A Match Made in Hawg Heaven
Rick Rosen brings his own Harley-Davidson along when he’s hauling motorcycles for his customers.
You don’t mess with a man’s truck, and you definitely don’t mess with his motorcycle. You don’t ride it, borrow it or touch the gleaming chrome.
While a big rig may have 18 wheels and loom like Goliath over a motorcycle, there’s a bond between truckers and bikers that crosses the usual lines. There’s an understanding that they not only share the same road, they often share the same passion for the road, a passion that their four-wheel cousins could never feel.
Truckers and bikers have a lot in common, but truckers who have the good fortune to haul motorcycles have a very special deal.
Rick Rosen, trucker, biker and owner of Motorcycle Freight of Daytona, Fla., is used to causing a sensation along the road when he’s hauling his signature bright yellow tractor-trailers filled to the brim with a million dollars worth of motorcycles including brands such as Harley-Davidson (also known as “hogs” or “hawgs” depending upon one’s preference), Yamaha and Kawasaki.
Rosen treats every motorcycle he hauls just like he’d want his own bike treated. Which is why bikers turn to Rosen to transport their bikes to rallies and shows around the country. It’s also why Rosen tries to hire professional drivers who share his customers’ love of biking.
Hauling motorcycles from dealers or clubs to bike shows takes a truck driver with the same affinity for the passion a bike stirs in its owner. Rosen has had customers call him begging for information about how their bike fared on its journey. “Sometimes they sound like they are talking about a girlfriend or wife when they call,” Rosen says.
He understands their concern. You can’t just throw a bike in the back of a trailer and hope it makes it OK. Rosen has built a 21-year career in the niche market of custom bike hauling by making sure he knows all there is to know about delivering this specialized freight.
His customers trust Rosen implicitly. He may have a load of Harley-Davidson executives’ bikes mixed in with those of carpenters and maintenance workers. “It’s not about whose bike it is or how much money they make, it’s always about the bike,” Rosen says.
Rosen’s 20-plus truck fleet is a landmark at all the major motorcycle shows including the summer rally in Sturgis, S.D., and Daytona’s famous Bike Week. He’s known not only for his expert freight hauling but also for the customer appreciation party he throws on the last Saturday of Daytona’s Bike Week. Thousands of bikers, motorcycle executives, Harley dealers and customers party at his orange grove estate ringed by the yellow big rigs. Many of his longtime customers dance to the music of a live band and enjoy fresh sushi and an open bar into the wee hours of the night. He’s come a long way from where he started 20 years ago.
“In the early ’80s, people hauled their motorcycles with tow-trucks,” he says. “I happened to be in a dealership and answered a call from a guy who wanted someone to transport his bike without damaging it.” Rosen had a Toyota pickup truck with a 4×8 trailer, and he hauled his first paying customer’s bike that day. He started his motorcycle freight company by advertising his method of hauling versus the bike-damaging way of hanging them from the back of a wrecker. As motorcycles got more sophisticated and the riders more affluent, Rosen’s business prospered.
Doctors, lawyers, nurses and businessmen often ride today’s costly bikes, but many of them can’t take off the time to drive to far-flung rallies. So they hire companies like Rosen’s, fly to the shows and pick up their bikes when they get there.
While there are plenty of small to mid-size companies transporting motorcycles, one-truck owner-operators make a good living on a smaller scale. Tim Yeager from Boynton, Beach, Fla., has been hauling motorcycles for 10 years and still gets a kick out of picking up a load of bikes and delivering them to a bike show. His custom Freightliner pulls a 48-foot racecar trailer where he can fit 10 to 12 bikes and an exotic car or two.
Like most motorcycle freight haulers, Yeager won’t turn down the offer to haul the motorcyclist’s Porsche as well as his bike. The trailers are built for both, and often the more toys a person has, the more high-paying freight for the trucker.
Not all customers are experienced motorcyclists. Yeager delivered a specialty bike to a customer in California who ordered the bike from the Internet. When he unloaded the expensive, new motorcycle, he could tell the owner was hesitant to climb aboard. “What are you waiting for?” asked Yeager. Embarrassed, the customer admitted he’d never been on a bike before. Yeager spent the rest of his afternoon teaching him how to ride. “It’s not a burden – not when you love bikes like I do,” he says.