FreightCaviar Talks: Alex Mai, Mutha Trucker CEO & Founder

Alex Mai talks about the beginnings and growth of Mutha Trucker News to over 500K subscribers, the opportunities its created for him, and how he pays it forward.

FreightCaviar Talks: Alex Mai, Mutha Trucker CEO & Founder

Two weeks ago, at Manifest in Las Vegas, I got to sit down with Alex Mai, Founder and CEO of Mutha Trucker News, a YouTube channel with over 500k subscribers. He shares daily clips with the latest trucking news. He details his transition from moving furniture for a living to having his own media company and shares his thoughts on taking risks in life. 

How did you get started in trucking, and how did that lead to Mutha Trucker?

A: I was a truck driver, moving furniture. My uncles are movers, and they’d take me with them every summer. They made sure I hated every moment of it so that I would never become a truck driver. And then I went to college, got a degree – I was struggling.  I was working at Walgreens as an assistant manager, making thirteen bucks an hour.

I was like, skip the trucking, man. I don't want to move furniture. I asked, “What are you guys making -  $25,000 a year?” It was then that my uncle decided to open my eyes to the reality of his profession. He responded, “Let me show you what we make.” Now, net, maybe that was $12-13,000 a month after paying people. But I never heard of money like that. So he took me on the road, and I quit my job, worked with him for a couple of years, trained, and worked for free.

I mean, this guy is the cheapest guy in the world. He never paid me, but at the end of it all, he gave me an old-school 1990 Eagle Pro Star that was about to break down, and I was able to do two loads with it before the motor blew. 

So when did the whole YouTube vlogging come about? When did you start doing that? One day you woke up and said I'm gonna do this? 

A: It came from depression. When you're a trucker over the road, you start looking at MySpace and all that stuff. All your friends are having fun, they're partying, and you're on the side of the road with a popped steer tire, waiting for a guy to come to fix it.

I'm thinking, what am I doing with my life? And so, my wife now, but my girlfriend at the time was like, “Why don’t you start journaling?” But I barely like reading, let alone writing, I ain't gonna do that. Then she suggested I could start filming. 

So it kind of just came out of boredom. There's no clear story. I breathe trucking, I live trucking, I die trucking. What's more? What started as a hobby helped bring excitement: “Oh, I've never been to Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the first time in Maine." So, I  just kept on making videos. Now, 8,000 videos later...

Where did you get the idea for the name?

A: You know, things are not about race. But my show was called the Asian Mai Show. I was like, I'm Asian, my last name's Mai, I'm going to have a show. And people are like, we don't get it. Is he cooking Chinese food? What the hell is the guy doing?

About two years ago, I changed it to Mutha Trucker News. What's up, muthatruckers? Truckers use that term, I didn't create it. 

When did you stop driving a truck? Two years ago? And that's when you went full-time?

A:  I mean, I liked it [Mutha Trucker], but I never thought it would be a job. Things are starting to grab my attention. People are asking me to go to conferences, go to an event, or interview somebody. And I couldn't book notes fast enough to get there. 

So 2015/2016 is when you started posting? What was the transition like? Were you just wondering: I won't drive anymore because I'm making enough money on YouTube? What was that like? 

A: I wasn't even making anything off of YouTube yet. Because I was a mover, moving furniture, what ended up happening was we worked four to six months in the summer, and then during the winter, my wife and family didn't want me to work. 

So I'd stay on the road six, seven months straight and take off three months. So I go, “Honey, I'm going to try and do this [Mutha Trucker] full-time. If I can make $2,000 from sponsors or whatever, can I do it?” She said, “You could try. But you make $10,000 a month moving furniture. I never see you, but it pays the bills."

After three months, I made $500 a month. And my wife saw how much I wanted to do YouTube, so I took one year off of work, and I went for it. And from there, it just kind of all happened. And now I'm co-owner of Big Rig Tees, and we’re in 250 truck stops. YouTube and all this is just for fun. 

Sure, you can monetize it, and I'm never ashamed of it. When you click on a YouTube video and the ad comes up, it pays you three bucks for every thousand views, so you're not making much money. 

Here's the kicker: YouTube came out with something about a year and a half ago that even if you did not monetize your channel, they would put ads on it anyway.

I felt okay with that. The money is coming from the ads and I'm not taking money from truck drivers' pockets. We get 15 seconds of annoyance, but it provides for me to do this. 

So you ended up being wasted, getting $500 in three months. Your wife said, “No, you're not doing it?"

A: I was about to get back on the road. She doesn't see me for six, seven months at a time. My wife said, “Honey, if you really want to.”  

I got to the point where I started making $2,500 a month. She said, “Okay, you could kind of do this.” 

I never cared about money, I have enough to live, I'm good. I just want to advocate for truckers and show everybody can't be bad from everywhere. There's got to be someone good at something. 

I just started getting into the rhythm, right? You find out what's going on in the market. People are like, man, I hate this, I hate that. But they don't have any understanding. So I'm going to do more of these things to get a better understanding because, look, you can't trash something, but then 90% of your business is using 3PLs and freight brokers. That doesn't make sense.

Underneath it all, there needs to be a better understanding that there's good and bad in everything. There are bad shippers, bad truckers, and bad brokers. I mean, all across the board, but there are good ones of everything, too. So that's why I said I'm going to start going to the other side and try to figure it out.

2020 to 2021. What did the transition to the t-shirts and swag look like? 

A: I was interviewing people at truck shows, and then I saw this guy Jake, who owned a factory and was selling shirts. I'd wear them because he's been in business for 24 years. I was like, “I love your shirts, I've been wearing them.” Didn't think much of it. Just thought he was this guy who keeps pressing shirts one at a time. I saw him on my truck shows, really cool guy who cares about truckers. And then we built the relationship.

In 21-plus years, he got into 60 or 65 truck stop locations. He said, Alex, would you like to be my business partner? You know, we gotta work on some things, but would you like to be a co-owner of this?

I've never had an opportunity like that, and he gave it to me. Less than two and a half years later, we're at 250 truck stops, And now we're talking with everybody, to be in another 800. 

You do that day to day.  What would you say takes up more of your time?

A: 99.9% of the time, I advocate for truckers. This is what I like to do. If it paid me nothing, I would do it. I have zero sponsors on my show – I take nothing. And no disrespect to anyone doing what they do, but I'm just here to give truck drivers a better experience.

I want to make a relationship with the other side so I can say, hey, did you know that potentially truck drivers don't like this about your company? They might not know that, right? I'd say, “Sir or ma'am, you're doing great.” They want to know the truth. Everyone wants their company to do good. So that's how it is, man. 

So what's the plan? What are your goals? 

A: I don't know, man. This journey is so wild. I just started on LinkedIn two weeks ago – shameless plug – I have 3,000 followers now. And what I'm doing is giving anyone who's into trucking, transportation, freight, or anyone who is involved with truck drivers a good experience.

I'm teaching people about social media branding for free, and I don't have an angle. Really, at the end of it all, I'm just having fun.

And so all these companies are following me, and then they're DMing me like, how much does this exchange cost? I say, what's your question? I'll just answer. I want everybody to blow up.

I've never seen anyone that's successful, really successful in life, that talks trash about people. You gotta love on people, and you gotta want them to win.

I want you to win, I see the way you move, I see how professional you are. I go: that's a dude you want to connect with. So, you know, I appreciate your success. I watch you - your guys' memes are funny as heck. You. I make it fun for trucking. Trucking is so boring. Maybe people will hate me for saying that, but you guys bring some education and life to it, I appreciate that. There are too many gatekeepers.

The industry is not that big, we can't not love on each other. There aren't that many people that love on us anyway.   

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