Overdriver Owner-Operator of the Month
“With a fleet running, I lived every minute by the phone to be covering any problem that came up,” Johnson says. “My wife and I were on duty 24/7.”
The skills he garnered through the years helped him thrive during the recession. In the last few years, he’s netted $48,000 to $54,000.
Now Johnson also draws on those skills as a contractor adviser to help new owner-operators succeed at Greatwide. He encourages them to have a good attitude, strong work ethic and concern for other drivers.
“People are always asking me why I’m in such a good mood,” Johnson says. “Well, I have a great job, so there’s nothing I can do but be patient.”
Johnson believes drivers have a responsibility to uphold a positive image, especially considering the public’s skewed view of trucking. “The guys who have the huge teeth fastened to the front of their trucks that look like they’re ready to bite – what image does that give the lady driving in front of him?” he asks.
Johnson’s daughter, Marla Rutter, says her father is such a successful driver because he pays close attention to road conditions, other drivers and his equipment. That success is difficult today, given trucking company closures, high fuel prices, unrest in the trucking industry and the economy’s slow recovery, Johnson says.
He adds that trucking is a tough business to be in without strategic planning based on performance and safety. “These are the two most important aspects of staying whole as an owner-operator, especially in today’s difficult times,” he says.
His main advice, he says, has served him well over his career: “If you just take it one day at a time and take the hand that’s been dealt to you, God will get you through every situation.”
Delivering emergency aid
In 1996, when Johnson’s wife’s hometown of Augusta, Ky., had severe floods, Johnson set up a relief program for residents who’d lost all belongings. He donated the use of his tractor and trailer and helped fill it with donated goods.
Actor George Clooney’s parents, Nick and Nina Clooney, are residents of Augusta, and they thanked Johnson and his wife for helping with the flood. Nick, a former columnist with the Maysville Ledger-Independent, wrote commentary in that newspaper about how Johnson’s help portrayed a different side of truckers.
JOHNSON SERVED as a Morrow County, Ohio, regional planning commissioner for his township’s zoning, state infrastructure and roadwork from 1990 to 2002 and is president of the Home Owners Association in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he owns a vacation home.
OUTREACH IN CURITIBA, BRAZIL, and Antigua in the Caribbean came naturally to Johnson, he says. He and his wife, Karen, helped construct churches in those locales and led a Bible study in Eight Mile Rock in the Grand Bahamas.