HOME: Stephens, Ark.
FAMILY: Wife (Renee), one son, one daughter
RIG: 2000 Kenworth W900L
CAREER: 35 years
FREIGHT: Lumber, plastic fence building materials
ACCIDENT-FREE: 24 years
When Frankie Story bought a yellow 2000 Kenworth W900L in 2001, the first used truck as well as the first Kenworth he had ever purchased, he was concerned with more than having to restore the vehicle, which had been totaled.
“I was afraid of yellow fading,” he says. “Black is my color of choice because it doesn’t tend to fade.”
Story had the truck rebuilt, then touched up with a racing theme and painted with clear-coat. Now, he says, “I’m probably more partial to this truck than any other one I’ve had.”
He started entering truck shows and tied for second place in the Best Engine category at the 2003 Pride & Polish at the Great American Trucking Show. “I’ve enjoyed showing [the truck] and playing with it. I think I’m going to keep this one.”
However, it’s hard work and family ties, not the show truck circuit, that are the main attractions for Story, a 54-year-old career trucker. He has been an owner-operator for almost 15 years, currently hauling lumber and building materials for Universal Forest Products and others.
His son, Shane, 31, also works as an owner-operator for Universal and drives his own truck. The two split their profits with each other and divide the duties; Shane does a lot of the maintenance while Frankie does some of the paperwork. Frankie’s wife of 33 years, Renee, does most of the paperwork for both of them – in addition to her 40-hour-a-week job. Story also has a 26-year-old daughter, Staci and a 2-year-old granddaughter, Anna.
Most of Frankie’s hauls go to Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, so he usually gets home every weekend.
Universal dispatcher Debbie Cromer says Story is one of the finest truckers she’s worked with during her three years with the company.
“He’s not one of the drivers you have to babysit,” she says. “When he picks a load up, you know he’s going to pick it up on time, and he’s always on time with delivery. If there’s ever a problem, he lets you know up front.”
Story was fascinated by trucks as a child and would play with toy trucks in the sand. He often rode with his father, Ray, who began driving when Frankie was in the second grade, working about 25 years. At age 18, Frankie started his trucking career hauling logs and wood chips, products similar to the freight he hauls today.
Two of Frankie’s four brothers are also drivers. “It’s not that unusual; [truck driving] usually gets passed down,” he says. Likewise, Shane began riding with Frankie at a very young age. “I’d been born and raised in it,” Shane says. “It’s all I wanted to do.”
Shane says part of the good example set by his father was working hard and sticking with one career. “He taught me that it costs money to change jobs, so it’s best to get in a job and stay in it, and stay content with it.”
Frankie says he tries to show respect to everyone he interacts with. “It’s important to have a good disposition with your customers,” he says. “Instead of harassing the unloading crew, I just try to be laid back; usually, they’ll unload you sooner that way.”
He also tries to dress professionally and keep his truck safe and neat. “If you don’t keep any pride in your ride, it’s going to reflect badly on you,” Story says.
Keeping up with operating expenses is a critical aspect of being an owner-operator, he says. “It’s a numbers game – if you don’t put back the extra money and watch where the expenses are going, you’re working for nothing.”
Story says his two favorite things about being a trucker are being his own boss and seeing the country. The worst part is being away from the family. “It didn’t bother me when I was younger, but it affects you when you have children and you’re away from your kids,” he says. Good communication with his wife helps make up for the absence, he says. “Having a relationship where you can talk really helps,” he says. “You can talk out most problems that come up.”
Story considers himself “pretty religious,” and says he credits his greatest accomplishment – having a good wife, two healthy kids and a good job – to God. “For every door that has been closed, one door that is better has always been opened.”
FAVORITE LOAD: Liquid storage tanks, wood chippers. They were just something different to haul.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Sheets of steel. They’re hard to make stay put.
HARDEST THING TO LEARN ABOUT DRIVING: Dealing with the scales.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Oldies.
FAVORITE MOVIES: John Wayne films. He had willpower and guts.
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
FAVORITE FOOD: Boiled shrimp.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Spinach. I’ll eat it, but I don’t like it.
PET PEEVE: When someone says, “It can’t be done.”
IF NOT TRUCKING, I WOULD BE: Working for the highway department – good benefits and you get home every night.
DREAM JOB: Owning trucks and having others drive them.
HOPES: Live a healthy life and enjoy my kids and grandkids.
PHILOSOPHY: There’s enough around to make you miserable, but if you stop and look for things that can make you happy, you can usually find them.
Do you know an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Laura Crackel, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail lcrackel@eTrucker.com. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.