Driver Recruiting
Menu: m

Don’t Miss: Simple philosophy has served James Helwig well throughout the years

By: Brad Bentley

Brad Bentley

A University of Alabama graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Bentley spent 15 years as a trucking Publisher before becoming the Editorial Director for Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media division.

Related Articles


There is only one road to human greatness: through the school of hard knocks.” —Albert Einstein

Many trucking company presidents learned their business lessons from the “school of hard knocks”, but James Helwig can say he experienced it literally.

Before trying his hand at trucking, he was a boxer and a bouncer – two occupations where he learned what not to do in business. “I go the other way,” Helwig stated. Once you read his story, you’ll understand why.

Helwig was a Golden Gloves boxer as a teenager in the mid-1960s, before playing linebacker at Texas Christian University for three years. After college, he resumed boxing and became a professional in 1971. Helwig quickly won the Texas Heavyweight Championship belt, and would soon be ranked in the world standings, earning him a two-round exhibition fight with undefeated WBC and WBA Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier at the Houston Astrodome on July 15, 1971. It would be Frazier’s first fight since defending his title in a 15-round victory over Muhammad Ali in New York earlier that year.

When Best Driver Jobs interviewed Helwig for this article, Joe Frazier had just passed away, so it was natural for James to reminisce about the details of the big event. “I was nervous for a few days, and I remember them bringing us to the boxing ring in golf carts,” he said. “Cleveland Williams fought Frazier for two rounds, and then I came in.” Helwig fared well against Frazier, landed several big punches and avoided getting knocked down by the champ. “I could take a punch,” Helwig said.

Fighting during what is arguably the best era of heavyweight boxing with the likes of Frazier, Ali, Ken Norton and George Foreman, Helwig compiled a 24-2 record in his 26 pro fights. However, he would hang up his gloves in 1975 after learning that boxing is a very dirty business. “I saw a lot of people get taken advantage of, and it was easy to have your trust broken so I got out of the game.”

He took a job as a bouncer at Wellington’s, a Dallas disco that was owned by Billy Bob Harris and ex-Dallas Cowboy quarterback Craig Morton. That occupation came with its share of perks, but Helwig knew it wasn’t something he wanted to do long-term. During this time, he bumped into a high school friend whose father was a freight broker. “He asked me if I wanted to unload some trucks, and I wanted to know how much it paid,” Helwig said. “The going rate was $40, and it would normally take people 3-4 hours.”

Thus, Helwig started a stint as a lumper, and because he was in great shape, he could unload a truck in 2-3 hours. During his free time, he took the opportunity to talk to truckers about their daily activities, fuel costs, and other expenses. After many discussions, he thought he could be successful as an owner operator.

Helwig took his chauffeur’s license test in a dually pickup and admits he did not even know how to shift gears in a big rig, but he was determined to make a career in trucking.  At the time, a CDL was not yet required and there were fewer restrictions. In fact, trucking in the state of Texas was not regulated by Interstate Commerce Commission but the railroad commission instead.

However, several teamster operations held the interstate rights to non-exempt commodities, so there were limited types of authority available for owner operators. One category of freight that qualified as Exempt Commodities was produce, so Helwig started as a one-truck operation hauling fruits and vegetables from the Texas Valley, a fertile agricultural area in the southern portion of the state.

Helwig said he received a “rude awakening” once out on the road and laughs as he recalls some of the early challenges to his enterprise.

One of first loads he hauled was to Boston, where he was stuck in traffic going up a steep bridge. Worried about missing a gear and creating havoc behind him, James almost burned up his transmission and brakes on the incline.

His next trip was to the South Bronx in New York City where he had to deliver to Hunt’s Point, one of the largest food distribution centers in the world. The facility is known for its narrow backing and docking lanes, and Helwig had to pay an “old hand” a few dollars to back up his trailer for him.

“Trial and error” improved Helwig’s driving dexterity, and he also honed his business skills for a few months before getting off the road just before deregulation took effect in the early 1980s. He chose Rockwall, Texas as the location to open an operation that hauled produce to the East Coast and trip lease back to the Lone Star state.

They started hauling for shippers like Xcel Meats (now Cargill Foods) and slowly grew the business. After purchasing 15 trucks, he incorporated James Helwig & Son in 1984. Over the next two decades, Helwig built the fleet up 215 trucks and would sell the company in 2005. However, he called it “the worst mistake of my life” and soon had the desire to get back into the trucking business.

After a brief hiatus, James formed J.S. Helwig & Son, LLC. as a 48-state common and contract carrier, serving customers of temperature controlled and time sensitive traffic. In just a few years, Helwig has increased his equipment to 165 trucks and is steadily progressing his customer base.

Starting over posed a new set of challenges, but Helwig has learned an organization dedicated to customer service and quality will be successful. With pending regulations, Helwig also knew his new entity needed to focus on efficiency and safety. He is proud of the fact that his fleet has good CSA scores and has never failed a safety audit.

Helwig operates under a simple philosophy that serves him as well at the delivery docks as it did in the boxing ring: “don’t miss”. He still makes sales calls and thinks service is going to mean something again in this new Hours Of Service era.  His operation utilizes solo and team drivers plus owner operators, which offers flexibility to adjust to their customers’ needs. This approach has resulted in a 99.8% on-time delivery record and numerous awards, including Carrier of the Year for Family Dollar stores. These achievements are also due to utilizing modern equipment and the most up-to-date technology. Helwig runs late model Freightliners, Kenworths, and Internationals with no truck more than two years old (and no trailer more than four years old). Almost 100 of his trucks have EOBRs, and the entire fleet will be finished by the end of 2012.

The miles are not quite as many as in the past, but J.S. Helwig & Son’s average length of haul is 1,000 miles. Regardless, driver pay was another area where Helwig wanted to be a leader.  According to the National Survey of Driver Wages, the company ranks among the highest in their category. In fact, Helwig’s starting pay is higher than maximum pay at many fleets. With two years of experience, a driver can start at 37 cents per mile – and with six years of experience, the pay goes to 38 cents. The cap at J.S. Helwig & Son is 45 cents per mile with no hidden incentives. “I put my money where my mouth is,” James said.

Back in the day, it was just the opposite for Helwig, who was putting his mouth – and the rest of his face – in harm’s way to earn a paycheck.

“One thing I learned as a boxer and a bouncer is a fair fight is a fair fight, and that a man should not fight a kid,” Helwig said. He applied that lesson to his personal life as well. When his first trucking company was started, he could envision a succession plan with his son one day taking over the operation.

However, his son, Jamie, would have other plans. At 15, James Helwig had already had his first Golden Gloves fight. At 15, Jamie was completing half-Ironman triathlons and on the fast-track academically for college. Jamie would go on to graduate from the Wharton School of Business with a 3.8 GPA and is now a Wall Street “wizard” – running the consumer/retail division of one of the largest hedge funds in the world.

When James formed a trucking company the second time, he kept the “& Son” designation even though he knew Jamie would probably never be involved in the business. “It’s really a tribute to him. He’s everything I wanted to be,” James would say about his son. Helwig is equally passionate about the company’s professional drivers, who he treats as extended family. In fact, the best driver benefit at J.S Helwig & Son may be access.

“I never refuse a driver call,” says Helwig, who currently serves as owner, president, & CEO of the company. Maintaining the relaxed environment he started from the beginning, Helwig continues to build the relationships with his office employees and drivers.  Gary Cooley, a regional driver who has been with Helwig for almost two years, appreciates being able to interact with the owner. “When James says he has an open door policy, he means it. I’ve never been able to say that about anywhere else I have worked,” Cooley stated.

The company has new trucks arriving in April and currently has driving opportunities available for solos and teams. J.S. Helwig & Son is also hiring select owner operators. If you want to work for a man who relates well to drivers and understands the unique challenges the road presents, call 877-771-3464 today.

Don’t miss the opportunity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Terms, Conditions, HireRight/DAC and PSP Release

Terms and Conditions

In order to use this website to locate job opportunities, you have agreed your use is subject to the Terms and Conditions of this website.

Privacy Statement

This Policy informs you of the information practices for this website, including the type of personal information we collect, how the information is used and with whom the information is shared. This Policy applies only to the information collected on this website. If you are not comfortable with using this website in accordance with this Policy, please exit the site immediately.

This Policy and the Terms may change at any time. Your information on gathered by this site will be treated in accordance with the privacy policy in effect as of the date you provide information to us. If you do not agree with the privacy practices described in a policy, you should not provide us with information. Because your use of this site after changes have been posted indicates your agreement with these changes, we encourage you to regularly visit this Policy and the Terms. If you have questions about the privacy practices of this site, please contact administrator of this site.

This Policy is effective upon the launching of this site.

Application Submission

By submitting this application I certify that I personally completed this application and that all of the information is true and correct. I hereby request and authorize Carrier Companies and their agents or contractors that receive this application to cause to be conducted, at any time, an investigation of my background for employment purposes, which may include, but is not limited to, any information relating to my character, general reputation, personal characteristics, mode of living, criminal history, past work experience, educational background, alcohol or drug test results, or failure to submit to an alcohol or drug test, or any other information about me which may reflect upon my potential for employment gathered from any individual, organization, entity, agency, or other source which may have knowledge concerning any such items of information. I have completed this application of my own free will and hold harmless of all liability all companies, agents and associated parties for the use of this application. As part of our consideration of your application, the DOT requires companies to investigate your employment background. As part of this investigation, they may obtain consumer reports about you from HireRight/DAC as well as obtaining information about your driving record from the FMCSA and/or the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP). HireRight and DAC are consumer reporting agencies. Any decision they make not to hire you based on information contained in your consumer reports will be their decision alone. HireRight/DAC does not make any decisions concerning your employment with these companies and will not know the specific reasons why they may decide not to hire you. In the event you are not hired based on information contained in your consumer reports, the companies themselves will tell you. We also advise you of your right to obtain a free copy of the consumer report from HireRight/DAC and your right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of your report. Your consent for these companies to obtain the report from HireRight/DAC is required. Although you have a right to withhold your consent, companies will not consider your application if you withhold your consent.

By submitting this application I authorize Carrier Companies and their agents or contractors that receive this application to obtain may obtain one or more reports regarding my driving, and safety inspection history from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Any decision they make not to hire me based on information contained in your FMCSA reports will be their decision alone. I authorize Carrier Companies and their agents or contractors to access the FMCSA Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) system to seek information regarding my commercial driving safety record and information regarding my safety inspection history. I understand that I am consenting to the release of safety performance information including crash data from the previous five (5) years and inspection history from the previous three (3) years. I understand and acknowledge that this release of information may assist Prospective Employers in making a determination regarding my suitability as an employee. I further understand that neither the Prospective Employers nor the FMCSA contractor supplying the crash and safety information has the capability to correct any safety data that appears to be incorrect. I understand I may challenge the accuracy of the data by submitting a request to https://dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov. If I am challenging crash or inspection information reported by a State, FMCSA cannot change or correct this data. I understand my request will be forwarded by the DataQs system to the appropriate State for adjudication.

Collection of Your Information

We collect personal information that you voluntarily submit to us when you complete a job application or complete any other online form or survey. The personal information we request may include your name, social security number and contact information (including address, email address and telephone number) as well as information about your past employment, driving record, criminal history and other information relevant to potential recruiters and employers.

We also collect tracking information as you navigate the Web Site. This information may include certain information relating to you, such as your Internet address, Internet service provider, type of operating system, the time and date you accessed this site and the Internet address from which you arrived at at this site. We may also collect information from you through the use of a "cookie". A cookie is a small file that a web site can sent to your internet browser and is stored on your computer. This type of technology is designed to tell us when you reenter this site, where you visit within the site, and the type of browser you used. You are not required to accept any cookie we might use, although some areas of this site may not be operational without the use of cookies. You can disable cookies on your computer by changing the settings in your browser. The information collected helps us identify data relating to usage and trends, address any problems with website administration and to further improve this site.

Use of Your Information

By submitting your information, you grant us consent to use this information for the purpose of providing the information to interested potential recruiters and employers and other industry related organizations. We do not correct, verify, modify or supplement the information you provide to us. We are not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the information you provide. We simply provide the information you submit on this site to a potential recruiter or employer or other industry related organizations at their request. We are not an employment agency and are not your agent. Other than providing the information you submit on to this site to a potential recruiter or employer or other industry related organizations, we are not responsible in any way for assisting you in obtaining employment nor are we responsible for any employment conditions or employment relationship you may obtain, as a result of using this site. We are not responsible for any use, disclosure, protection or security of the information you submit on this site after the information leaves the possession of the ownership of this site. We may also use the information you provide on this site to communicate with you through direct communications, emails, newsletters etc.

If after filling out an application you decide not to maintain the information you provided or provide your information to potential recruiters and employers, other industry related organizations you should contact the administrator of this site. As you direct the site will cease maintaining your information and/or providing it to potential recruiters and employers.

Once you have found a job or wish to stop receiving communications from our site any email correspondance we have with you will contain an Unsubscribe / Opt-out link that will remove you from those communications from that time forward. You can also email info@besttruckdriverjob.com.

Sharing Your Information with Third Parties

This site will share the information you submit on this site to potential recruiters and employers and other industry related organizations, at their request. The site may disclose your information if we believe it is necessary to comply with law or governmental authorities or in connection with litigation, dispute resolution, or administration of this Policy. The site may disclose or receive your information in connection with a possible sale, purchase, merger or other reorganization of a business.

Retaining Your Information

The site will retain personal information collected through this site for as long as it is needed to fulfill the purpose for which the information was provided or as required by law.

Security of Your Information

To protect the information we receive, this site uses certain security measures designed to guard against the loss, misuse and alteration of that information. These measures include physical, technical and administrative controls including using a secure socket layer (SSL). It should be recognized, however, that we cannot guarantee that transmission of data over the Internet will be absolutely secure. Due to the open nature of the Internet, the information you provide may be in environments that do not have adequate security measures and may be accessed and used by persons other than those intended. As a result, while protection of your information is important to us, the site is not able to ensure the security of information you transmit to us via the Internet and you assume the risk of any third party obtaining that information. Upon receipt of your information, This site will strive to ensure its security on our systems.

Links to other Web Sites

This site may contain links to other web sites. If you choose to access those sites, please review the privacy policy applicable to each site. The links to other sites are made available as a convenience to you and this site is not responsible for the privacy policies and information collection practices of those other sites.

Global Presence

The management, operation and technical processes and systems used by this site may involve transfer of information across borders. For example, information you give may be sent to systems outside the country in which you initially provided the information and it may be processed and stored in a different country. Regardless of where you provide your information, this site will take steps to handle it in a secure manner in accordance with this Policy and applicable law.