Past Careers Lead to Owner-Operators’ Present Success

When asked about becoming an entrepreneur, business owners often say that being their own boss and running a business is exciting and freeing, and above all, challenging. Entrepreneurship takes both skill and determination.

For professional owner-operators like those leased to Landstar, it’s not always the most obvious expertise that makes them successful. As they tell it, it’s more of the drive to be a small-business owner than the driving that has put them on a long and winding road to a successful career. For many Landstar business capacity owners (BCOs), it is the journey that brought them to Landstar that best prepared them to be independent owner-operators.

John Babine
Roadstar and Two Million Mile Safe Driver
J&J Trans-Truck LLC
Leased to Landstar in 1998

At 19 years old, John Babine’s first job was being a small-business owner. After high school graduation, Babine bought a fishing boat, then invested time and money into the equipment and tools he would need like fuel, bait, lobster barrels, rope and traps. Then, Babine says, he set sail on his first business adventure, intending to bring some mouthwatering lobster from Maine to market.

The problem? Well, there were many. Babine says he was too young and he didn’t know enough about the business. After all of the necessary expenses to keep his small lobster fishing boat running, he wasn’t making a profit. Eventually, Babine decided to keep the boat just for personal fishing adventures and ended his stint as Captain John. As the Landstar Roadstar® Honoree and Two Million Mile Safe Driver explains, the failure was a great lesson that taught him exactly how to run a business.

What made you decide to change lanes and become a professional truck driver?

“After the lobster boat failed, I started working at Tom’s of Maine® – in its factory. That’s when I started driving a truck to move materials and products for the company. I liked it, so I went to trucking school and got my CDL while I was working there. I never wanted to be cooped up and not be on the move. After I got my CDL, I wanted to be an owner-operator and run my own business – that was something I always knew I wanted to do.”

Why did you want to become an entrepreneur and own your own business? 

“I always wanted to be my own boss. I like things my way. Being a business owner would provide a better life than what I had growing up. We weren’t wealthy and couldn’t afford college. I was motivated to work hard for a better and more productive life than I had back then.”

How did your previous career prepare you to own your own business as a Landstar BCO?

“I learned on the lobster boat how to run a business  and what needs to be done to be a successful business owner. You have to think about overhead in business, and there were too many expenses on the lobster boat. I didn’t pay attention to my bottom line. One of the first things to determine when you are running a business is the lowest level you can operate – find the margin that is acceptable for you. Then, think about all of the expenses, your budget, include maintenance, and make sure you can make a profit.”

Steve Grillo
BCO Fleet Owner
SNL Transport LLC
Leased to Landstar 2014

A BCO fleet owner with four trucks leased to Landstar, Steve Grillo says he wanted to be a truck driver, but promised his parents he would go to college and spend five years working in the field he studied. After earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, Grillo kept his promise by spending the next eight years working in his field – three years as the controller for a wholesale sports apparel company, then five more as an executive vice president for a construction company. His experience in managing budgets, payroll functions and daily cash/credit transactions pays off now in managing his small fleet of trucks.

What made you decide to change lanes and become a professional truck driver?

“I’m aware of the line most drivers give when asked this question – and it’s true for me. As a kid I always wanted to drive a truck. I didn’t grow up in a traditional trucking family. We lived in downtown Chicago, but my uncle from Mississippi drove a truck. He gave me a tour of his cab, and I absolutely loved it. My parents knew my passion for trucking but urged me to go to college.
After graduation, I made it eight years before I finally decided to hang up my suit and climb into the cab of a truck to get my license. I earned my CDL in 2005, started as a company lease-operator, and ultimately became an owner-operator.”

Why did you want to become an entrepreneur and own your own business? 

“I knew early in my career as a professional truck driver that I wanted to own a small fleet of trucks.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to achieve that, but I knew my end goal included owning and managing a fleet. I fantasized about all the freedom I would have as a business owner, though I was also very aware of the responsibility that would come with owning my own business.”

How did your previous career prepare you to own your own business as a Landstar BCO?

“The extensive amount of accounting and management earlier in my finance career has played an integral role in my transition to becoming a successful business owner. Some of the most important metrics in trucking are rooted in numbers and the analytics that go with them. I think having a strong background in accounting helped me to be better equipped to understand the numerous data points of fleet ownership and to quickly make the necessary adjustments in the ever-changing dynamics of trucking. Being able to create a budget, track the variances between the budget and actual expenditures, and make changes according to results is very important.”

Sara Pingel
Roadstar and Million Mile Safe Driver
Pinklin Express LLC
Team Driver, Leased to Landstar in 2007

Vic Pinkston
Million Mile Safe Driver
Pinklin Express LLC
Team Driver, Leased to Landstar in 2007

Before she became an independent owner-operator, Sara Pingel was a self-professed “jack of all trades, master of none.” After high school, Pingel worked as a crew member aboard a ship turned museum, spent time working in accounting, ran a unit at an autism care facility, was a security guard, a florist, and, finally, a company driver. That’s when the Roadstar Honoree and Million Mile Safe Driver met her business partner, Vic Pinkston, also a Million Mile Safe Driver leased to Landstar.

Pingel says she never intended to own a truck or a business. But after working with Pinkston as company drivers, and learning from his previous business experience as the general manager of a car dealership, Pingel decided it was time to be at the helm of a new business adventure, owning and operating a truck.

What made you decide to change lanes and become a professional truck driver?

“Vic and I both came into the industry to travel and see the country. We met as drivers and ran as a team at another company before we decided to lease to Landstar. I wasn’t looking to own my own business, but I had a desire to travel and see the country. And, Vic wanted to live and work on his own terms and manage a business at his own pace.”

Why did you want to become an entrepreneur and own your own business? 

“We both have the motivation and drive that makes us successful business owners. In Vic’s case, his daily responsibilities at the car dealership were to overcome obstacles, customer service and business growth. While working with Vic as a team driver, he taught me a lot and I liked working with him, so I decided to join him on this new adventure of owning our truck and starting a business partnership.”

How did your previous career prepare you to own your own business as a Landstar BCO?

“Our combined experiences have made us successful team drivers and helped us thrive in the transportation industry. Vic has a strong background when it comes to ‘Business 101,’ a lot of experience working with budgets, managing overhead and negotiating prices from his days at the car dealership. My experience in customer service and overall patience with difficult situations, coupled with my observation and navigation skills, are an asset to our business. We are looking forward to many more successful miles down the road together.”

Awarding Exceptional Service

January & February 2021 Star of Quality Recipients

The impact of storms across North America this winter put millions of people, including members of the Landstar network, in dangerous weather-related situations. For helping fellow motorists and supporting each other in the wake of severe storms, the exceptional actions of several members of the Landstar network earned them each Landstar Star of Quality awards.

Each month, deserving independent business capacity owners (BCOs) and independent freight agents earn Star of Quality awards which recognize extra efforts and individual dedication to service.

When Landstar BCO Dwayne Walker saw a woman and her two young children stranded in bitter cold temperatures at a truck stop in North Dakota, he didn’t hesitate to offer help. Walker’s actions earned the BCO the Platinum Star of Quality, awarded in exceptional circumstances, intended for those who are faced with a life and death situation.

Without knowing Walker’s name, the motorist emailed Landstar about the independent owner-operator who saved her family on a freezing night in February 2021 when her car wouldn’t start. The female motorist wrote, “It was -37 degrees. I had my two daughters with me – 3 years old and 18 months – and we were more or less freezing. The driver offered for me and my daughters to sit in his truck so we could warm up while he tried to get my car to start. He fed us dinner and let us sleep in his bed to stay warm while he slept in the driver seat.”

Walker, who realized the fuel in the woman’s car had jelled up with the cold temperatures, bought an additive from the truck stop the next morning and poured it into the fuel tank. He made breakfast for the family, then worked on the fuel filter until the car started.

“I tried to pay him,” she wrote, “but he looked at me and said ‘No ma’am – that’s not how this industry works.’”

It was a fellow independent business capacity owner who needed Landstar BCO Cliff Thompson’s help after a breakdown during a storm in Texas. Landstar BCO Jeff Forb’s truck wouldn’t start at a receiver site in February when inclement weather and record low temperatures caused power outages in the area.

With Forb in danger of freezing in his truck, Thompson offered his fellow BCO a place in his truck to stay warm for the night. After learning about Thompson’s kindness, a Landstar employee in the night operations department nominated him to receive a Star of Quality Award.

“When it was safe, Cliff even delivered the other BCO’s load. This type of humanity and empathy is something we are so short on in this world. His offer showed true compassion and caring for his fellow man/driver, and for this act of generosity I nominate him for a Star of Quality Award. If I could give him more, I would. I am truly humbled by his kindness.”

  • Lysa Hannum, Night Operations Coordinator

Congratulations to all of the Star of Quality Award recipients during January and February 2021.


Dewayne Walker*

*Landstar’s Platinum Star of Quality Award is only given in exceptional circumstances, intended for Landstar Heroes of the Highway who are faced with a life or death situation.


Robert Francis Barnard*, Paul E. Davis*, Renette Diede, Michael Erb, Lisa Evan*, Stephanie Garnhart*, Ronnie Haddan*, Wendy Hull, Rob Johnson*, Linda Kennedy*, Murray Kennedy, Cathy Kieger, Lloyd Edward Lampman, Beverly Ledgerwood, Gary Medley*, Anthony T. Mitchell*, Ray Russell Parker, Jeremiah Powers, Linda Scheel*, Zenoviu O. Sirbu, Jim Smith, Kjerstyn Thomas*, Rod J. Timmer*, Mike Thompson, Lewis B. Walker Jr., Donald H. Wood*

*Recipients have received multiple Gold Star of Quality awards.


Korey Dion Allen, Cletus Dwayne Byler, Stephen J. Campbell, Tammy Clark, Tim Devoe, Frank Leonard Domako, James Duke, Brandon L. Estep, Daniel Gaudrea, Gustavo E. Gonzalez-Quiroz, Kathy Hoke, Normand L. LaPointe, Jackie Magee, Carrie Mann, Samuel A. Montoya, Thomas Mowry, Lyon Newsom III, Dave Nixon, Tony Pennello, Steven David Pestor, Georgiane Ann Plummer, Michael D. Slagle, Judy Steiner, Becky Stoball, Joshua D. Whitecloud


Mike Anderson, Jeffrey S. Arthur, Steven Barrett, Vincent Bascone, Brian Beach, Maria Been, Lyman R. Bernard, Humberto Mojica Cano, William Andrew Capps, Michael F. Card, Lindsi Childers, Chad Collins, Michael Daniel, Dennis Lee Davidson, Michael David, Rasheam D. Davis, Jim Dolan, Brandon L. Estep, Jon Fairbanks, Robert McNeely Fulcher, Luis Bautista Gil, Tobias Goodwin Sr., Michael Glynn Greer, Bradley A. Haga, Shawn Brian Hall, Paul Hegarty, Brian Heistand, Jared Lowell Herl, Marc Horton, Heather Marie Hutchens, Jason Allen Hutchens, Linda Janzen, Joseph Demetrius Johnson, Jeremy P. Julian, Robert B. Kasye, Mark Lambert, Jean Louise LeBlanc, Donnie Ledgerwood, Dietrich Letkeman, Carroll L. Lipper, Guy Lovan, Ricky L. Mann, John J. Mather, Douglas G. Miller, Sabra Odom, Dora Overend, Jonathon David Patterson, Jenn Peterson, Adam Reagan, Kerwin Miles Reed, Jimmy Reese, Robert Leland Reid, Joe Rinehart, Nicolas Roderic, Mark Christopher Rowland, John Sabol, Rosa Hilda Santos, Dino Saracevic, Bobby Schlieske, Brian James Schnipke, Russell Lee Shannon, Julie Shollenberger, Patty Short, Shawn Snedden, Gregory Scott Spitzer, Judy Steiner, Jess Steward, Michael Swift, Clifton G. Thompson, Ralph Edward Tickle, Victor German Trejo, Jody Valvo, Rebecca Vasquez, Joshua D. Whitecloud, Reginald Paul Wilson, Bil Wright

*Business Capacity Owner (BCO) is Landstar’s term for independent truck owner-operators with exclusive lease agreements.

If you would like to nominate a member of the Landstar network for a Landstar Star of Quality Award, send an email to

2021-2022 Landstar Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to the newest recipients of the 2021-2022 Landstar Scholarship. The Landstar Scholarship Fund was established to recognize outstanding undergraduate achievement and civic involvement. Since 1995, Landstar has recognized and awarded 378 scholarships totaling more than $952,000.Via conference call, an independent selection committee of professors from the University of North Florida (UNF) carefully evaluated 48 eligible scholarship applications this year and chose 12 of those applications to receive a Landstar Scholarship. This year, 10 applicants will receive scholarships in the amount of $4,000 and two will receive a scholarship in the amount of $5,000.

$5,000 Landstar Scholarship Winners:

Carlos De La Cruz
Son of Landstar BCO
Carlos De La Cruz
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

Amani Taleb
Son of Landstar BCO
Abdulwahab Taleb Ahmad
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined


$4,000 Landstar Scholarship Winners:

Caleb Ashley
Son of Landstar Agency Employee
Michael Ashley
Incoming Sophomore
Morehead State

 Delaney Elliott
Daughter of Landstar Agent
Shawn Elliott
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

 Gwendolyn Flood
Daughter of Landstar Employee
Amy Flood
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

 Chelsey Fontenot
Daughter of Landstar Agency Employee
Stacy Fontenot

Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

 Lauren Meyer
Daughter of Landstar Agent
Jon Meyer
Incoming Sophomore
Indiana University – Bloomington

 Nina Mihajlov
Daughter of Landstar BCO
Goran Mihajlov
Incoming Senior
Florida State University

 Elisabeth Rodillas
Daughter of Landstar Employee
Roderick Rodillas
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

 Gabrielle Russell
Daughter of Landstar BCO
Allison Russell
Incoming Senior
University of Arizona

 Savannah Wappler
Daughter of Landstar Agent
Jim Wappler
Incoming Senior
University of Alabama – Birmingham

Benjamin Zonic
Son of Landstar BCO
Jasmin Zonic
Incoming Freshman, college to be determined

A special thanks to the members of the Landstar network who made contributions to the Landstar Scholarship Fund this year. Watch the Landstar blog, the LINK newsletter and this fall for announcements about the deadlines to apply for the 2022-2023 school year.

Scholarships are available to children of full-time Landstar employees, independent BCOs and independent agents as well as employees of BCOs and agents currently under contract with a Landstar company. Children of deceased Landstar employees, BCOs or agents who died while employed by or under contract with Landstar are also eligible for scholarships. Children of Landstar officers are ineligible to apply for the scholarship fund.

The scholarships awarded are based on a student’s academic excellence, community service and extracurricular activities. Eligible candidates must be enrolled in high school and plan on attending a two- or four-year college or university or must already be enrolled in a two- or four-year college or university and have successfully completed a minimum of 12 credit hours. All candidates must plan to enroll for at least 12 credit hours at an accredited two- or four-year college or university during the academic year for which the scholarship may be granted, and must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.