December 6, 2019

This Daddy’s Girl Knows Trucking

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This Daddy’s Girl Knows Trucking

DGT on fast track in Expediter world where downtime is not an option


Don’t let the name fool you. While the term ‘Daddy’s Girl’ conjures up connotations of over-indulged girls or young women with doting fathers, it brings only warm and fuzzy feelings to Donna Sleasman.

So when Donna decided to become a fleet owner in 2014, after 32 years of being an owner operator, DGT was the perfect name as it represented all the ideals her father instilled in her and her two sisters, who work in the business as well.

Donna Sleasman, Daddy's Girl Trucking

“I chose the name Daddy’s Girl Trucking (DGT) for my business because my dad was my biggest fan. If you talked to him for five minutes and didn’t learn that I was a truck driver, you weren’t listening.”

Donna Sleasman

Thermo King and Service Agreement Eliminates Surprises

“My reefers are critical for the stringent temperatures that must be kept. Fed Ex requires regular performance testing to confirm that temperature parameters continue to be met. The T-Series has not disappointed, and the service agreement is my insurance plan that allows me to sleep at night. It also allows me a fixed maintenance line item – I never have to guess on my costs, and surprises are virtually eliminated.”

Donna Sleasman

Inspiring Others

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So when Donna decided to become a fleet owner in 2014, after 32 years of being an owner operator, DGT was the perfect name as it represented all the ideals her father instilled in her and her two sisters, who work in the business as well.

“He taught me very young that I am capable and can go do any job I want – even if it was considered a ‘man’s job.’ However, he said that whatever job you sign on to do, don’t expect people to make allowances for you because you’re a girl… just do the job well and as expected.

“That’s how I was raised. It’s how I operate. It’s how I think. I’m not a ‘woman’ truck driver. I’m a truck driver,” said Donna.

And she’s a successful business owner as well. One that encourages that same line of thinking in her drivers – all but one are wife and husband teams. Her business began with two trucks – hers and one other she worked hard to afford, which went to her first team, a married couple who are still driving for Donna.

Today, DGT has 11 trucks in its fleet – a mix of Western Star and Freightliner with Morgan and Supreme bodies and primarily Thermo King T-Series refrigeration units, all specially built for the niche Expediter world (think FedEx). With a goal of 20 trucks by the end of 2020, Donna’s definitely on the fast track, which is really, what defines the industry itself.

“Expediter evolved from Just in Time loads and involves faster timelines, which is why team drivers are required – they can keep the truck moving while one takes the mandated breaks. Those timelines are vital with the types of loads we transport,” explained Donna. “They are typically high-value loads – 80 percent are pharmaceuticals.”

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Also vital? A dependable refrigerated fleet. Donna relies on the experts to specify the right components and build the right trucks – to meet her needs and the standards required by Fed Ex. The Thermo King T-880R with precise temperature control (PTC) plays a big role, as does the Performance Advantage full maintenance service agreement to which she subscribes.

“My reefers are critical for the stringent temperatures that must be kept. Fed Ex requires regular performance testing to confirm that temperature parameters continue to be met. The T-Series has not disappointed, and the service agreement is my insurance plan that allows me to sleep at night. It also allows me a fixed maintenance line item – I never have to guess on my costs, and surprises are virtually eliminated.”

No doubt, surprises in the Expedited Trucking world are seldom good. The dollars that Donna pays per unit for the service agreement covers the bi-annual reefer servicing required by Fed Ex as well as miscellaneous parts and servicing needed throughout the year – and the records are always a click away. “I get financial stability and security, and I know that if my driver has a reefer issue at 3:00 a.m., she doesn’t have to call me. She can go to any Thermo King dealer in the country for help and can get back on the road long before I have to hear anything.”

Adding to that peace of mind is Donna’s home dealer Thermo King Midwest in Indiana. While Donna can get service 24 hours a day across the country if needed, she depends on Don Reinhart, general manager, and Dennis Weber, her main technician to make sure both the service agreement and the Thermo King units are set up and working properly. “The relationship I have with Thermo King Midwest is priceless. Dennis is a true reefer guru,” said Donna.

“The trust Donna bestows on us is both appreciated and enabling… we understand the needs and requirements of these specialty trucks and her close partnership allows us to provide the best service support possible,” said Don.

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Recognized by Women in Trucking’s ‘Redefining the Road’ magazine as a successful woman-owned business, Donna Sleasman is not looking for that recognition or definition. She simply wants to be successful. “I love my job. From the day I signed my first contract I told myself that if I ever felt differently, I’d quit. It’s been nearly 40 years and I still love it.”

Comfortable in her own skin, she’s never considered that being a woman in the industry should be a differentiator, and it’s how she operates still today. She’s driven to excel, to inspire others, and to give other women opportunity. It’s why she started DGT in the first place – to give a fellow female truck driver a better employment opportunity and help her nieces through college so that they could pursue the careers they wanted. It’s why she primarily employs wife and husband teams and encourages women to join the trucking industry.

“I want all women to know they can do anything they set their mind to… I think there were three times in my career that I remember someone looked at me differently because I was a woman. I just backed the truck up faster than any man could and I gained respect.”

Despite wearing the many hats that being owner of DGT takes, she never sways far from her roots or the love of being on the road. She will gladly jump in one of her trucks if it and a load are available. She also hits the road often in her RV, which is her traveling office. This allows her to enjoy seeing the country while running her business.

In addition, Donna has aspirations to establish a program for domestic abuse victims in the trucking industry. “It’s in very early stages but I feel there is a need. It’s hard enough for women to get out of abusive situations in their home towns, but if you’re a woman in the trucking business it can feel hopeless. Often their home and livelihood are one in the same. How can they walk away?”

Stay tuned for more on this one … while Donna considers possibilities that include truck stop partnerships, driver pools, and more, one thing is certain: when she sets her mind to something, she goes for it.