot of our drivers are females. They’re able to be with their families, since they’re only working three days a week and are home every day,” Taylor said. “That is a big thing for me, because I was the woman who had to call in to work whenever the kids got sick. And so, being able to provide that for women drivers — I truly appreciate being in a position to do that.”
The three-day work schedule also helps in covering driver absences.
“We have part time drivers that only work for us one or two days a week, but because our drivers only work three days a week, they’re always jumping on an opportunity to work an extra day to increase their income,” Taylor said.
Friends and family help in the business, helping complete necessary tasks while adding to the supervisory responsibility. One of the Taylors’ four children helps with dispatching and is working to earn his CDL.
Another works with the Amazon loads. “His fiancée does HR and payroll for us, so that’s taken a lot off me,” Taylor said.
Another hire is the director of trucking operations for Opulent, who also has a unique story.
“She actually was going to school for criminal justice,” Taylor said. “Her brother had a trucking company, and he bet her $1,500 that she couldn’t drive a tractor-trailer. So, she took the bet and got her license, as well as the cash from the bet.”
Bringing in others to help allows the Taylors give back to the community, too.
“We’re training one of my husband’s friends now to start (booking loads) with us,” Taylor explained. “He was just recently released from prison. He’s on board and learning and doing well.”
It’s a helping hand Taylor is glad to be able to extend. “My husband has a friend who does work with inmates and (helping them get) their CDL so, I think for me, I like providing that opportunity because we know how hard it is for those people to have a second chance.”
When an employee’s background conflicts with Amazon standards, Taylor looks for opportunities on the flatbed side of the business.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” she remarked. “It’s just that their mistake cost them some of their freedom.”
As for Taylor, she plans to stay in trucking. “I found what I’m going to be retiring from,” she said. “People only call lawyers when they have problems, right? This is so much less stress. Nobody is dying, nobody is going to prison.”
Under April Taylor’s leadership, Opulent Transport is headed for a better future.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.