Owner-Operator of the Month: Bob Stewart
“We like to tease Stewart because he says his hobbies are, first: working on his semi, and second: working on his hot rod,” says Steve Parsons, operations manager for the Tacoma terminal of Interstate Distributor Co.
Enjoying truck maintenance has paid off well for Bob Stewart, who’s owned only three trucks in 28 years.
Years before buying the first, Stewart joined the U.S. Job Corps in 1973 and went to driving school. Upon completion, he couldn’t find a job, so he went to work for the state of Washington. For 10 years, he worked as an accident reports editor and a motor pool manager, to name a few of his jobs.
In 1984, fed up with state bureaucracy, he bought his first big rig, a 1978 International cabover. Leased to West Coast Trucklines, Stewart soon found that he was good at driving, but he lacked in other areas.
“I’m a great driver, but lousy at business, so I went to driving for companies for a while,” Stewart says. “I hauled explosives for Pacific Powder, which involved driving to blast sites and helping powder-monkeys blow up whatever they needed to.”
Although the job was a high-paying one, the hauls were seasonal, and Stewart soon switched to hauling for Nalley’s Fine Foods. Stewart ran routes all over the West until 1988, when the company went non-union.
The next day, Stewart began driving for Interstate Distributor.
“When you have kids in diapers —you’ve got to keep a job,” Stewart says, and he did, staying employed since the first day he started driving.
Stewart began work as a company driver and became a heavy-haul trainer in 1993. In 1997, Stewart bought his second truck, a 1997 Freightliner Century.
“Back then, I was hauling anything that would sit in a trailer – more or less what I still do,” Stewart said, who pulls a dry van.
Besides his month-long hauls, Stewart occasionally runs a sleeper team with his friend and fellow driver Bill Murray.
His stories about trips with Murray are varied, from rolling the truck during icy weather to hitting a deer on another run.
Murray recalls how he was driving when they hit the deer. He pulled over to make sure nothing had been damaged, and a state patrolman came upon the scene.