Learning curve

| July 24, 2001

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.”

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