To some guys, trucking is all about running hard. Or getting the right loads. Maybe finding the right carrier.
To Harvey Zander, trucking is about learning. “You make decisions all day long, and you learn from them,” says Zander, who hauls tin plates and can lids for Dart Transit of Eagan, Minn. “I am still learning, and I feel sorry for the guys who stopped. There is always somebody out there with a better idea.”
This philosophy has aided Zander, 53, through 30 years of driving commercial vehicles, including 3.5 million accident-free miles. In his 20 years as an independent contractor, all with Dart, Zander has been recognized with many safety and performance awards, including Overdrive‘s 1999 Trucker of the Year. His latest honor is the 2000 Independent Contractor of the Year award, sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association and Owner Operator magazine.
The award is no surprise to Mary Meek, senior operations manager for Dart’s dedicated division, who has worked with Zander throughout his Dart career. “Harvey has a very strong dedication to the business of being an owner-operator,” she says. “He’s very personable with customers and other drivers.”
As the grand prize winner in the TCA contest, Zander receives a 2001 International Premium tractor from International Truck and Engine Corp. and other prizes.
The award recognizes professionalism in several areas, including safety, in which Zander gives much of his time. The dedication has led him to teach driver education classes with his wife, Karen. For the past four years, he has volunteered at Sorteberg Elementary School in Coon Rapids, Minn., in a Trucker Buddy-type program.
It’s no surprise the students recognize Icy Blu, Zander’s custom-painted 1996 Freightliner Classic, before they notice its owner. Zander and his working show truck have appeared in truck calendars, local and metropolitan newspapers, dozens of trade publications, and even cookbooks. He has spoken on national radio programs and has appeared at schools, industry events and government hearings on behalf of the industry.
These involvements have put Zander in contact with many people inside and outside the industry. “Ask anyone who knows Harvey Zander, and they will describe him with words such as likeable, thoughtful, considerate, helpful and good guy,” says Dart President Donald Oren.
Those qualities make Zander a good public relations man for Dart. “He’s got a nice smile, and he’s clean-shaven,” says Safety Director Jim Tammes. “Harvey knows he represents the company and takes everything very seriously.”
Zander says Dart cares for its drivers by providing 24-hour dispatch and 24-hour settlement seven days a week. “The company does not let you sit,” he says. Dart’s fuel surcharge “reached 7 cents a mile when prices were at their highest, and Dart pays for every mile, deadhead and all,” he says.
“At the end of last year, my cost for fuel averaged $1.40 a gallon,” Zander explains. “You compare that to what fuel cost at the beginning of 1999 – around $1.03 or $1.04 a gallon – and you’re talking $200 more a week just for fuel. I can see why guys aren’t buying new trucks. I can see why guys are going down.”
Zander sees the secrets to survival in tough times as treating trucking as a business and setting goals. “Saying I’m going to go out there and run is not a goal,” he explains. “Saying I need a set of tires – that’s a goal. So you set a date and go for it. Even if I have enough money in the bank for the tires, I need to make that much money because I have to replace it.”
Another key to success for Zander is his wife. “Once I married Karen, my profits started getting higher,” he says. “How she can take a one-dollar bill and make it a five-dollar bill is beyond me.” Karen, who has an accounting background, takes care of the books, maintains the interior of the cab and takes care of show arrangements for the truck beauty contests.
Zander is a strong believer in minimizing maintenance costs and downtime. “I’m very particular about the shops I go to. Dependability and service are the two biggest things I look at in shop facilities,” he says.
Zander is not as particular about the loads he accepts. “I’ll take the load I need to keep moving. Some guys will sit in the yard and wait for the perfect load while you’ve already gone out and driven 500-plus miles and back. I tell them, ‘Hey, I just made $900. What did you do?'”
Zander says that although one bad trucker can ruin the industry’s reputation, some motorists do acknowledge safe truckers. “Some folks drive by me and give me the thumbs up sign, so they do recognize you’re doing a good job,” he says. “Do your job right and people will notice.”
In addition to the truck, Zander receives:
· A $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond from Owner Operator magazine.
· A $1,500 U.S. Savings Bond and personalized jacket from Randall Trucking Media Group.
· A $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond from Caterpillar.
· $1,000 in frequent fueler coupons from Flying J.
· $1,000 in gift certificates from Pilot Corp.
· An Individual Retirement Account established with Putnam Investments from Marsh Inc.
· A complete set of shock absorbers from ArvinMeritor.
· $500 from Truckload Management.
· $500, a deluxe Road Atlas and Household Goods Bureau Mileage Guide from Rand McNally-TDM.
· $200 in Rips Bucks and $100 in meal coupons from Rip Griffin Travel Centers.
· $200 gift certificate from TravelCenters of America.
· $100 U.S. Savings Bond from St. Paul Companies.
· A Gold Frequent Fueler card from NATSN.
· A recognition plaque from Associates Commercial Corp.
Third: Frederick Vorwald, Warren Transport,
Fourth: Patricia Rauschnot, Dart Transit Co.,
Fifth: Roger Patterson, Warren Transport,
Sixth: Scott McCurry, Umthun Trucking Co.,
Eagle Grove, Iowa.
Seventh: William Macy Sr., Crete Carrier Corp., Lincoln, Neb.
Eighth: Daniel Beber, Warren Transport,
Ninth: Ronald and Patricia Medlock, Sherman Bros. Heavy Trucking, Harrisburg, Ore.
Tenth: Earl Faro, Sammons Trucking, Missoula, Mont.
– Frank Conte, Jim Thomas and Jill Dunn