Family: Wife, one daughter, one son, four grandchildren
Truck: 1995 International
Leased to: Hot Shot Express, Spring City, Pa.
Freight: All kinds
Accident-free: 10+ years
Income: $35,000 to $40,000
Motto: My driving priorities are: me first, my truck second and freight third
Everett Falconer of Cambridge Springs, Pa., spends his weekdays running an engine and his weekends trying to get one to run. A self-described car nut, Falconer owns seven of the 435 Kaisers made in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The rarity of the cars is exactly what the veteran trucker likes about his chosen antiques.
“You see Fords and Chevys on every street corner,” Falconer says. “I like stuff that’s different.”
Falconer’s appreciation for doing things differently may explain his late entrance into the trucking industry. A former high school electronics teacher, Falconer first began driving a truck when he was more than 50 years old.
“The vo-tech program I was teaching was closed, so I began looking for work,” Falconer says. “At the time, there was really nothing going on in the area, so I looked into trucking. I asked people in the business, ‘What are my chances at my age?’ and they all said, ‘No problem.'”
Falconer’s dispatchers at Hot Shot Express say he goes out of his way to help when they have a problem.
“If we’re ever stuck and need a load covered, even if he doesn’t want to, he’ll do it,” says Tony Coccia, Hot Shot Express operations director. “He knows how to survive and thrive in the company. He’s definitely the model owner-operator; he’s top-notch.”
Having leased to Hot Shot since 1993, the Pennsylvania native adheres to several rules that helped him become Hot Shot’s Driver of the Year for 2001. He avoids driving at night, puts his personal safety above everything, practices courtesy at all times and understands the need for communication among drivers, customers and dispatchers.
“When he’s available for business and we call him, he answers,” Coccia says. “We appreciate everything he’s done on a communication level.”
Work is not the only place Falconer strives to keep communication lines open. Falconer says he tries to keep his 1995 International parked on weekends.
“Out of seven and a half years, I’ve missed maybe eight weekends at home, and some of those times my wife was with me,” Falconer says.
Louella, Falconer’s wife of 41 years, keeps his books and sometimes accompanies him on hauls that they turn into vacations. Falconer also spends down time with his two children and four grandchildren.
Falconer averages 110,000 miles per year, and his deadhead averages 20 percent to 25 percent.
“I watch my expenses; I don’t buy a lot of frills,” he says. “It’s tough being an owner-operator. You have to be very concerned about what you can afford.”
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Pieces of helicopters and airplanes. We had to take a part of the airplane off so it would fit on the truck. The engine mounted on the truck in front of me wobbled and almost fell off.
FAVORITE PLACE TO DRIVE: It depends on the time of year, but I like Pennsylvania and New York in the fall. The leaves are so beautiful. You can’t beat them.
LEAST FAVORITE PLACE TO DRIVE: In Virginia and West Virginia it can get pretty nasty. In West Virginia, the roads are scary; you can’t get around the curves. I barely kept all four wheels on the blacktop going around one tight curve.
HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING AN OWNER-OPERATOR: Being by yourself. Also, the health insurance eats you up.
HOW TO BE A GOOD DRIVER: Get freight there as soon as you can. Get the number of the delivery and call them personally to find out the best time to deliver.
ENTERTAINMENT ON THE ROAD: I have a radio; that’s all I need. I like some of the country music, the old stuff like Ray Stevens and Johnny Cash. I also like to listen to Jerry Clower.
HOW I MET MY WIFE: I met Louella in the first grade. After we grew up, we went together for two years before we got married.
FAVORITE FOOD: Bacon and eggs. I like breakfast. I usually eat only two meals a day.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Mushrooms, olives, sour cream and pumpkin pie.
PET PEEVE: I’m a little old-fashioned, and I don’t like being lied to or people cheating me. I just don’t deal with them anymore.
PLANS: I plan to retire soon. I’ll do some part-time work around home, work on my car and spoil my grandkids.
ADVICE TO YOUNGER DRIVERS: Have a good attitude. Be a little flexible, but don’t let them bully you into doing things. Don’t buy a big shiny rig and don’t be in debt.
PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Being debt-free. Some say being married this long is an accomplishment.
GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING OWNER-OPERATORS: Controlling expenses and earnings and maintaining equipment.
WHY I LIKE WORKING FOR HOT SHOT: Most all the time, I can tell them where I want to go, and they get me a load going there.
HOME: I grew up in Pennsylvania. I’ve lived within 30 miles of where I am now all my life. It’s snow country. I own 8 acres in the northwestern part of the state.