If you were to look at a map of Mexico and place your index finger directly in the center of it, you’d be touching the small town of Rancho El Cerro, Guanajuato—the birthplace of Nussbaum driver Gerardo Lopez. Guanajuato is a rural Mexican state known for its livestock production and, more recently, contributions to the automotive industry. Mountains frame the territory, and the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt crosses the state’s southern portion. Some of Mexico’s most productive farmland is found near Gerardo’s hometown in south Guanajuato, likely due to the volcanic nature of the soil. Wildlife includes rattlesnakes,
coyotes, and eagles.
Gerardo was born into a family of hard workers, but with a population of fewer than 500, Rancho El Cerro had few job opportunities. Each year, his father traveled to the U.S. to work in the Chicago railyards, earning a decent living to support his family. Back home, Gerardo’s mother ran a dairy farm with a herd of 45 cattle. Some of Gerardo’s earliest memories are working on the farm—milking cows and neighbors coming over to buy milk. His mother used the leftover milk to make cheese, being careful not to waste anything.
Gerardo was the oldest child, with a sister two years behind and two younger brothers. Gerardo says his grandfather taught him the value of hard work and how to be a man. With their dad away, the four siblings looked to their grandfather and uncles as father figures. With tears in his eyes, he recalls how one of his uncles helped with “everything”—the farm, money, and raising four kids. The family needed someone to look up to, and his uncle graciously filled the role.
Moving to the U.S.
When Gerardo was fourteen, his father passed away while in Chicago. His grandparents decided it was time for the family to move to the U.S., and in 1987, they settled in Joliet, Illinois—just in time for Gerardo to start high school. He worked his way through by bussing tables at Earl’s Café in Joliet. The Cafe is no longer open (Earl passed away a few years ago), but Gerardo fondly remembers his first job in the U.S., especially Earl’s kindness and generosity.
The Winding Road to Nussbaum
The truck-driving bug first bit Gerardo in high school. He remembers seeing big trucks and thinking, ‘One day, I will be a truck driver.’ Following his high school graduation in 1991, Gerardo took a job at Pepsi-Cola, where they offered a CDL training program. He passed his CDL exam in 1993 but had a change of heart and didn’t want to drive. He decided to work five more years at Pepsi, and then worked seven more as a crew leader in a local warehouse. At this point, Gerardo’s old dream began resurfacing. It had been twelve years since Gerardo took and passed his CDL exam in that Pepsi-Cola program. He thought to himself: ‘I have a CDL—I should try truck driving! I’ve always wanted to do that, and I’m not doing it!’
Gerardo returned to Pepsi—this time to drive. The pay was good, but the job required too many hours and hard physical labor. In time, Gerardo started developing back problems and decided to take a spotting job at the railyard. But this proved too monotonous; he would move a chassis, a crane would drop a box onto it, and he would park it—all day, every day.
During this time, one of Gerardo’s coworkers at the railyard left to drive flatbed trucks for Nussbaum (or NTS as it was then known). He enjoyed it so much that he told Gerardo that he should try Nussbaum. Eventually, Gerardo made the call and spoke with Recruiter Josh Carr. Josh explained what Nussbaum offered, but Gerardo said he wouldn’t do it—he wasn’t interested in going over the road because he wanted to be home every night with his family. Unless Nussbaum had a local job, he wasn’t interested.
Two months later, Josh called back with some exciting news: Nussbaum was hiring city drivers in Chicago! On August 6, 2007, Gerardo joined Nussbaum, bringing his cheerful attitude and strong work ethic.
”IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU'RE DOING, GO FOLLOW WHAT YOU LIKE. DON'T JUST STAY BECAUSE THE PAY IS GOOD. MONEY IS NOT EVERYTHING.GERARDO ON FINDING WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO
The Job Nobody Wanted
Few drivers would willingly take a city driving job—it means many short runs and an ever-changing routine. For example, if an OTR driver is bringing a load to Chicago but is too early/late, he can drop the load at our Channahon yard and Gerardo will finish the delivery. If an OTR driver can’t pick up the load on time, Gerardo will bring it to the Channahon yard. If any Nussbaum equipment in Chicago breaks down / has red flags, Gerardo will bring it to the Channahon shop for repairs.
As if the job wasn’t complicated enough, Gerardo deals with all the common frustrations of truck driving—but on a whole different level. City driving requires you to always be on high alert. You never know if your route is blocked or under construction or if you’ll pass under a low structure and damage the truck (bridges and overpasses often lack height markers, so you must go very slowly or get out and look for a sign). And, of course, Chicago is famous for its crazy traffic. Cars are constantly honking, speeding, cutting you off, and driving recklessly.
When Gerardo first started at Nussbaum, he was calling Peg or Josh almost every month to report a motorist hitting his truck. Thankfully, he was never seriously injured!
The Thrill of the Job
With fifteen years of city driving under his belt, Gerardo has dealt with a lot. You might be wondering why anyone would stick with it! In Gerardo’s words, “I still get nervous [about driving in the city]! But I’m the city driver! That’s what I get paid for—to do the job. It’s very risky, it’s not an easy job, and it’s a lot of stress.” He chuckles and adds, “that’s probably why I lost my hair. But I like it. I don’t do the same thing every day—every day is different. That’s what I like about my job. Time flies. Before you know it, it’s already time to go home.”
In his fifteen years at Nussbaum, Gerardo only remembers one instance where he called in to take the day off (not counting scheduled PTO). He can’t even remember what it was for. Needless to say, no one at Nussbaum ever complains about Gerardo not showing up to work!
Gerardo’s incredible work ethic stems from his values: being responsible, being on time, and doing your job well. Ask anyone at Nussbaum, and that’s how they would describe Gerardo, including his former Driver Manager, Steve Mallory. “Gerardo was always a joy to work with! I miss not talking with him every day,” says Steve. “I always said we need twenty more Gerardo’s around here—he always wanted to keep moving—hated sitting still. The more work we had in Chicago, the better he liked it, and he was always willing to do whatever was asked of him!”
Liking what you do and where you work is essential for Gerardo—to him, all the money in the world is not worth sacrificing happiness. “If you don’t like what you’re doing, my advice is to follow what you like,” he reflects. “Don’t just stay because they pay you well. Money is not everything. You gotta be happy.”
And happy he is.
Faith and Family
One of Gerardo’s greatest joys is his family. He and his wife Sonia have been married for twenty-six years. They grew up in Guanajuato, in towns five minutes apart. Gerardo was friends with her brother growing up, but Sonia was a few years younger, so he didn’t want to overstep boundaries by asking her out too soon. Years later, they found themselves attending the same party, and Gerardo asked her to dance. The rest is history! They married in Joliet, Illinois, in April 1997. Years later, Gerardo’s life changed again when he found faith in God. Gerardo and Sonia wanted His blessing on their marriage, so they decided to have a church wedding in September 2021.
The Lopezs have two children (one son and one daughter) who both live less than a mile away. When the kids were younger, the family would travel to a lake in Plainfield, Illinois, almost every weekend. For $8, you could fish, cook out, camp, relax, and spend time together. These days, the family gets together on Saturdays when they can, even if it’s just ordering in dinner and watching TV. Time with family is important to Gerardo, and as they don’t get to do it as often these days, the memories are extra special.
”TREAT EVERYBODY THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED, AND BE RESPECTFUL.Maya HodelGerardo's Life Advice
The Golden Rule
Looking back over his life, Gerardo has learned lessons and met challenges head-on. If he could give one piece of life advice, it would be this: be responsible—in work, in how you live your life, in how you treat people. “Treat everybody the way you want to be treated, and be respectful. That’s everything,” he says firmly.
We appreciate how Gerardo applies these principles in his work at Nussbaum, positively impacting everyone he interacts with.
Thank you, Gerardo!