The company name on David Hummel’s truck may have changed, but his glass freight has remained the same. Despite changes in his career and family life, the 41-year-old owner-operator of Crossville, Tenn., has hauled glass loads exclusively for nearly 20 years.
The potentially perilous haul has been less of a burden and more like a security blanket, says the father of three sons, all younger than 9. Having paid off his truck and trailer convinces him he’s toed the right line.
“Sometimes you get into doing something and before you know it you are in a groove and you like it,” says Hummel, who is leased to Maverick Transportation. “I like that I travel to the same places and work with the same customers. It helps me to know that there is an open level of honesty and trust.”
Owner-operator Frank Galiano, also leased to Maverick, says glass haulers like Hummel are rare.
“David makes sure his own truck and trailer are loaded perfectly,” Galiano says of his colleague’s persistence, noting that he “is a perfectionist and wants only the best image for himself.”
Hummel was fascinated with trucks even as a 4-year-old. When he was 21 his mother encouraged him to enroll in truck driving school at Poole Truck Line in Evergreen, Ala.
After two years at Poole and a month of hauling van freight, Hummel switched to flatbed. “It allowed me to get in a little daily exercise and challenged me,” he says of his career-making decision.
He learned the platform basics in 1992 from Don Schick, with whom he worked at A. J. Metler Hauling in Knoxville, Tenn. When Schick got hurt on the job, Hummel managed expenses.
“I kept track of his payments, his mileage costs, gasoline costs, everything,” he says. “I liked the idea of being my own boss, and I told Don that I wanted to have a hand at being on my own.”
Hummel’s first truck, a 1989 Freightliner, was the one he had driven for two years for Schick. “How many drivers have the opportunity to buy a used truck even after they have been driving it for a year?” he says. “I felt lucky.”
Hummel worked for A.J. Metler for seven years hauling glass, along the way trading the Freightliner for a new 1994 Kenworth. When Metler sold out to Schneider National in 1999, Hummel stayed with the company, (Schneider sold the glass division to Maverick in 2006.)
“I just changed the name on my truck and kept going,” he says.
In 2003, he traded his Kenworth for a 2003 Peterbilt and has driven it since.
Though Hummel embraces his work, at times hauling glass poses extreme challenges. Payloads can reach up to 42,000 pounds and take between two and eight hours to load and unload.
Being away from his family is likewise sometimes difficult, but Hummel says no occupation in Crossville could match his profit in trucking.
“I have mixed emotions over what I like more, trucking or family,” he says of his wife, Shawn, and their sons Seth, 8; Noah, 5; and Nathan, 2.
Hummel says staying profitable is, in part, due to his company’s policy of not cutting the rate per mile and paying a good fuel surcharge. Keeping precise written records both at home and on the road helps, too.
“I want to know what the trip pays me and what it costs me,” he says.
For 2008, Hummel’s net income was $41,000. In these economically challenging times, he is happy with that margin. In June 2008, Hummel paid off both his truck and his trailer, eliminating a $3,200 per month payment.
“I don’t spend frivolously,” he says. “Together my wife and I set money aside for emergencies.”
Because Hummel runs on routes primarily in the upper Midwest consistently, he can look at all jobs for cost effectiveness before signing on.
“I never take a route that costs me more in the long run, even if it requires me sitting out a day or two,” he says.
His former Maverick dispatcher Shirley Vollmer says Hummel chooses loads effectively.
“He thinks about all long-term and short-term aspects of carrying a load,” she says. “Because of his smart choices he can take a longer time off to spend with his family.”
Jerry Wilson, an owner-operator leased to Maverick Transportation, has known Hummel for 15 years. He fondly recalls Hummel’s meticulous attention to his freight and truck.
“He pays attention to details and if someone loads his truck and it’s not just right, he will let them know and won’t leave until it is to his liking,” Wilson says.
He appreciates seeing Hummel mature in roles from bachelor to family man.
“David loves his family more than anything,” Wilson says. “He strives to do a good job and give the company and his family 100 percent.”
As independent contractors continue to face challenges, Hummel focuses on the positive. “I try not to let factors like the increase of fuel and layoffs get me or anyone else down,” he says. “I want to encourage everyone and let them know things in life always have a way of working out.”