North woods man
Paul Flett saw this sleeper interior at GATS and decided to buy it on the spot. “It’s me all over,” he says.
Paul Flett is a man given to looking ahead, and back, as he makes his way through the world.
A lifetime hunter and fisherman, Flett, 45, says his trucking life is a lot like his outdoor life – he tends to look all around him before he makes a move.
The owner-operator from Minnesota, who now lives in Fort Dodge, Iowa, constantly sees the influences of his father Bill, who died two years ago, in his own decision- and goal-making. And he anticipates a time when he hopes his own children will draw on his influence to help them live their lives, including in the woods or on the water.
“Hunting and fishing were my dad’s life,” he says. “Two days before deer season opened my dad would start jittering and getting nervous. I’m the same way. I can’t sleep waiting those last couple of days. Before the season starts, I’m out there with my son teaching him how to scout and how to identify old trails from new and try and find where the herd is running, just like my dad did with me.”
Flett now has three trucks in his small company, GNP Transport, which are leased to Select Carrier Group of Columbus, Ohio. Flett hauls flatbeds to all 48 lower states. His newest tractor is a dream come true for him.
“I saw it and said ‘That’s me. I have to have it.’” The 2000 hunter green Freightliner Classic XL was part of the Freightliner Big Rig Redo contest in August at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, where its nondescript interior was converted into a dazzling outdoors theme and an elk mural was painted on one side of the sleeper. “That’s the most beautiful tractor I’ve ever seen,” says Flett. “And I’ve never gone after elk, but I want to, so the truck is telling me I have to buy it.”
The tractor won the contest, and Flett indeed owned it by the big show’s end.
Flett only starting driving four years ago, leaving behind a career as a floor installer, a skill he had picked up from his father, who was in the same business. “I sold carpets and floors and installed them, but it’s a young man’s game, and I couldn’t keep up with it. Your body takes a beating. So I went into trucking,”
“I’d always loved big machinery ever since I was a kid. Basically I came home one day and said to my wife that I needed to change my work and we talked about it. In the end she said, ‘Honey, you do what you need to do,’” Flett says. “I had a business background, so I became an owner-operator. I knew I had to build a business. I knew I had to look at it from all sides.”
Flett says his success as an owner-operator comes from knowing all the numbers, so he’s aware all the time what is cost and what is profit. His father helped him acquire this thoroughness and attention to detail.
“My dad was an amazing man, and he was all about hunting and fishing. He’d work his tail off all week and then drive up to Duluth [Minn.] just to go smelt fishing for the night, a 200-mile each way round trip,” Flett says. “Man, he loved to fish. He’d wake me up at three in the morning sometimes and say, ‘C’mon lets go fishing.’ I remember being 3 or 4 years old and sitting in a boat in the dark rubbing my eyes trying to stay awake.”
On the opening day of fishing season each year, Flett went with his father and Uncle Harry out on a boat, usually in Mille Lacs Lake. “We had an opening day for just about every sort of game in Minnesota, and Dad and I would try to get out on most of them,” he says.
Flett started hunting small game (rabbit, grouse, pheasant, goose and duck) with his father when he was 6 years old. “When I grew a bit my father started me out with a 410 shotgun that wasn’t too heavy to handle,” he says. “My dad had me out shooting at clay targets, so that I could hit something before we ever went out into the field.