Little people chase big dreams on 18 wheels

Diversity and Inclusion, Drivers, Our People

Their determination to build meaningful and rewarding careers keeps these professional drivers moving

What’s happening: Lorenzo Sampson and Joachim Wangui are proof that little people can achieve big things in trucking and beyond. Joachim completed his driver training with guidance from Lorenzo, who has driven for Variant since 2021. Joachim also recently became a U.S. citizen, a huge milestone that takes years of hard work.

Why it matters: Stature is no barrier to a career as a professional driver, as long as candidates can pass the physical, written, and on-the-road driving tests required for a commercial driver license.

The bottom line: We’re proud to have these professional drivers representing Variant across America, and excited to give them the opportunity to show the world what they can do.

Lorenzo Sampson and Joachim Wangui know that it might surprise some people to see them driving big rigs, but they also know that there’s plenty of room on the road for all kinds of people.

“I simply want to have a good job, and Variant and trucking is the best job that I’ve ever had, it’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had to earn a really good living,” Lorenzo said. “I can do it, and I can do it well, so it’s a fantastic opportunity, but I’m just a guy trying to make a living. I don’t feel special because I’m short-statured.”

Lorenzo has been driving for Variant since 2021, and he sponsored Joachim, who joined Variant in November 2022.

“I’m so proud that I’m doing this and seeing so many places in America,” Joachim said. “I’ve gone all the way to California, to Arizona, the country is so beautiful, and to see it while driving, just for me to tell people, ‘Yes, I’m a truck driver,’ makes me so proud.”

Joachim shares his story on TikTok, where he has more than 53,000 followers and nearly 300,000 likes as ‘Katuosis the truck guy.’

“I started this account to tell people what I do every day and the challenges and success stories in trucking as a little person,” he said.  

Stature is no barrier to a career as a professional driver, as long as candidates can pass the physical, written, and on-the-road driving tests required for a commercial driver license. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers or potential employers of qualified individuals with known disabilities to make reasonable accommodations that would allow those individuals to perform their jobs. Joachim uses pedal extenders in his truck, and both men have catwalk steps on the back of their cabs that allow them to easily reach the connections between the cab and the trailer.

Khristyal Bradford, a program manager for Variant, worked with the men while Lorenzo was training Joachim, and she was consistently impressed, she said.  

“They’ve been a pleasure to work with, and they really show that if you can see someone doing something you didn’t know was possible, it opens up a new world,” she said. Khristyal worked as a professional driver for seven years herself, and she knows how tough the job can be.

“They both just show up and work hard and give it all they have,” she said.

The road to trucking

Lorenzo had worked for years in retail, in restaurants, and as a chess instructor, but he was always in search of a career that could help him build a stable financial foundation and the freedom to define his own success. When his best friend announced he was going to pursue his commercial driver license, Lorenzo initially thought his short stature would make it impossible for him to work in trucking.

“I had some self-imposed limiting beliefs,” Lorenzo said. “Me drive a semi-truck? How would that even work?”

But then he began to wonder: Is there really any reason I can’t do it? When he had the opportunity one day to climb into a cab, Lorenzo’s perspective changed.

“I climbed up there and sat down, and I could see the mirrors, I had a good vantage point out of the windshield, I could see everything, I could reach everything,” he said. “I felt empowered.”

Lorenzo began studying for his CDL in every spare moment, and then joined a training program where he practiced constantly to pass all his written, physical, and driving tests. At the end of the program, he was one of just 13 to graduate from a class that started with 53 students.

“That made me proud, it made my trainer proud,” Lorenzo said. “That was four years ago, so now I feel like I have a degree in trucking.”

Joachim arrived in the United States six years ago from Kenya, determined to find a way to work hard and build a good life. As a little person, he didn’t drive in his home country because modifications to cars were expensive and hard to access. In the United States he was able to get a car and outfit it with pedal extenders, and he began working every day doing food delivery.

“I would drive the whole day, I’m having my own freedom, I’m working on my own time, and I’m interacting with so many people, which I love,” Joachim said. “I would see people with trucks, and I wanted to try trucking, but I wasn’t sure I would qualify.”

Joachim had been working for three years as a delivery driver when he spotted Lorenzo’s story on the Facebook page for Little People of America, a nonprofit community and advocacy group for people of short stature. He asked Lorenzo how he might earn his commercial driver license, and Lorenzo offered to help him navigate the process.

“I took a leap of faith and did it, so if I can extend my hand and lend support, that was an easy call for me,” Lorenzo said.

Joachim earned his CDL through a state-sponsored program offered in Ohio, where he is based, and he joined Variant with Lorenzo as his sponsor and trainer in November 2022. That same month, after six years of working through the immigration process, Joachim also became a U.S. citizen.

He occasionally encounters people who are surprised that a little person can drive a big truck, and he always takes the opportunity to encourage them to imagine what they might be capable of that they haven’t considered.

“They say, ‘You drive that big truck? I tell them yes, and they usually get encouraged and feel challenged that they also can do things they didn’t know they can do.”

The work is demanding, Joachim said, but it’s allowing him to build a prosperous life.

“It’s a hard job, you need to be dedicated to do it, you have to have passion to do it,” he said.

Lorenzo has been pleasantly surprised by the acceptance and even the respect he has felt in the trucking industry, he said.

“I’m seen as a person just doing his job, and sometimes I might even be a bit more respected because they can see, that job might be more difficult for you to do, but you still do it, and kudos to you. I feel that vibe.”  

Professional driving has given him the ability to build the career he always imagined for himself, Lorenzo said. He has seen places all over the country that he never had the chance to visit, and he has even been able to travel internationally for vacation for the first time in his life.

“I used my passport for the first time last year when I went to Nairobi,” Lorenzo said. “Trucking has afforded me this — financial freedom, self-sustainability, autonomy, the confidence boost, control over my finances, independence, a positive future. Retirement is a possibility for me someday for the first time, I feel like I’m breaking into the middle class for the first time.”

Related Posts