Just Your Truckin' Luck

| September 22, 2009

Idaho potato hauler rolls the dice and delivers new trucking board game


One of Randy Cox’s favorite pet inclusions among the trucking minutiae part and parcel of his new My Truckin’ Luck board game, out this summer, is a rule governing what happens when you roll a double six and advance to a weigh station on your route across the U.S. map that is the field of play, from Washington State to Florida. “You automatically lose your turn and are fined $700,” he says, for an hours-of-service violation.

As you advance along the circuitous route through the 48 continental United States, you’ll hit plenty of other surprises. Striving to be true to the reality of an owner-operator’s life in business on the road, there’s a key, for instance, that, paired with a roll of the dice, determines your income for a particular move, both the revenue you’re paid for a particular load and the price of your fuel. Gray, blank spaces on the board represent natural disasters – like one in Wyoming that nets you a lost turn due to a winter highway closure. “There’s ice in Missouri,” Cox says, “snowstorms in Colorado. If you land on Vegas or Atlantic City you have to stop and gamble,” rolling the dice twice – the first roll determines your winnings, the second your losses.

When three players reach the end of the board, the game is over – the player with the best income wins.

So far, Cox has himself invested $45,000 in the game over almost two years of development.

If there’s a man out there to make the venture a success, it’s Cox, says Juan Mendez, vice president of the Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Imagigraphics outfit that printed and is helping market the game. “[Cox is] a great person for this to become very successful for,” Mendez says. “He’s got his heart and soul in the game. He absolutely would be the perfect one to make it work.”

Cox got into trucking sideways after working in the pallet business in his native Blackfoot, Idaho. “I bought and sold pallets before trucking,” says the 55-year-old. The business utilized a truck, and in 1993 Cox got his authority in order to otherwise employ that rig “when we weren’t hauling pallets.” Since, he’s moved loads of potatoes all over the country, three of his four sons sometimes part of the business, too. One of them, 27-year-old Scott, can take credit for the My Truckin’ Luck name. “When I first came up with the idea,” Cox says, “I called up my sons. I said, ‘There’s no game about trucking out there’ and told them to be thinking of a good name. Scott said, ‘Dad, it’s gotta be My Truckin’ Luck.’”

As both he and his son recognize, the phrase captures the spirit of the life and work of the small-business hauler, one often infused with a sardonic sense of humor, after all. “I can’t think of a better name for a game in this industry,” Cox says. “I think that the name of the game alone will sell games for us.

“When you really think about it, there is no bigger industry than trucking – every other industry there is has a connection to it. In talking to people over the past 18 months about the game, I’ve learned that near everybody knows somebody who has something to do with trucking.” All manner of people around the world have expressed interest, including educators keen on the game’s geographical educational potential.

After setting up at both the Great Salt Lake Truck Show in Salt Lake City and the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas this August, at press time Cox was working with a distributor to the major truckstop chains to get his game on the shelves. For now, it retails for $29.95 at mytruckinluck.com.


Become a Trucker Online
Trukz (http://trukz.com) is a two-year-old online game that allows players to virtually experience the ins and outs of the owner-operator’s world, right down to offers to lease on when you buy your first truck.

Created by a Texas-based game developer, it was bought and marketed by the Jolt Online company (http://joltonline.com) just over a year ago, says company rep Paul Abbott. “The original vision,” simply put, Abbott adds, “was to create a free-to-play online game which simulated trucking and was also a bit of fun.”

Though it might take you a while to get to genuine profitability; true to life, you start low, with options to purchase several older-model trucks. (The engine in the 1981 Pete cabover my driver, Dill Todd, bought just starting out is so downtrodden it provides a top speed of only 45 mph.) From there, you choose loads from several points within the United States, choosing your commodities based on supply and demand in the origin and destination cities, deciding whether to lease on with the array of user-created companies that offer you top rates to join them and buying and using gadgets like CBs and GPS units along the way.
(The CB, for instance, is a real-time chat room the game’s players use to connect.)

Abbott says a “huge percentage of players in the game are real-life truckers.” He estimates 40 percent of the more than 106,000 drivers created to date were the productions of actual truckers running American roads today. He credits those haulers with giving the game its realistic feel in play, unique among trucking games: “They provide enormous feedback into the game’s features and community. We never thought that we have would have such interest from the trucking community, to be honest, so we were a little taken aback. Many of our features come from the trucking community, and generally all the realistic aspects in the game that you see (breakdowns, engineering aspects, etc.) come directly from them.”

Among games in Jolt Online’s stable are the fantasy-world Legends of Zork (www.legendsofzork.com) and Utopia Kingdoms (www.utopiakingdoms.com) games, and Abbott says the “free-to-play gaming market is growing very rapidly. What we’re trying to do is provide people with free, persistent games that they can play through any Internet browser, which provides them a continuous adventure or experience.”


Special Delivery Trucker right on time to deliver his own baby- by Deirdra Drinkard
After nine years’ experience behind the wheel of a long-haul truck, Navajo Express driver Shawn Giegerich understands the importance of being on time. And on July 14, his timing was perfect as an unexpected Coors delivery gave him an overnight stay at home, which led to another unexpected delivery – that of his baby daughter, Faith.

Shawn’s wife, Amy, was to be induced three days later, when Shawn would be away. But little Faith could not wait; she wanted to meet her daddy first thing. “I just happened to swing by, and it just so happened the Lord blessed us by me being home,” Shawn says.

At 3:02 that morning, Amy went into labor. With no time to make it to the hospital, Shawn called 911. With the help of the operator, Shawn made the most precious delivery of his life in a matter of minutes. Faith came into the world less than 15 minutes after Amy went into labor.

Though it was a swift delivery, the journey did come across a bumpy road. Soon after birth, Faith stopped breathing and began to turn purple. “It went from being all excited she was here and then excited because we delivered the baby to panic because she turned purple,” Amy says.

Still on the phone with the 911 operator, Shawn received immediate instruction to begin rubbing the baby’s back with a towel. Baby Faith soon began breathing again.

After that experience, Amy hails Shawn as the family hero, to which Shawn responds that no, he was just the catcher. “It’s not something every father gets to do,” Shawn says. “I’ve been there to cut the umbilical cord on my other children, but this was different. It was a very special moment for me, and my daughter and I will have a special bond from the experience.”

Balancing precious time, Shawn escorted his wife and baby to the hospital for professional medical attention, then went to work and made his delivery to Colorado Springs. “I still had an on-time delivery,” Shawn says. “I’m on time, every time.”


Sombrero Brothers Owner-operators Dennis and Dean Johnson garner attention not only for
headgear choice but the commitment of true fans
– by Deirdra Drinkard

Dennis and Dean Johnson aren’t just twin owner-operators who drive team and share a passion for NASCAR. They are the “Sombrero Brothers” featured in Amp Energy’s television commercial in support of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Days before the Daytona 500 in 2007, the brothers were passing through Laredo, Texas, on a delivery when a particular variety of red sombrero caught their attention. They bought one for each and continued down the road.

Traveling consumes most of the Johnson brothers’ time, because when they aren’t delivering loads they travel across the country to attend NASCAR races in support of Earnhardt Jr. “We’re Dale Jr. fans because we’re Dale Jr. fans,” Dennis says. They know a lot about the man. The brothers sent Earnhardt a gift addressed to “Ralph Dale Earnhardt” and later received a letter from Earnhardt signed “Ralph Dale Earnhardt,” which Dennis says is “his actual name.”

Sporting their sombreros, the brothers attended almost every race in the 2007 NASCAR season.

It was the sombreros that caught the attention of Amp Energy reps at numerous NASCAR races. “We were wearing our red sombreros [at a race], and a guy from Amp came up to us and asked us if we would go green,” Dennis says.

Now sporting the green sombreros, the Johnsons traveled to Atlanta to film a television commercial with Amp that also featured Dale Earnhardt Jr. The commercial “even featured our truck,” Dennis says proudly of their owned-and-operated 1996 Freightliner. The commercial first aired in movie theaters, Dennis says, and it later began running nationwide on television. It still can be seen on YouTube.

But Dean and Dennis still have not met Dale Jr. – The “Junior” in the commercial was a life-size cutout of Earnhardt sporting his own green sombrero and sitting behind the brothers as they traveled down the road in their truck.

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