Beyond Driving

| March 25, 2009

If life on the road is losing its appeal, there are many jobs other than driving that allow you to stay in trucking and make good use of your experience as an owner-operator. Many of them offer more regular hours, nights at home and consistent, occasionally higher pay.

Raymond Brown has had different roles since his day as an owner-operator. He now heads safety and recruits and oversees the small container division for Service One in Florence, Ala., which is an agent for Sargent Trucking. He started Service One with his partner, Robert Walker, who’s now his boss. The agency works with about 90 owner-operator trucks hauling wire, paper products and office furniture.

Jeff Ashcraft, vice president of business development at Sargent, says several of its agent companies are run by former owner-operators. “A lot of drivers have developed skills that would make them good to work at jobs other than driving,” Ashcraft says.

Working in an office can be great, though making a switch during the recession might be tough due to limited hiring demand. Trucking companies with openings want experienced salespeople who can bring business with them, says Craig Robins, owner of Robins Consulting of Addison, Texas. “They’re moving away from hiring for operations positions and looking for immediate help on the sales side.”

Yet when the industry rebounds, non-driving positions will open up, observers say. Here is a glance at people holding jobs where an owner-operator’s experience can be a great fit.

BREAKDOWN CONSULTANT
One-time owner-operator Robert Botkins sold his trucks in 2001 to launch an upstart catering business. About four years ago, he joined John Christner, where he had leased two trucks in the 1990s, and today works in its breakdown services department. Botkins works 42 hours a week over three and a half days, leaving him plenty of time to spend at his drive-through barbecue eatery. He takes 80 to 100 calls daily, and up to more than 125 calls on a busy shift. Some calls take 20 minutes or more, such as when he sorts through his computer database to find a tow truck to assist a stranded driver. His training lasted about four weeks.

“I already knew the lingo,” says Botkins, 45. “I can figure out how to fix a lot of things over the phone just by asking questions. It helps to have been in the trucking industry.”
Botkins declined to disclose his pay, but says he made more money driving, when he averaged 80-82 cents a mile. “You make a decent living here

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