Posts Tagged “owner operator”
Allen Loggins has been an owner operator all but three years since he began trucking in 1996. Some might consider him old school, whether we’re talking about the 25-year-old Pete he drives, or his refusal to haul cheap freight. Then there is the matter of him keeping his down time to a minium waiting for loads.
We’ll start with the latter.
A resident of Jackson, GA, Allen says he used to run Florida a lot over a 25-year period. That has changed.
“There is a lot of sitting and waiting in Florida. I used to haul a lot of stuff (freight) into Florida ports. But there is simply too much waiting,” he relates. This also applies to hauling Florida produce, especially during the off season.
Instead, Allen now prefers Texas over Florida. He hauls mostly fresh produce out of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Often his destination is the Atlanta State Farmers Market. Sometimes he’ll deliver the fruits and vegetables elsewhere in Georiga or the Carolinas. The return trip to Texas typically involves meat that will be exported to Mexico. It typically is something like processed chicken or balonga he picks up in Selma, AL.
“I like hauling produce,” Allen states. “Some people think you are nuts. But if you haul out of Florida, you are nuts. I would sit there all day then they want you in Atlanta in no time. Florida wears you out hauling produce. Texas is much easier.
The 51-year-old trucker says there are occasions he’ll be stuck a day or two in McAllen, TX waiting for the product from Mexico to cross the border, but that is rather unusual.
Allen owns and operates Southern States Produce, which consists of his 1989 Peterbilt conventional, housing a 425 hp Model B Cat diesel. The truck has a 15-speed tranny and 3:90 rears. He pulls a 53-foot Great Dane trailer cooled by a Thermo King refeer unit.
Allen knows the old Pete well. He drove the truck for the owner until that person retired. A few months ago Allen purchased the truck and once again became an owner operartor.
“I don’t like these new trucks. They have too many electronics and sensors. They are too expensive to repair,” he states.
When it comes to produce hauling, Allen has a few basic principals to follow. He makes sure the product is hauled within in the proper temperature range. He also avoids mixing perishable items that are not compatable. Finally, he checks his reefer unit every couple of hours or so making sure it is doing its job.
Allen had recently delivered a load of Mexican green house grown roma tomatoes to the Del Monte facility in Altanta that he had picked up in South Texas. He then loaded meat products in Alabama for delivery back to Texas. From there he picked up a load of Mexican avocados, again in South Texas, where were delivered to the Atlanta State Farmers Market.
He just had his rig washed at the nearby Patriot Truck Stop, before taking four days off until hitting the road again. Allen typically has the truck washed a couple of times a month, citing the need of making a good impression with the shippers and recievers.
“I don’t want to pull up to the dock with a dirty assed truck. If you don’t have a nice looking truck, they might think you don’t take care about their load,” Allen observes.
Finally, as an owner operator, Allen says he has to gross between $2 and $3 per mile. This way he makes enough to put some cash away for repairs and maintenance.
It make sound old school, but it seems to work for this owner operator.
He earned his million-mile award about three years ago, while driving for his current carrier, Werner Enterprises, The Omaha -based company he’s now been with 11 years.
Leonard is proud of the fact he’s had no accidents, and has never been arrested during his career. He’s driven for a number of companies over the years and has received safety awards at every stop along the way.
He was an owner operator for about three years after completing his enlistment in the Army.
“My dad suggested when I got out of the service I start driving a truck. I’ve been doing it ever since,” he says.
Leonard was stationed in Germany during his military stint, then lived in Chicago after he got out of the Army. He then moved to Mississippi now calls Iuka, Ms home.
At one time during his career the driver hauled a lot of fresh produce out of California to Walmart distribution centers. These days, most of his driving is in the Southeastern USA, although he’ll get as far north occasionally as Pennsylvania delivering Sara Lee products.
Leonard drives a 2010 Peterbilt housing a 475 hp Cummins diesel, with an eight speed transmission and 70-inch sleeper. He was pulling a 53-Utility trailers with a Carrier reefer unit.
While he still enjoys trucking, the excessive rules and regulations make it more difficult. For example, he was parked in a Georiga truck stop waiting for another driver to take over the load for final delivery.
“I only had 30 minutes left on my 14-hour restart, so I had only driven a few miles. After the other driver picks up the trailer, I’m going to deadhead home.”
While he continues to enjoy trucking and seeing different places, Leonard admits it is not as much fun as it used to be.
“Nobody talks to you anymore; not even other company drivers. There are four or five other Werner drivers parked here; we ought to at least be talking to one another,” he says.
Leonard logs about 60,000 miles a year, unlike the 135,000 annual miles he used to drive. There also is a 62 mph governor of that Pete. Still, he’s got those million miles of safe driving under his belt. That’s something of which to be proud.
He talks about working directly with shippers for starters. For example, the past six years Allen has worked directly with Lipman, a 60-year-old farming and shipping operation that was known as Six Ls until a name change in September 2011. Based in Immokalee, FL, Lipman is North America’s largest field grower of tomatoes with 4,000 workers and 22 locations.
Not only does Allen work directly with shippers, but good ones.
“Six Ls can call me anytime and I’ll be there. I stick with them, but it works both ways. They treat me well and I provide them with great service,” says Allen, who lives in Canton, NC.
Another reason the 64-year–old veteran trucker has always been able to make it as an owner operator is because he has his own operating authority.
“Having your own authority makes a big difference,” Allen says. “You don’t have to pay some else to run under their operating authority.”
How often does he haul produce? Everyday. He pretty much hauls exclusively for Six Ls (Lipman), a company that also has several vegetable items in addition to tomatoes. Most of his hauls are up and down the East Coast, although he occasionally delivers in the Midwest.
On this recent November day, Allen was at on the Atlanta State Farmers Market delivering tomatoes he had picked up in Asheville, NC. He didn’t know where the tomatoes were grown. Once unloaded, he would be deadheading the 200 miles back to Asheville.
“I’ll be paid for the deadhead miles,” Allen says, although he did not want the amount per mile publicized for the record. If I haul something up there then I’ll get full pay.”
Another key to being a successful owner operator is being on time.
“You have got to be dependable and on time. Wal Mart will charge (deduct from your freight) $100 if you are a minute late for arrival. It happened to me one time,” he recalls.
Allen also rarely eats in a restaurant, although he averages well over 100,000 miles a year on the road. He saves by taking and preparing his own meals.
While being on time, having your own authority and working directly with shippers are keys to his success, these are not the most important factors.
“The most important thing,” Allen says, “is you have got to have what it takes inside of you. You have to want to do it. You have to have that internal drive to work.”
Operating as E.A.R. (Edward Allen Robinson), he owns a 2006 Western Star he actually purchased new in 2007. It is powered by a 550 h.p. twin turbo Caterpillar diesel and features an 18-speed transmission. The sleeper is fully equipped with everything from a flat screen tv to a microwave oven. The Star has logged 700,000 miles. It pulls a 53-foot Utility trailer with a Thermo King reefer unit.
Allen is seriously considering retiring in May 2013. However, he admits not being sure whether he is going to keep the Western Star or not.
However, a little later he adds jokingly, “I’m going to leave my truck in the yard for a little while, just in case I wear out my welcome at home.” He has been married 20 years and has six granddaughters and two grandsons.
He’s looking forward to the holidays and taking some time to be off with the family and buying gifts for the grand kids.
“It’s really worth it, just seeing the smiles on their faces,” he concludes.
He’s still running over the road, but he takes off a couple of months each year, raised five kids, and still enjoys what he is doing.
The resident of Grand Forks, ND began trucking at age 26. Until seven years ago when he became a driver for Troy Pecka Inc. of East Grand Forks, MN, he was an owner operator. Now 65, Duane doesn’t want to work as hard, pretty much selects his hauls, and still does his share of trucking. Yet, he usually takes off around January and February each year and relaxes in Arizona.
“I owned a truck for 25 years. I really enjoyed it. I paid for every truck I bought and I can’t complain. I had five boys and one girl and most of them went to college. I don’t have a lot of money left, but I accomplished that anyway,” he says in a modest, soft spoken voice.
“All my kids are grown and they are doing pretty darned good,” he says. The only kid involved in trucking is a son with a couple of trucks that run locally for a business his son owns.
So how does a guy raise give kids, vacation two months year and pretty much set his own driving schedule?
Duane says if you are a produce trucker, you have got to be “connected” and “be careful because a lot of people are out there who won’t pay.” For the young, inexperienced persons entering trucking he suggests relying on the credit and rating services such as the Blue Book and the Red Book. These will give one a good idea of how reputable a company is and show their pay practices.
“When it comes to rejected loads or claims, you sometimes learn as you go. I look my loads over when I’m being loaded. You can telll when the produce is fresh, or if it is ‘iffy’.”
When it is “iffy” with quality or appearance concerns, Duane stresses the need to tell your customer about its condition. It is better the load be “kicked” by the buyer at the loading dock than after you have delivered it to the customer. The shipper may not like what the trucker is telling the customer, but that shipper will also realize the product isn’t what it should be.
Duane says there are a lot of good trucking companies to work for, but that Troy Pecka was an independent trucker himself, plus his father and brother were in trucking.
“Troy understands the whole business. I go (on hauls) when I want to go with his truck, just like it was my own. All he expects is that the truck makes money. There are five or six guys my age that work for him and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He knows when you leave with a load it is going to get there,” Duane says.
Duane actually leased his own truck to Troy Pecka Trucking for four years, before selling it and becoming a company driver.
He is now driving a 2007 Kenworth T-600 with a C-13 Cat engine with 475 h.p., pulling a Great Dane trailer.
Duane has nothing but praise for the Great Dane, saying “you pay for what you get.” He cites the Dane’s heavy insallation and sturdy floors, noting some cheaper brands of trailers “are throw aways” because they are not built as well.
“I haul quite a bit of produce,” Duane relates. “I’ve hauled everything you can possibly imagine. We do haul some frozen items. I haul a lot of raw (fresh) potatoes out of the Red River Valley.” However, he also hauls everything from watermelons to lettuce, cabbage and other vegetables and citrus out of South Texas.
“I’ve always hauled a lot of produce and always made a living at it,” he states.
That’s pretty obvious, having raised five good children and vacationing in Arizona during part of the winter.
The 44-year-old former owner operator says he parked his truck because of poor economic conditions and excessive government regulations.
The driver for MK Express of East Butler, PA was fueling at a Petro Truck Stop at Vienna, GA. He hauls primarily produce out of the Southeast and dry freight on the return haul.
Bowling says a main complaint with hauling produce are the delays associated with getting loaded. Although this is not as serious a problem working with his current carrier, he notes too often product is still in the fields when arriving at the loading docks. Maintaining proper load temperatures also is cited as being very important.
While Bowling loves the independence associated with trucking, he says U.S. Department of Transportation regulations are excessive and challenging.
“The DOT is always wanting to put more regulations on you and it just makes it harder,” he states. More specifically, he cites most recent hours of service regulation changes. Bowling says the changes, involving the 14-hour rule may be better for some drivers, but worse for others.
He is referring to the 34-hour restart once a week with two sleep times from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., plus there is the 30-minute rest break following eight hours of driving.
“For some guys it would be too much time off, but for others it might help keep them from driving when they are tired,” he says.
For owner operator Larry C. Jones it is like being a kid waking up every morning at Disney World. No, I’m not saying he’s “Goofy”, or even “Happy” of the seven dwarfs, because he’s not short. And he’s certainly not “Grumpy.”
The 62-year-old is simply one of those guys who makes you feel better after having spent some time with him. Always smiling, optimistic, he loves his career in trucking that started in 1984. He also worked seven years for “Buster Brown” back in the ’70s.
Not everyone could do what Larry does. His routes are nearly as predictable as a mail carrier’s. But this is part of the secret to his success. Larry works and deals with the same people and companies on a year around basis.
For example, the past 28 years he has worked with Grist Truck Brokers Inc. of Tifton, GA. The trucker also loves hauling fresh produce and depending on the time of the year is normally loading out of Florida, Georgia, or Tennessee. He will deliver fruits and vegetables to Reaves Brokerage Co. in Dallas. Then he will pick up frozen foods in Big D at Sysco Food Services and deliver it to Sysco San Antonio Inc. In San Antonio he’ll pick up a load of frozen biscuits at Lone Star Bakery for delivery in Jefferson, GA. It is pretty much the same routine every week.
There is little deadheading, or down time — and how could you sit idling for long when you log 250,000 miles a year! He’s sees the same waitresses, cashiers, dock men etc. on a regular basis. Talk about first-name-basis greetings!
“I make good money because I do the same things over and over again. Grist is good to me. They are decent, good people to work for,” Larry says. “The folks I deliver to in Texas, they are my best customers. I have been delivering to these people a long time. They trust me and know I deliver on time.”
Larry constantly receives compliments on how great his equipment looks. He drives a 2001 conventional Peterbuilt he purchased in 2003 that now has over 1.7 million miles on it. It used to be a plain jane, but thanks to a lot of work by Larry and Mark’s Body Shop it is now one customized beauty.
The red Pete with cherry black fenders houses a 550 h.p. Cat engine, with a 10-speed tranny and 300-inch wheelbase. The tractor pulls a 51.5-foot Walbash speed axle with a 310 Thermo King reefer unit. The truck has an outrageous amount of chrome both inside and out, including a pair of hefty eight-inch stacks. The 63-inch flattop sleeper has amenities ranging from refrigeration to a flatscreen TV.
While Larry has one of the sharper rigs on the road, that’s not good enough. Every two to three years he does a remake of his pride and joy. In fact, before long he is planning to take off a couple of weeks, visit his buddy Mike at the Tifton body shop, and give the equipment another make over. Among the changes, laying a wooden floor in the cab.
Larry has promised to send HaulProduce.com photos when the job is finished — around July. Look for our flickr posts.
Meanwhile, Larry plans to keep doing what he loves most. “I’m relaxed driving down the road. The people tell me how good my equipment looks, and that is what keeps me going. I love getting out on the road. I know everybody, even at all the places I stop.”
It may not be waking up at Disney World every morning, but it has got to be the next best thing — although in Larry’s mind, it’s even better.
Leased to A.L. Smith Trucking of Versailles, OH, Jerry is picking up a load of tomatoes from a Del Monte warehouse in Atlanta for delivery to another Del Monte facility in Winset, NC. At the Winset warehouse, he’ll load more fresh produce and head to Del Monte’s operation in Columbus, OH.
The closest Jerry has come to hauling produce was about 20 years ago with a load of cheese. Since then his focus has been with dry freight.
As Jerry was preparing to pull out of the truck stop and head to the Del Monte warehouse, this writer forgot to get his contact information. It would be very interesting to see if his first produce load would be his last. Or just maybe he found a new challenge after all these years that he really likes!
Jerry fully realizes hauling perishables “is definately more challenging than pulling a dry van.” He decided to haul produce on the recommendation of a friend who had “made good money” over the past year leasing with A.L. Smith.
Jerry says his career as an owner operator has succeeded by being careful whom he hauls for and taking the most profitable loads.
Over the years he has considered obtaining his own operating authority, but he has known too many truckers who have tried it and failed.
Prior to trucking Jerry graduated from high school, then enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years, before transferring to the U.S. Army for another six years.
Between the experience in the military and his time hauling dry freight, he seems confident he is prepared to enter the world of produce trucking. Jerry is aware of the “weird hours” and delays often associated with loading and unloading fresh fruits and vegetables, plus plenty of other issues at the docks. He has been briefed on important factors such as maintaining the correct temperature for his load of tomatoes he’ll transport in a 53-foot Utility trailer equipped with a Carrier refrigeration unit. The trailer is owned by the company to whom he is leased.
As Jerry was finishing fueling his truck, he was asked if he had any advice for anyone looking to enter trucking and wanted their own truck. He advised they first learn the industry as a company driver.
As for buying a tractor, he advised against purchasing a new one. He cited the high monthly payments as a primary negative with a new truck, along with the higher down payment required. Jerry also cited other factors such as lease-purchase plans “where you will end up paying too much. Buy a new truck and it is hard to come up with those $1800 per month truck payments.”
Jerry practices what he preaches. He owns a 2001 Kenworth T-600 with a 250-inch wheel base and a 13 speed transmission. His truck payments are $500 per month.
“If you own your own truck you always have a way home,” he surmises. “I’ve seen too many of these company drivers fired while on the road and have had to find their own way home.”