Posts Tagged “trucking”
It’s often observed you can haul onions on practically anything and driver Pelvis Bates of Newberry, SC is proof. HaulProduce.com met Pelvis several weeks ago as he was unstrapping a flatbed trailer with a load of onions.
He had delivered a load of steel from North Carolina to San Antonio. From there he deadheaded to south Texas where he picked up the onions around 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and was preparing to have them unloaded on the Atlanta State Farmers Market on the following Thursday afternoon.
His onion load was grossing 71,000 pounds, with the product on pallets on a 48-foot Great Dane flatbed. He was driving an International Pro Star Premium.
Pelvis drives for Senn Freight Lines Inc. of Augusta, GA, a company he says is owned by two brothers running 102 trucks.
This was the 45-year-old trucker’s first produce load in his relatively short career in trucking.
“They (shipper) told me to leave the front and back of the load open (with the rest of the load covered by strap held tarps) so the air could flow through it. This was to help prevent the onions from going bad,” he said.
Before entering trucking three years ago, Pelvis worked for a screen printing company. When that business folded, he received a severance pay and used some of the money to enroll in truck driving school.
His first job in trucking was with Swift Transportation pulling dry vans. He has been with Senn Freight about a year.
As Pelvis was unstrapping his load after the 1,300-mile haul, he says this is the first job he has had pulling a flatbed trailer.
“It is extra work unstringing the straps and and removing the tarps. When I first started doing this it took me two hours to strap a load. It now takes me about 45 minutes to an hour. That’s a lot of strapping. These tarps weigh 180 pounds each. If it’s 100 degress out here, that is hard work,” states the 45-year-old.
Pelvis says one of the best things about trucking is it affords the opportunity to see a lot of the country. Becoming an owner operator has crossed his mind, but he quickly adds, “it’s too expensive. I don’t see how those guys do it.”
Few things in the trucking industry are frowned upon more than lease-purchase plans. Go to work for a trucking company, lease a truck from that carrier with the idea of one day owning it. Failure for the deal to work out is blamed on everything from low driver pay to high interest rates and the carrier not providing the driver with enough miles The truck eventually goes back to the carrier, when the driver can’t make the payments. Then the process is just repeated.
Shaun Smith of Sanford, FL has been with KLLM Transport Services, Jackson, MS since last January. The 12-year trucking veteran has entered into a lease-purchase plan with the large carrier and says it is working out fine. He is making good money, logging a lot of miles and is making a living for his wife and four kids, who ages range from two to 14 years old.
The 34-year-old driver says he is averaging 3,000 miles a week, or about 150,000 miles a year. He drives a 2008 Freightliner with a Detroit DD15, pulling a 53-foot trailer with a Carrier Ultama XTO X Series reefer unit.
Shaun enjoys trucking because he gets to see a lot of the country, plus make a decent living while doing so. His primary complaint is with heavy traffic, especially in large cities such as New York and in California.
He started trucking after finishing high school, got married, and then went into water well drilling in Mississippi. He then moved to Florida, working in a warehouse for a fast food company. But trucking remains his first love.
“KLLM is a good company. I’ve got one more year before this truck is paid for,” Shaun says. “I got it on a lease-purchase plan. If you have the money to buy a truck right off the lot, then that’s a good way to do it. Under a lease-purchase plant you had better have a good carrier.”
Shaun had just delivered a load of soda pop from California to Oklahoma. He was waiting to pick up a load of muffins in Tulsa for delivery to Concord, NC.
He also hauls a lot of produce loads.
“I have no problem with hauling fresh fruits and vegetables. You have to keep a close eye on the temperature. But I like hauling it as well as anything,” he says.
As far as being the road so much, Shaun observes, “You have to have a strong mind and be able to be away from your family. It can be hard. But it is a good career.”
“When I started trucking 30 years ago, I was making similar wages to what these guys are making today,” states Randy Boushey, who used to truck a lot and still owns three older Freightliners he uses when in a pinch.
Randy still has his CDL, still trucks on occasion, but focuses more on being president of A & L Potato Co., a 71-year-old company that packs and ships potatoes out of East Grand Forks, MN.
He recalls making “big money” by comparison to what drivers are receiving today.
“I wish I’d put some of it away. What’s the farmer’s prayer?” he asks himself. “Please God let me make lots of money this year, and I promise I won’t piss it away this time.”
Randy still has fond memories of the days when he spent more driving a big rig. In fact, he claims he would put another newer models on the road if getting and keeping good, qualified drivers wasn’t such a challenge.
He ships a lot of red potatoes out of the Red River of North Dakota and Minnesota.
Randy has seen scenario from both sides of the fence; as a produce trucker and as a produce shipper. He realizes how important trucking is to the equation.
“Customers don’t want to hear excuses because they didn’t receive their potatoes because you couldn’t get a truck,” Randy says. “Getting trucks to come into the valley has been a challenge early in the potato season, because there hasn’t been a lot of outbound loads here.”
Randy points out a number of changes in transportation are occurring in the Red River Valley. For example, Britton Transport of Grand Forks, ND recently acquired Scott’s Inc., a truck brokerage. Pardee Transportation of Brooks, MN has bought out Prairie Line, a small fleet based in Fargo, ND. Plus, there was another trucking that recently filed bankruptcy.
“It is not going to get any easier. As good as our freight rates are on our commodities leaving here, that is only half of the puzzle. We’ve got to be able to load the trucks back into here. With $4-plus per gallon diesel fuel, it is imperative there is a decent rate for the truck,” Randy concludes.