Q: What is the make and model of your trucks/trailers?
A: A 1995 379 Peterbilt and a 2007 48-ft. flatbed.
Q: Do you have regularly scheduled routes or on-demand delivery?
A: Most service is on-demand because I deal with a lot of construction projects. The primary focus is anything that can go on a flatbed ... except crushed cars. A few, usually outbound, are direct customers; brokers fill in.
Q: How do you handle maintenance? What are the challenges?
A: I try to do minor repairs myself. I’ve learned quite a bit over the years and saved a little money, which is always a plus. If you want to be an owner-operator, learn how to turn a wrench, as there’ll come a time you’re going to get grease on your hands.
The biggest challenge is downtime—getting something repaired. I want to get in and out as fast as possible. Getting into a shop can be a task, because there will probably be work before you. Plus, you still have fixed costs every day you’re down.
It’s not really a problem now, but when I started, it was hard finding and developing a relationship with at least two mechanics I could trust and knew were going to do the job right.
Another challenge is when I do something myself, ’cause I can take something apart easily but putting it back together is another story ... so now I take pictures.
Q: What about major repairs?
A: Major repairs are jobbed out. First and foremost, I plan for all major repairs so they’re done at my home base by mechanics I have a relationship with and who know my equipment. I buy my own parts to save [money], not having a markup on them. However, when you’re not home, bite the bullet or [you’ll] be at some mechanic’s mercy.
Q: How do you ensure good mileage from tires?
A: Keep them properly inflated. I check mine at least once a week; thump them every day. Make sure your truck and trailer alignment is correct, bushings are good, wheel bearings are tight, and shocks are good.
Q: Do you stock parts?
A: I keep a few fuel filters and a spare headlight, fan belt, and fuses. I’ll buy when needed or if there’s a big sale going on where I can’t refuse to buy ’cause it’s such a good deal.
Q: What is the biggest business challenge with your trucking operation ?
A: I want to expand and grow, but at what cost? Hearing stories about how fleet owners were so much more profitable with one truck than when they had 10 is kind of daunting, but it’s something I want.
Q: What one trucking regulation would you change or add? Why?
A: One piece of regulation? There are so many of ’em. I’m going to start with hours of service. FMCSA cannot get it right. The 14-hour rule is not safe. You can’t paint this industry with a broad brush; it’s so fragmented. You have to have some flexibility. The 14-hour rule forces you to operate when you’re tired; you want to pull over and rest, but that clock’s still ticking.