John Smedile carries around an interesting record of the loads he hauls. Leased to a car-haul company that specializes in luxury automobiles, he routinely packs the enclosed trailer with millions of dollars’ worth of new and classic cars. His notebook of customers reads like the guest list for an Oscar-night after-party in Beverly Hills—a frequent destination for the New Jersey-based owner-op.
Not that his rig isn’t worthy of the red carpet, too. “Stacks the 389 Pete” is a custom 2008 model with a “highly modified” Caterpillar engine by Pittsburgh Power that puts out close to 1,000 hp. The trailer, also custom built, features polished hardwood floors and wall paneling, and can transport 6 automobiles.
Smedile has been hauling for Horseless Carriage Carriers Inc. for 10 years, and he bought his first truck 20 years ago when he pulled a chemical tanker long haul. But when it comes to careers, Smedile is more fortunate than most—twice as fortunate, in fact.
His other passion is firefighting, which he started on a dare in 1986 and he has served as a volunteer firefighter ever since.
As to why he’s a trucker, the answer is short and sweet: “Freedom,” Smedile says without hesitation. “Firefighting’s my first true love, but there’s nothing better than trucking.”
But the two professions are attractive for many of the same reasons, Smedile explains—although, ideally, he doesn’t get the adrenaline rush from cruising down the highway that he gets when entering a smoke-filled burning building.
“They both have to do with public service, and you’re doing something that most people don’t want to do,” he says. “You’re helping people with what they need. You don’t know what to expect until you get there, then doing what you have to do. It’s not a 9 to 5 job where you’re sitting at your desk. You’re constantly on the go.”
And he’s had occasion to use his first-responder training on the road.
“I have a full medical jump-bag with me at all times,” he says. “Unfortunately, I’ve stopped at several fatal accidents.”
Without a scratch
More pleasant to recall are his deliveries. First to Smedile’s mind is Roger Penke’s Bugatti Veyron, a street-legal, 16-cylinder supercar capable of 250+ mph—and a sticker price that approaches $3 million with all the bells and whistles.
But, Smedile admits, after handling a car like that, cars with famous emblems from Maserati or Ferrari or Rolls Royce just don’t impress him much anymore. Still, with six- and seven-figure price tags, shippers and receivers are going to be very concerned about the way their goods are handled in transit, right?
“After a while, they all just become cars,” he deadpans. “When I first started it would take me three or four hours to load the trailer. Now I’m in and out in five minutes, saying ‘I’ve got to go.’ You learn where to strap ’em and where to keep your eye out and what to watch for. Once they sign the paperwork, that’s my car. If I have to drive it six miles to the trailer, it’s all on me.”
As any car hauler will tell you, getting them to and from the parking lot is something anyone can do. Driving them up and down the ramp, and in and out of a trailer with only inches of clearance on either side requires a steady hand indeed.
“Like anything else, the more you think about it, the more likely you are to screw something up,” Smedile says. “Once you get it, you get it—but not everybody’s cut out for cars, I tell you. At the end of the day, it’s just like firefighting: You do what you’ve got to do and go home.”