If someone had told Maya Hodel as a young adult that she would one day have a growing career in the trucking industry, she would have laughed.
That’s because she always thought she would follow in her mom Amie’s footsteps and become a nurse.
“I wanted to be just like my mom,” shares Maya. “Right out of high school, I got my certified nursing assistant license, started working part-time at OSF in Peoria, and enrolled in ICC’s nursing program.”
By the time she was 20, she was going to school full-time, working third-shift in Postpartum at the hospital, and helping her mom birth-assist with her home-birth midwifery business. And while she loved nursing, she started asking herself if this was something she was really committed to.
“I thought if I pursue this,” shares Maya, “can I see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Nursing is amazing, and we will always need nurses. It’s also a lot of schooling. So, I prayed about it and felt convicted that healthcare wasn’t the path the Lord had for me.”
What she didn’t know was that she was about to take on a job that would change her life forever.
After deciding healthcare wasn’t for her, Maya went through what she describes as an early 20s crisis. She stopped going to school, started working 40 to 50 hours a week as a full-time nanny, and floated around for a bit trying to figure out what she was supposed to do.
During this time, her uncle, who is a Nussbaum driver, mentioned to her mom, “Why doesn’t Maya become a truck driver?”
Maya doesn’t know what her mom’s exact reaction to that was, but it must have stuck with Amie because she soon mentioned the idea to Maya.
“She kind of brought it up in passing. I thought she was insane!” laughs Maya. I told her “there was no way I was going to be a truck driver!”
”I TOLD HER THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS GOING TO BE A TRUCK DRIVER!’Maya HodelMaya's initial reaction when her mom suggested becoming a truck driver.
Something her mom said planted a seed, though. Maya began thinking seriously about what life as a truck driver would look like. She also started doing some research of her own.
“I found out that it was lots of driving, obviously, but the pay was very enticing. I could make a lot of money driving to other states and across the country! Within a week, I’d made up my mind that I was going to go for it.”
Right away, Maya called Nussbaum and talked to Tianne Overmeyer, the Student Program Coordinator, about getting pre-hired. Maya didn’t have her CDL yet, but had enrolled in classes at ICC and knew her graduation date.
Of course, the first words out of Tianne’s mouth were, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you hired!”
Tianne set up an interview with Maya while they were on the phone. But when Maya walked into Nussbaum, she didn’t exactly look like the traditional driver candidate.
“So, I went to Nussbaum for my pre-interview. My hair was curled. I had on makeup, and I was wearing a ruffly shirt. I talked with Mitch Davis who is in safety and Gary Atkins. Both of them told me I had to get dirty as a driver. I was fine with that!”
And that’s how Maya’s journey with Nussbaum began.
”Of course, the first words out of Tianne’s mouth were, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you hired!”Maya describing her initial encounter with Tianne Overmeyer, Student Program Coordinator
Training to 2 Years on the Road
Maya’s training program through Nussbaum followed the same path it does today. She started her first four weeks driving with a trainer running the regional Midwestern routes, then moved on to doing the same routes by herself for another four weeks.
From there, she paired back up with her trainer for another four weeks to work on mountain driving and going out West. Some of her favorite places to drive are out West because the views are so breathtaking.
“I love trucking because you get to sit and absorb the scenery,” shares Maya. “I love to wake up in a new state every morning. I enjoy the window down, music up, and watching the scenery change as I pass mile marker after mile marker. I also get to be in my head while on the road.”
Maya’s first year was a typical one where she was home every weekend. She also learned a lot on the road. “It was a time of seasonal growth for me and something I really needed,” she adds. “It also helped me grow my relationship with the Lord and find my own identity.” Her second year looked less traditional and came with a new challenge and a promotion.
“My fuel efficiency record was high enough that Nussbaum thought I could offer tips and tricks to other drivers that were struggling to save money and improve their fuel habits,” shares Maya. “So they asked me if I would become a Performance Coach, and I started training from the corporate office two days a month in addition to driving.”
Maya featured on one of Nussbaum’s “Purpose Driven” trailers.
”I NEVER FELT LIKE I NEEDED TO PROVE MYSELF TO ANYONE. IF ANYTHING,Maya on being a woman in the trucking industry
I WAS PROVING SOMETHING TO MYSELF.”
Being a Woman in the Trucking Industry
It’s important to note that women only make up 13.7% of all over-the-road truck drivers. And that’s an industry-wide total. That makes Maya and her role at Nussbaum an important one.
“Trucking careers are growing amongst women, which is awesome,” notes Maya. “But finding female trainers for the number of female drivers Nussbaum wants to hire continues to be a struggle.”
After Maya had been with Nussbaum for about a year and a half, they asked her to become a female trainer. She ended up training four different women while on the road. Three of them are still at Nussbaum.
“I’ve never felt like I needed to prove myself to anyone,” admits Maya. “I just wanted to find a career I could be consistent in. Driving for Nussbaum was something I could truly commit to, stick with, and not get bored with. I have a passion for this. Being here wasn’t a point to prove to anyone. If anything, I was proving something to myself.”
Maya continued to train and work as an over-the-road Nussbaum driver for about two years total before she shifted directions in her career once again. This time, she was prompted by a very special reason.
Finding Love in Unexpected Places
While Maya was driving for Nussbaum, she was also building a friendship with one of her co-workers, Dalton Hodel, who worked in Nussbaum’s Tech department then.
“When I first met Dalton, I was not looking for a relationship,” remembers Maya. “Over time, we had different interactions that made me start noticing him. For example, one time, I needed to change a fuse in my truck. He was kind enough to come out to my truck and show me how to change it. We had a moment where we locked eyes, and I remember thinking he’s kind of cute. The more times I came in, the more he would help me out, and I started noticing how nice and genuine he was.”
Maya later found out that Dalton was also orchestrating their interactions on his end. He went out of his way to make sure he was there when she came in so he could be the one that worked on her truck. This led him to ask her out on a date, a moment Maya retells with a huge smile.
“I was getting ready to take an empty trailer up to Lebanon when I noticed my ABS light was on. Before I could switch out the trailer for another one, Dalton comes running out and offers to take a look at it. He ran diagnostics on it and got the issue fixed, then said we needed to take it for a test drive. I had no clue if that was needed, but I hopped in the passenger seat, and we drove up I-39.”
As they returned to the terminal, Dalton finally gathered up the courage to ask her if she was seeing anyone. When she told him no, Dalton asked, “would it be too forward if I maybe asked you to go out on a date with me?” Maya couldn’t say no and told him, “Of course! I’d love to!”
Maya and Dalton dated for about nine months. He proposed on her birthday in June 2019 and a year later they got married. It was during their engagement that Maya officially made the transition to being in the office full time working in dispatch and as a Student Driver Manager so she could have more time to spend with her new finance and their families.
”Maya always finds a way to put her family first.Dalton HodelMaya's Husband + Nussbaum Shop Foreman
According to Dalton, who is now the Shop Forman at Nussbaum, Maya always finds a way to put her family first. And, their home in Gridley sets the backdrop to a beautiful, blooming friendship between their two families.
“I love having a home full of people. I love being social,” shares Maya. “We get both sets of our families to come over at least once a month, and we’ve just been able to grow and develop a deep friendship with each other’s families.”
”I love having a home full of people. We get both sets of our families to come over at least once a month.Maya HodelMaya on developing deep friendship with each other’s families.
Living a Purpose Driven Life With Nussbaum
Maya’s journey to finding her purpose in life may not have looked like what she thought it would, but it turned out exactly as God had planned. It also put her in a position where she could impact and guide others in their journey.
“I think all of us in life are asking ourselves, what’s my purpose?” shares Maya. “For those who have a relationship with Christ, our purpose is to honor him in everything we do. For all the people at Nussbaum, I think the purpose is to really pour into each other in order to love one another.”
Maya’s experiences working in healthcare and as a driver and trainer for Nussbaum have all shaped her ability to build solid relationships with and care for others. This makes her the perfect person to guide Nussbaum’s student drivers.
“Now that I am working as a Student Driver Manager,” notes Maya, “I’m always looking for ways subtly show them Christ and leave them in a better situation than when they came to me.”