Letting God Take the Wheel: Jim Petersen's Story
When Jim Petersen was in high school, one of his teachers told him, “Jim, you’ll never get anywhere looking out the window!” It’s safe to say Jim has proven him wrong because now he sees the country from the giant front window of an eighteen-wheeler every day.
Although Jim is relatively new to trucking - he’s been driving for about 2.5 years now - his love for trucking began on the farm he grew up on near Brooten, Minnesota. “I always had a passion to drive truck and now I’m doing it!” he said.
Jim and his wife Donna have been happily married for 32 years and share 5 children and 10 grandchildren. When you meet Jim, you instantly fall in love with him. He is a warm, kind, and professional person, which is why his story before K&J is so disheartening.
Jim joined the K&J family in September 2021 when he signed on to K&J fleet-owner Brad Schipper’s team, Schipper Transportation, Inc.
“The minute I walked into K&J, I knew that was home right there. It just felt right,” Jim said.
Before becoming a truck driver Jim traveled all over the country working for a company fixing packaging equipment.
"It was neat to fly all over the United States, but you fly in and drive to the plant, and fly back out," Jim said. "You don't really get to experience the beauty of our country unless your on the road. I've seen more of the country since driving truck than I ever saw in an airplane."
After his traveling job, Jim helped run one of his brother’s golf courses for 17 years. When his brother sold his shares of the course, Jim decided he was going to move onto something else as well. So, he began farming with a friend near his home Alexandria, Minnesota. Although Jim grew up on a farm, it wasn’t until he was hauling grain that he decided to get the book and teach himself how to professionally drive truck. He studied on his own and got his CDL.
But it was hard for Jim to get started in the business. It seemed no one wanted to hire drivers without OTR experience. He found a trucking company that was willing to take a chance on him, signing a waiver with their insurance provider to be able to hire him. Unfortunately, at this company he found himself navigating through a sea of toxic co-workers and a difficult boss who was constantly threatening to fire him. Although Jim was a diehard rule follower, the other drivers were spreading rumors about him and he was always fearful of losing his job. In addition, his loads each week back and forth to Seattle, Washington left him with very little time home.
This all quickly took a toll on him, and after about a year he started looking for a new company. He quickly found one that promised him 2-3 nights home a week, so Jim made the move. But early on he discovered his new boss wasn’t an easy man to work for either.
“He was a bit rough around the edges. He would holler, swear, and call people names,” Jim recalled.
He began struggling emotionally and physically. Jim is a diabetic and he had let his diet slip to foods he knew were dangerous for him to eat. Although he takes full responsibility for his own health, he admitted it was difficult to focus on it under the stress of his first two trucking jobs. As much as he loved driving truck, he began to wonder if he had made a mistake.
Jim recalled asking his wife, “What am I doing wrong?”
Right around that time, he was on a trip from Minnesota to Colorado when his truck started acting up. He called his boss to explain what was happening, and his boss immediately got mad and blamed Jim for the issue. He told him to go to the closest shop, which happened to be in Sioux Falls. The shop was very busy and told Jim it would be a bit of a wait before they could get to his truck.
While he was waiting, his boss had called the shop to talk to them about the truck’s issues. After the phone call, the mechanic asked Jim if it was difficult to work for a guy who yelled like that. Jim admitted it was and asked if all trucking companies were the same or if he knew of any good ones.
The response was intriguing to Jim: “Yes, I do. And if you get in with them, you will never want to work anywhere else.”
So Jim called K&J and spoke with our Director of Communications and driver recruiter, Carrie Anderson. He remembered how nice she was and that she wouldn’t let him walk the three blocks from Kenworth to K&J, insisting she would come pick him up. When he got there, he could tell it was a different type of company.
In sharp contrast to his previous boss, Brad said to him, “You know, you can do everything right and there is still going to be something that goes wrong.”
He remembered K&J CEO Shelley Koch telling him she thought he would be a great fit for the company and that she and Brad wanted to offer him a job. "It was overwhelming. I told them I couldn’t believe how things were working out. And Shelley said to me, ‘Jim, you were supposed to break down in Sioux Falls this week. It was a God thing.’”
It was then he learned that he had found a Christian trucking company.
“Shelley explained to me that at K&J it is God first, truckers second, and the company third. Because if we didn’t have the first two, we wouldn’t have a company. That’s what sealed the deal for me. My previous companies didn’t care at all about the drivers. They treated you bad, it was all about making money, all about the bottom line.”
After praying for God to help him find the right path, he felt like he kept ending up at the wrong companies. But he learned that sometimes we don’t understand the road that God puts us on to get us to where we need to be. We need to listen and trust that He will take care of us.
"At the time, breaking down near Sioux Falls seemed stressful and awful, but now I realize it was God guiding me to K&J.”
When he first came to K&J, his diabetes was so out of control that the doctor would only give him a three-month health card, telling him he had to improve him numbers before he could get a longer endorsement.
Now, just a few months later, Jim is in the best shape of his life. With the help of our Safety Director, Jennifer Raddatz Jim learned more about the foods that help keep his numbers in check. He’s eating healthy, he’s lost 20 pounds, and his blood sugar numbers are down over 100 points already and his A1C is down too. Jim has cut all pop and bread out of his diet, and keeps a Magic Bullet blender and frozen fruit in his truck to make smoothies each morning. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to be healthy, happy, and successful, and credits his wife as the most supportive team member he could hope for.
“I’m pretty competitive; I want to be your best driver. And I’m going to work on it and work on it until I get there. Am I perfect? No. Will I make mistakes? Absolutely. But I’m in a great place mentally and physically, and I have no negative things to say at all about this company.”
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