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Owner-operator Bob McKinley

Spotlight on an American Trucker: Bob McKinley, owner-operator, leased to Climatic Carriers LLC

Owner-operator Bob McKinley’s first job was working for his grandfather, driving a GMC box truck for the HVAC wholesale distributor in Southern Michigan. After 10 years in the HVAC business (including a short stint repairing AC units in Iraq working for Halliburton), McKinley went to trucking school. He hired on with Swift’s flatbed division and spent two years there before moving to a small, local company in his hometown of Coldwater, MI. There he learned how to handle tankers, end dumps and even some hopper bottoms. He now hauls produce with a 2006 International 9400i powered by a Cummins ISX, and he pulls a 53-ft. reefer.

Q: What are some challenges you face with your maintenance program? How do you resolve each?
A: On-road breakdowns are my biggest headache. I try to do research on shops before deciding where to go. Second is trying to decide what actually needs to be done and what is just profit for the shop. Finally, I prioritize things that need to be replaced when cash flow is tight.

Q: How are maintenance and repairs handled?  Do you stock any parts for your trucks or purchase as needed?   
A: I try to do as much repair on my own [as I can], but when it comes to preventive maintenance, I prefer to use TA Petro just because I can’t do it as cheap at home. I try to get repairs done at smaller, independent shops. For major repairs, I use independent shops if at all possible. OEM shops are normally my last resort.

Q: What do you do to ensure CSA compliance for your truck/trailer?   
A: Climatic Carriers handles that for me. (Thanks, Bekah, Jodi and Marsha.)

Q: What do you do to minimize maintenance-related downtime?
A: I do pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Whenever I’m home, I go over the truck with a fine-tooth comb, then I have one of my sons do the same in case I’m just missing something.

Q: Which brand of tires do you use? Retreads? How do you ensure good mileage?
A: Tire pressure is always biggest for mpg, plus or minus. I like the BF Good­rich virgins, and I’ll use recaps on trailer and on drives if it’s in a pinch.

Q: How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck or trailer?
A: I run them to death. I can do lots of work on this one before $150,000 sounds like a good investment.

Q: What are your specifications for your trucks? Do you find these on the used market?

A: I doubt I’d ever own a new truck. I like the idea of spending under $20,000 and driving the wheels off it. I may spec a few things, but I prefer to buy what will work. Some of these mega-carriers do a real good job of spec’ing trucks.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?    
A: I love to see different parts of the country. I’ve always been a history buff, and a little sweet-talking will get you into RV parking areas. I even had a ranger at Gettysburg put cones in the parking area to save me a spot.  
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