Dream Wheels

| October 05, 2005

“Before we load, I get under to see what’s what,” says Gallagher. “For example, before I put a tie-down around an axle, I want to be sure there is no brake line there that could break if I didn’t know it was there.”

Like most experienced classic car haulers, the Gallaghers will not go far before they stop and crawl all over their load. They can determine from looking closely at a vehicle they haven’t hauled before how they expect it will react in the trailer. That first stop lets them check to see if they have been correct and to make any adjustments.

Like household movers, the top exotic vehicle haulers arrive in a way that lets you know who they are.

“We’re always fresh from the shower and have our Intercity uniforms,” says Gallagher. “The tractor has a unique paint scheme, and we keep it spotless, and the trailer is always clean. We have to let people know we care for our vehicle as much as they care for theirs. They’re letting us drive away with something of incredible value to them, and often not just in terms of money.”

Dan Bemben, 47, a 26 year over-the-road veteran, 11 of them with Reliable, believes the hardest part of hauling exotic and classic vehicles is customer relations.

“When you haul vehicles this expensive, you have to deal with owners from company CEOs to billionaires, and they all have things they want, and you have to be able to deal with them,” says Bemben. “You have to be able to calm their nervousness.”

Bill Newman, owner of Newman International, a Tampa-based exotic car hauler specializing in the lucrative Southeast-to-California corridor (and the company has in fact shipped the movie Batmobile), says all of his drivers are experts in dealing with customers.

“They have to make plans ahead of time because we’re dealing with some unique individuals,” Newman says. “They call them before we load the cars and then the day before arrival, and they keep in touch if anything changes. There’s constant communication. These are busy people.”

MacDonald says “people skills” are essential when picking up from private homes. “You have to be able to deal with all kinds of people. Owners are obviously wealthy, powerful people. At other times you might have to deal with a house sitter.”

And sometimes an owner will ask to drive his car onto the truck. MacDonald says he will allow it if he knows the owner, but only if the owner asks (MacDonald won’t offer) and only if the car is to be loaded on the floor of the trailer. It’s easy to see why the top shelf is off limits. Watching MacDonald back a $350,000 Ferrari 430 Spyder out on the liftgate and inch back closer and closer to the edge can be nerve-wracking.

Bemben recalls an occasion when he had to deal with the very wealthy owner of a very rare vehicle. “He was a retired banker in California, and he owned a 1927 Maybach Roadster. He told me they’d only built two, and the other one was apparently pretty much destroyed and in Russia. We were loading in Beverly Hills and going up to a show in Palm Springs. He wanted to drive it onto my trailer and take it off. I figured he could do it and do it better than I could, so I let him. I had to be sure he could do it, and that was a judgment call. But I chocked him all the way. Once we got it on, he followed me all the way to Palm Springs, right there in my rear view mirror. He offloaded it, then he loaded it there after the show and followed me back to Beverly Hills.”

You’d think truckers hauling these vehicles would be fascinated by them and probably want one. MacDonald says that’s unusual. “I need to understand them to haul them safely; I don’t need to fall in love with them. If you do this enough, they are just cars you want to get from Point A to Point B without messing up. I’m not nervous unloading a $400,000 car because it’s what I do. It’s my profession.”

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