On Thanksgiving of 2015, while eating dinner with her siblings, Charmaria announced she was ready to quit her job in investments and start her own business. Her brother Martin, who was working as a company driver, said, “Why don’t you open a trucking company?”
By Christmas, Charmaria had made up her mind: Once she got her next bonus, she would start Gurley All Freight. A few months later, she gave her notice, earned her authority, and hired Martin to drive.
Suddenly, her dream had wheels.
Service before self: why Charmaria hires veterans
In 1999, Charmaria joined the United States Marine Corps to serve her country and pay for her education. She and Martin graduated from boot camp within weeks of each other. She served until 2003. After, she went to UNC Charlotte and earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She started working in investments and went back to school for her Master’s in Business Administration.
Today, Charmaria has two trucks and two dedicated drivers: her brother Martin and J.R., who also served in the Marines. “Being in the trucking industry, you sometimes feel like you’re alone,” she says. “My drivers who are veterans will always pull over and help each other. We are a small company, and we need to work together as a team.”
Another reason she loves to hire veterans: their timeliness. “I have brokers who praise me on our updates,” she says. “I tell them, ‘It’s not me — it’s the military background my guys have.’”
When she started out, others warned Charmaria that she had to get her drivers home to keep them happy. But one evening, when one of her trucks broke down, Charmaria said, “I wanted to get my driver home, but he was worried about leaving the truck behind. It was a huge testament to his work ethic.”
Those who can do, teach: from entrepreneur to teacher
Charmaria admitted she experienced a steep learning curve. “After we completed our first three loads, I thought we were done because we told the broker the loads were delivered. I waited a few weeks, then called brokers and said I was waiting on the money. They said, ‘You have to submit an invoice.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s why we haven’t gotten paid!’ I don’t want that to happen to anyone else,” she laughed. So she decided to share her business and trucking knowledge with others, especially women.
She started with one-on-one coaching and consulting about how to dispatch and run a trucking business. But last year, after she spoke on a panel in Charlotte, a woman took her aside and said she knew a lot of folks who wanted to start trucking companies. She asked Charmaria to teach a class for the 14 of them. Charmaria agreed.
They spent an entire day — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — going over how the industry works, key terms, cost per mile, and load boards and technology, including the Convoy app. She loads the Convoy app onto a tablet, then hands the tablet to her driver. “Once the technology is set up, it’s easy,” she says. “I love the quick payments and no factoring with Convoy.”
She also teaches her students to never stop learning. She says, “When I was starting out, I was a lurker on Rate per Mile Masters,” a Facebook group for carriers. “I would go there and read about the different issues truckers experienced.” She also became an active member of Carolina Trucking Group, where she regularly shares advice, asks questions, and connects with other local trucking professionals in Carolina.
What’s next? Driving toward the future
Charmaria wants to grow Gurley All Freight. But instead of buying more trucks, she plans on working with other owner operators. “I’ll keep the same vetting process I have now. It works for me,” she says.
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