By Suzanne Stempinski
There are a lot of folks in the trucking business who go through their days doing the next right thing, putting one foot in front of the other, quietly leading their lives and contributing to the well-being of our world without much fuss or fanfare.
They’re the unsung champions of our industry. They deliver the goods, on time and intact. They’re active members of their communities. They value family. They’re good, solid citizens.
That begins to describe Jay W. Hosty, a 40-something owneroperator, OOIDA board member, foster parent, adoptive father and devout Christian.
BUILDING A CAREER
Hosty grew up in Chalmette, LA, just outside New Orleans, and although he didn’t come from a trucking family, he dreamed of driving truck. It just always appealed to him. He liked the idea of traveling – and then of coming home again.
He was just 18 in 1980 and driving local for a building materials company making about $140 a week. But he had dreams of owning his own truck and going “out of town” at least to Lafayette or Baton Rouge – maybe even farther.
He and his soon-to-be-wife, Katt, talked about his desire to drive truck. She understood what he wanted and why. In fact, she actually found his first truck for him.
It was a “cute little rig” she spotted one day – a single-axle, snub-nosed, gasoline-fired International – painted black and rust. It really looked like only half a truck, but he liked it and she liked it. He paid $2,600 cash for it in 1981, and the seller helped him find work to go along with the truck.
Hosty started hauling containers for Brown Transport. His trips were mostly around New Orleans. But every once in a while, he had the opportunity to go “out of town.”
Because he was so young, he couldn’t sign a lease with Brown. He also had to provide his own liability insurance. With a Louisiana base plate, he was restricted to bouncing around instate.
But, every once in a while, he’d sneak over the border into Mississippi to run a load and pray to not get caught.
In 1981, it was a very good year for Hosty. He was a 19-year-old owneroperator and in November of that year, became a husband. His pay went from $140 a week working for someone else to making $100 a day driving his own truck. Fuel cost him roughly $20 to $25 a day, so he was making good money.
He worked hard and while still only 19, he traded off that little International and moved up to a slightly newer diesel-powered $5,000 Freightliner cabover. Still hauling containers, he still couldn’t sign a lease or leave the state legally, but he was happy and making money and spending time with his wife and life was good.
After a couple of years, Jay was still hauling containers and ready to buy a newer truck again, this time a 1978 cabover International for $21,000. He was 22 years old and had never even purchased a new car, but Associates Financial was willing to finance him and he took on his first truck payments.
He paid that truck off in just two years; changed carriers a few times and was finally able to sign a lease, although he ended up doing some wildcatting – jumping from carrier to carrier, taking trips to Texas, Georgia and other southern states.
By 1987, Hosty was, once again, in need of a newer truck, so he went back to the same International dealer and talked to the same salesman. This time, he walked out with a brand new International 9370. He paid $72,500 and thought he was in hog heaven – but he was a little nervous about making $1,400-a-month payments while hauling 72-centper- mile freight. He figured it out, though, and paid off the truck six months ahead of schedule.
After he bought the 1987 International, he left the container-hauling business, running bananas around the Midwest to Detroit, Ohio and Chicago. As his business evolved, he worked for a variety of different companies, and even had his own authority for a while (although that was not a big success for him).
“As an owner-operator, you have to know how to manage your money,” Hosty said. “You have to know how to handle it right. I don’t throw money away.”
BUILDING A FAMILY
During those early years, Jay and Katt were eager to start a family, but their efforts were unsuccessful. This was in the days before in vitro fertilization was a commonplace procedure.
They considered their options, and while having a family in the traditional way may not have been part of the plan, they knew that building a family was not something they wanted to miss. They had moved over the line into Mississippi in 1986 to a rural setting and wanted children to make their lives more complete.
In the late 1980s the couple decided to become foster parents, taking in children in need of temporary homes and providing them with loving guidance. They took the statemandated classes and were certified. Their first foster child was a 2-year-old boy named Damon. Katt immediately fell in love, and Jay, cautious at first, let his heart lead the way. Within a year, they adopted him as their first child.
More children followed, and while Jay continued to truck, his priorities always included his wife and growing family.
“I’ve always been committed as a husband and father to my family,” Hosty said. “I’ve tried to never spend more than a week away from my family. I didn’t want trucking to hurt my marriage, either. While Katt would be happy if I had a nine-to-five job at home, she understands that trucking is what I do and she supports me.”
Over the years, more than 100 children have spent time in their home.
“It’s amazing how quickly the little ones start to call you Mom and Dad,” Hosty reflected. “We’re not meant to be a long-term solution most of the time, but many of the children have come to us over and over again.”
The result? The Hostys have adopted Damon, now 18; biological sisters Brianna, 11, and Neva, 12; and Selena, 11. Also living longer term as part of the Hosty family is Selena’s older sister Chasidy, 14; and Rebekah, 24, a former foster child who is living with them while she tries to break the cycle of misfortune that marked her youth while she’s now trying to get on her feet as an adult.
In 1989 Hosty joined OOIDA. He liked belonging to an organization that worked hard on behalf of owner-operators like him. But just being a member wasn’t enough, and in 1994, he was asked to participate as a member of the Board of Directors. At 32 years old, he was the youngest board member – by a lot. He continues to serve the organization successfully, having been re-elected to four-year terms.
Hosty is now on his sixth truck – a Western Star he purchased new in 2000. And he’s still happily trucking. In October 2004, he signed on with Landstar.
“After 24 years as an owner-operator, I am finally my own boss,” Hosty said with delight. “Nobody tells you what to do, ever. You dispatch yourself, find your own loads on the company’s Web site and decide just how hard you want to work. I’m making good money – working smarter instead of harder. I hadn’t used a computer before, but I learned how to use it to find loads and it’s working great for me.”
After years at home full time, Katt is now also working part-time as a dog groomer’s assistant. She also oversees the care of three dogs, a cat, a bird, three full-size horses and two miniature horses.
For Damon, although he’s been on the truck with Jay, the call of the open road didn’t lure him. Instead, he’s working as a deck hand on a tug boat on the Mississippi River.
A devout Christian, Jay insists that he is guided in his life.
“I give God the glory for my life, my happiness and my success.”
And Jay’s advice to someone considering getting into the business is this: “Be careful. Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you want to be out there traveling. Do it because you want to drive.” LL
Suzanne Stempinski may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.