Before Landstar owner-operator Deb LaBree embarked on a career in the trucking industry, she enjoyed helping others through her work in cosmetology and sales. LaBree didn’t become a professional truck driver until later in life. While her career took a big turn, her personality stayed the course as she climbed into the driver’s seat.
“There’s no greater feeling than helping people. It’s always been in my nature. I think people reach out to me with questions because I make them feel comfortable,” explains Landstar Business Capacity Owner (BCO) Deb LaBree.
When she became an over-the-road team driver with her husband Del, LaBree says she never imagined her trucking career would take her down the path of advising or coaching other owner-operators. The BCO laughed out loud when asked for a count of the number of drivers she’s mentored over the years.
“I can’t keep track. I just do it. I’ve always liked to help people and encourage them to do well in whatever they are trying to accomplish,” says LaBree, whose official work mentoring women began when she volunteered for the nonprofit organization Women in Trucking (WIT).
A WIT board member and administrator of the organization’s Facebook page, LaBree says she started by mentoring a few women who were new to the trucking industry.
“I’d help them apply for scholarships to help pay for truck driving school. When they finished school, I’d help them apply for their first over-the-road jobs,” says LaBree. “Many of them have become close friends, and some of them even call me ‘Momma Deb.’”
LaBree says she didn’t realize how impactful her advice to fellow drivers was until September 2018 when she was selected to appear on a national network television show during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW).
That week, LaBree traveled to New York City to appear on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today. LaBree spoke candidly with Kelly about life on the road and being a female owner-operator in the transportation industry. Then, near the end of the segment, Kelly shocked LaBree by presenting her with a $10,000 check from segment sponsor Shell Rotella.
“After that segment aired, I heard from hundreds of professional drivers from coast to coast. Some were Landstar BCOs congratulating me, others were complete strangers who saw the segment and had questions of their own,” says LaBree. “It was incredible to hear from so many people within the industry and to offer them my advice.”
The segment also included a taped interview with one of LaBree’s mentees, Landstar BCO team driver Pam Kays, who spoke to NBC about her relationship with LaBree. Kays had originally contacted LaBree through Facebook four years ago when Kays was a new BCO looking for some advice from someone already leased to Landstar.
“Deb has helped me with paperwork and procedures over the years, anything I’ve needed. She is the kind of person who would literally give you the shirt off her back if you needed it,” explains Kays. “That mentorship has transpired into a true friendship.”
Despite their busy lifestyles, LaBree and Kays still find ways to connect. When they are out on long hauls and in the same area of the country, the two make it a point to meet – even if it’s for a quick hug at a truck stop.
“Through kindness, Del and I have met great people and built some beautiful friendships over the years,” says LaBree. “Everything we do to help our fellow owner-operators, is because we don’t want people go through the same struggles we did when we first started out on the road. Aside from that, it just feels great to help others.”