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American Trucker Magazine

Spotlight on an American Trucker: Sam Wills

“I’ve had an infatuation with trucks and big machinery going way back to when I was a child, from pickups to semis, skid steer bobcats to giant wheel loaders, bulldozers and off-road dump trucks. Later I talked to drivers who delivered at the factory where I worked, got my CDL, and started training and driving. I received an offer to drive local, then less than two years later went back to OTR. I saw many parts of the country but went local again after a year and a half.” -- Sam Wills, WW Trucking Inc., Darien, WI

Type of freight?
[I haul] mostly raw materials—scrap metal, sand, grain, coke—and occasionally asphalt oil in tank trailers. Dump trailers are primarily used for scrap metal; the belt trailers are very versatile. Not only can they haul a variety of freight but can unload in various places (where dump trailers could never go).

Make/model of truck and trailer?
A 2007 Freightliner Columbia  with a Vantage dump trailer.

Engine and transmission?
A rebuilt Detroit DD13 with an Eaton Fuller 13-speed transmission. We’re always hauling heavy (pretty close to the limit). A 13-speed is a plus, able to split the high-range gears. The Freightliner Columbias from those years are designed with a good turning radius. We deliver in some tight places, so that is a must.

What are three challenges with the freight you haul?   

  1. Tight time deadlines; no drop and hook; shippers/receivers operate on their own schedule.
  2. Equipment failures: a lot more moving parts, especially on the belt trailers. I always have tools handy, and have to improvise and adapt.
  3. Tarping and untarping in the wind. [Tarps] have a tendency to rip and fail.

How do you minimize downtime for maintenance/repairs?
We use advanced filters on oil and fuel and certain kinds of fifth wheels to avoid greasing constantly. We also use advanced brake drums that don’t warp outward near as much as standard ones.

Mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?
We usually maintain equipment every 20,000 miles or six months.

How do you ensure good mileage from tires? Which brand?
Michelin. We keep them aired up (usually between 100-120 psi).

What is the biggest challenge you face driving a truck?
Both being away from home and/or long working hours when running city. We’re usually taking one load out and bringing another back, so there are very few half days.

If you could change/add one regulation to trucking, what would it be, and why?
Definitely the 14-hour rule; maybe extend it to a 16. Three hours is not enough time to inspect, load, unload, get a bite to eat, and still be able to drive the full 11. Maybe even shorten up the 10-hour break; if you don’t drive the full 11, make it easier to split.

What do you enjoy most about trucking?
I like being captain of the ship, seeing the country, and working by myself. It’s different from nearly any other job.

Our customers are mostly factories and material supply places, so we generally don’t work holidays or holiday weekends.   


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