Featured article: A doubles life
Pulling pups means profitability and predictable routes for owner-operator Ed Geiger
How would you like a dedicated run that gets you home daily, gives you weekends off, provides more than 120,000 miles per year and allows you to cut fixed costs by using a daycab?
That scenario describes Ed Geiger’s trucking business. He drives a 475-hp Caterpillar-powered, tandem-axle Kenworth T800, hauling one or two 28-ft. FedEx pup trailers. “I’m home every day,” says Geiger, who is 62. “I have a dedicated run and, because of that, a constant income.”
Which is not to say his favorable arrangement is a piece of cake. While most people are sleeping, Geiger’s at work. He’s had to master the skills of maneuvering twin trailers, which is no small thing, notes Chuck Cole of Utility Trailer. “It takes a wizard to back up a set of doubles,” he says, “but it can be done.”
In spite of a few extra hassles, Geiger is happy to stick with this work. It’s been steady for years because the logistical flexibility of doubles is well-suited to FedEx Ground’s needs, and drivers with doubles experience are always in demand.
Geiger is part of a network of 600 FedEx driving contractors in Pennsylvania, including 36 working from the West Chester terminal, says spokesman Robert Boulware. The company overall has more than 16,000 contractors, more than 32 hubs and more than 500 Ground and Home Delivery terminals in the country.
FedEx Ground contractors pulling doubles get paid the same rate per mile as those pulling singles, and a Con-way Freight spokesman says the same is true there. However, those who pull triples at FedEx Ground get more “in consideration of the extra driving skill needed,” Boulware says.
Pulling doubles has its challenges, but those experienced in it also note its benefits, says John Payne, a senior vice president at FedEx Ground. “We hear comments from drivers like these: ‘Twenty-eight-ft. doubles are easier to drive in tighter areas than a 53-ft. trailer because of the way they pivot.’ Also, drivers say, ‘Doubles are a much more economical way of transporting freight for the customer. If you use doubles, you can service more than one location on the same run.’”
Contractors who want to learn to drive doubles must either qualify through previous experience or spend a minimum of 240 hours behind the wheel with a seasoned driver to learn safe operation, drop and hook, and inspection techniques. A contractor who trains his own drivers must attend 10 hours of familiarization classes and receives a booklet to use in training.
Geiger’s professional training began at the MPA Truck Driving School in Elizabethtown, Pa. He first drove for Benson Trucking, and later ran an asphalt truck for a contractor. After that, he drove for a pickup and delivery service. By 1986, he was running over the road for Coordinated Transport, where he learned to pull doubles in a Freightliner cabover. He moved to FedEx Ground in 1990 because of the lure of home time and steady income.
After making single runs, Geiger persuaded the company to give him two dedicated runs every night between Exton, west of Philadelphia, and Woodbridge, N.J. Part of making two runs feasible for Geiger each night is the company expediting the pickup of return trailers in Woodbridge.
Geiger normally pulls two 28-ft. pup trailers, which would give a trailer length of 59 ft. 8 in., and an overall length of approximately 80 ft. 2 in. On the return trip, he may pull a single pup.