13x Fleet Growth: The Story of Sugar Creek Transportation

February 25, 2019

When all 41 of my drivers have freight to move, they have the income they need to feed their families. Knowing they’re covered at the end of the day is very satisfying.”

- Monica Byers, Owner of Sugar Creek Transportation

Facts About Sugar Creek Transportation

  • Grew fleet from 3 to 41 trucks
  • Runs regular dedicated lanes with Coyote
  • Operates out of Southern California
  • Proud to be a woman-owned business

Monica Byers, President and Owner of Sugar Creek Transportation

Sugar Creek Transportation's Story

When Monica Byers wrote a business plan about a woman-owned trucking company for a school project, she didn’t think she’d actually do it. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and a few years of transportation experience, Monica ended up turning the hypothetical project into a reality, starting Sugar Creek Transportation in the mid-2000s. 

Beginning with three trucks, Monica has grown her fleet to 41 today. Coyote, who started working with Monica in 2011, has helped fuel Sugar Creeks’ growth. We sat down with Monica to talk about why she loves trucking, how to grow a fleet and what it’s like being a woman in a predominantly male industry.

Q&A with Monica Byers

Coyote: How did you get started in transportation?

Monica Byers: Back in the early 90s while I was going to college, I started selling LTL services for an NVOCC (freight forwarder).

C: What made you want to start your own company?

MB: My father owned several businesses over his lifetime. He was an entrepreneur and was my inspiration. I was always interested in owning my own business. He really pushed me to do it, and I did. I’ve owned a couple businesses over the years, but this one is the most exciting and meaningful to me.

Funny enough, I wrote a business plan to open a woman-owned trucking company for a class project when I was in college. Even though I didn’t start out with that career aspiration, it ended up happening. What’s that saying? Write down your goals and they’re more likely to come true.

C: What do you like about the trucking industry?

MB: Everything that you see, everything you touch arrives on a truck. A lot of people don’t realize that or give it much thought. I like being part of that, putting the puzzle pieces together—it’s really fun and exciting when you can make it all work.

I’ve got 41 trucks with 41 drivers that are all looking for consistent work. When I can look at each one at the end of the day knowing they’re all covered, it’s really satisfying. When my drivers are covered, they’re making the income they need to put food on the table for their families. That’s really important to me.

C: What is it like being a female business owner in a male-dominated industry?

MB: Honestly, I’ve been doing it so long that I don’t really notice it—transportation is just second nature. I know it’s there, but I don’t really think about it. Though it isn’t always obvious, occasionally I hear things that really surprise me. For instance, some drivers don’t want to work with me because I’m “just a woman.”

Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of older male drivers, and some don’t like taking direction from a woman, especially if I’m younger. That said, I’ve had a lot of men really defend me, telling other drivers that I’ll hustle for them, get them a loaner truck, take care of them.

C: How has the driver shortage affected you?

MB: It is THE BIGGEST challenge I have. It’s much harder to get company drivers than to hire on owner-operators. Ultimately, it comes down to respect. At big companies, drivers are just a number. Here at Sugar Creek, we really try to take care of people. Whenever possible, I try to cater to their personal lifestyles, not just work. Word of mouth is very important, so I always try to treat drivers well, to be fair and honest. That approach has really worked well for all of us.

C: Do you like working with brokers?

MB: Generally, yes. I have worked with a lot of brokers and 3PLs, and I also have experience doing it myself much earlier in my career. They can be a lot of fun to work with. They’re my customers, and I like interacting with people.

C: What was it like before working with Coyote?

MB: Coyote was one of the first 3PLs I worked with. They’ve been such a big part of my network for so long that I don’t even remember life without Coyote.

C: Why do you like working with us?

MB: Right away, I realized it was a fun and energetic company. You’re focused on reducing deadhead, and you’re very responsive. You answer the phone 24/7, and as I grew, you grew. The older 3PLs I had worked with were nothing like Coyote.

Overall, I love working with Coyote. I’ve had a couple different reps, and everyone I’ve ever talked to has always been great. My current rep that I’ve had for years, Matt, is my freight son. That’s what I call him—he calls me his freight mom. He’s even going to visit when he comes to California later this year.

C: How many trucks did you have when you started?

MB: I started with three trucks right off the bat. I like to do things in threes. I just bought three more trucks. I hire no more than 3 trucks a month. Three is just my thing!

C: How did you grow?

MB: A lot goes into it. Drivers can make or break you in a second. They’re the backbone of my—or any trucking business. They’re seeing my customers, they’re seeing your [Coyote’s] customers every day at the dock. I rely on them to be professional and represent Sugar Creek well.

As I mentioned earlier, word of mouth is very important. You need to take care of your drivers, because word—both good and bad—always spreads throughout your driver base. Maintaining quality equipment is also very important to most drivers.

C: What has Coyote done to help grow your business?

MB: I probably wouldn’t be here today without Coyote. You have really enabled me to grow. Everyone has always been kind and considerate (I can’t say that for all brokers I’ve worked with).

My rep really goes above and beyond on a regular basis to take care of me and my drivers. He looks out for my network—sometimes he’ll bring me opportunities and say, “This may not be what you want, but this will help your network.” Matt will find me trailers when I need one, he’ll reroute loads in emergency situations. He always stands by us when issues pop up.

Fun fact, I hauled UPS peak freight the year before UPS acquired Coyote, so I joke that Coyote wouldn’t be where it is today without me either!

Together it has been a good match for both our businesses.

 

Monica, we couldn’t agree more. Thank you for being a part of the Pack!

 

Want to see how other women leaders thrive in the trucking industry? Read how Marluh Izaguirre of M&I Truckers has tapped into new freight opportunities through Coyote.

Read How M&I Truckers Unlocks Opportunity Here

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