The Drive

When you are your own boss, you have to crack the whip on yourself.  This is a big difference from being an employee.  Since you have the freedom to work when you want to, you have to keep the wheels turning.  No one cares if you do or not because in the end it is you who will fail if you don’t stay at it.

Too many times I hear about drivers who can’t make it out here or who have lost everything and after being through some of the trials and tribulations that I have experienced in trucking, I only imagine that whatever they went through must have been worse than my problems.  What I imagine actually happens to most people in trucking is a point at which you are exhausted, dirty, lonely, poor, and then hit with a large repair bill backed up with no work and a family at home who isn’t happy that their breadwinner is gone all the time while the roof is leaking and the kids are in trouble in school.

The stress that the driver feels is enormous in these situations, but as a former mentor once told me, “the hard road is the right road”.  I know that the hard road is a huge pain in the ass, but as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel, you have to keep going down the tunnel.  Even if it stinks and is painful.  Too many times the load will require extra work that you weren’t told about or what the customer wants is unrealistic and will result in damage to your equipment costing you money and precious time.

You have to keep your eyes on the prize and proceed to your goal.  In previous posts I have mentioned that having realistic goals is important, they serve a purpose when the times get tough, because you have to keep heading towards the goal.  You might get knocked down.  You might get the crap kicked out of you, but you have to keep moving.  You can take a break and recuperate from time to time and you can use some of the money you have earned to treat your loved ones to a good time, but you are responsible for the business and only you will make it succeed. 

When you have developed a system that works for you and consistently has you making money and keeping it (and these jobs are out here by the thousands), you will find a way to lessen your exposure to pitfalls and start to regulate your work and down time.  The tough thing is walking away from a very relaxing time off with friends and family only to get behind the wheel and hit the road again.  It can help sometimes when you are fully caught up on your rest and relaxation and are ready to hit the road.  This is when you know that you are in the right place. 

As long as the wheels are turning and freight is on the deck for a decent rate, things are going well.  Most of us owners are driving, eating, sleeping, loading, unloading, fueling, cleaning, or doing maintenance.  Then add to that a wife, kids, mortgage, house maintenance, and health care, and you have yourself a full life with little time for yourself.  As long as you keep pressing on towards your goals, you are the most likely to succeed.  It isn’t a guarantee, but it is the right road to take.

Keep Your Eye On Your Own Pocket

I like to see the fancy custom trucks on the road with the paint jobs that match the trailer frame and the truck frame along with custom stainless steel and chrome.  I like to hear stories about the people in the business that are doing well and there are plenty of those stories out there if you know where to look.  What I don’t like is to try to look into other people’s pockets.
You will never really know what another person has unless you are an accountant or a banker and then you only know what you are being told to a certain degree.  Just because the truck is fancy and brand new, doesn't mean that they are doing well.  It means that they somehow or another acquired it with special financing, or a special deal with a bank, or maybe, just maybe, they are fortunate enough to own it outright because of their situation, but it doesn't mean that they are doing great in trucking.

On the other hand, if the truck is a piece of junk it doesn't mean that they are doing poorly either.  This is true everywhere, not just trucking.  However, when you are deciding on which path to take with your business, you have to look at your environment and decide which route to take for a better future.  In doing so, you have to talk to other drivers and look at where the country or business is headed.  For instance, when Burlington Northern Railroad was taken over by Berkshire Hathaway, they turned a failing business model around with their multi-million dollar war chest.  Berkshire Hathaway raised overpasses nationally that trains went under and were able to double the amount of freight capacity for the rail so that the ports could start putting everything on the rail instead of trucks.
At the same time, the Green Port initiative was started in California to reduce air pollutants.  Combine these two factors and you have a scenario which put many truckers out of business because they were dependent on the port for their livelihoods.

It is all relative.  So when you look around at the environment and see who and what is doing well or not doing so well, you can get a better picture of where to take your business.  And you need to know what business is going to work for you.  Just because someone is making money moving one type of freight, doesn't mean that they will do well moving something else and just because they have a nice truck doesn't mean that if you were in their shoes, with your financial situation, that you would be able to do the same thing that they are doing.

All you can do is make your business work for you and keep your eyes away from other people’s pocketbooks.  Craft a business model that makes you profitable based on what you have access to and go from there.  If you don’t have access to the best freight around, then get access to what you can and see if you can make money doing it.  Then build from there. 

Read The Pump

While fueling at a Love's truck stop in Joseph City, AZ I happened to see this warning label near the pump.
Looking closer I see the label states:  if you are fueling a vehicle with 3 or more axles, you will be faced with a minimum $1000.00 fine if you use this pump.  My truck has 3 axles.  
After seeing this, I snapped a couple of pictures and walked by all of the truck island fuel pumps to notice the same sticker on every fuel pump.  After asking the fuel desk attendant about the sticker and seeing their confused look, I talked to a manager.  He explained to me that the maintenance guy put the wrong stickers on the pumps.  On ALL of the pumps.  Wow!  I could understand a couple of pumps, but ALL of them?  I should hand him some stickers that say "Free fuel on Wednesdays".  I wonder if anyone has called the phone number at the bottom of the pump.  Needless to say, I fueled without paying the fine.