Overlooked niches

Max Kvidera | August 01, 2010

Goldstein owns a daycab with a 20-foot tank permanently mounted, and he pulls a 28-foot tanker in addition. The truck tank holds 4,100 gallons of gasoline and 3,900 gallons of diesel, while the tanker holds 4,900 gallons of gas and 3,900 gallons of diesel.

His drives 250 to 350 miles on a typical day. He delivers to fuel stations, commercial facilities, trucking companies and farms in the Central Valley. Deliveries to stations in upscale residential areas are during the day, while hauls to car washes are made after hours.

“A lot of people contacting me on my Facebook page have no idea you can be an owner-operator in the petroleum industry,” says Goldstein. He earns 86 percent of gross revenue, usually clearing $60,000 to $65,000 a year. The typical petroleum trucker is a company driver, and those on hourly pay make $19 to $22 an hour, he estimates.

Nonetheless, Goldstein says the turnover is high. Many potential drivers wash out before completing training because it’s detailed and demands physical intensity. “It’s not for everyone,” he says.

Produce, cheese and sausage specialist

DuWayne Marshall specializes in LTL in both directions of his roundtrip from Wisconsin to California. Heading west he hauls mostly cheese and sausage, typically making six to 14 stops, the majority in California. After unloading, he begins his pickups of produce in the state and in Arizona for the return path.

DuWayne Marshall’s niche is hauling cheese and sausage west and backhauling California and Arizona produce.

“I have a broker who [arranges] loads for me going to California,” Marshall says. “The produce coming back is all my own deal. I have my own receiver [a chain of five grocery stores in Wisconsin] and a few brokers I use to fill in the empty spots. I literally go shopping for this guy.”

On one recent trip, Marshall started in Los Angeles, headed north to Salinas and Watsonville, drove to other produce areas near Fresno, turned south to Coachella and finally to Yuma, Ariz. “I started loading Wednesday at noon and made my final pickup at midnight Friday in Yuma. This time of year you’re picking up peaches, nectarines, strawberries and cherries. I had 1,029 miles of pickups,” he says. “The load paid $7,480 coming home.”

Other operators do similar LTL pickups of California wine. They stop for several cases at a time, Marshall says.

His strong earnings – $86,000 last year – allow him to drive a 2010 Kenworth T660 and a 2008 reefer with a sliding spread axle.

However, his specialty requires hard work. Occasionally, Marshall says, he has to load and unload with a pallet jack. Sometimes he has to stack products by hand to make everything fit in the trailer. Even with the reefer running, it’s hot in the summer with the trailer door open. The main reward is the superior pay.

Whether it’s the physical labor, multiple stops or trailer investment, Marshall believes his niche doesn’t appeal to big carriers or most operators. “I can’t compete with the big guys – I don’t have 5,000 trailers that I can drop,” he says. “I have to have something where I’m making money. It has to be something the big boys can’t or won’t do.”

Plant transporter

Bobby Lohmeier has been trucking for 35 years, 33 as an owner-operator. Transporting meat and cheese from Wisconsin to the West Coast and hauling house plants back to the Midwest, Lohmeier earns $2.20 to $2.40 a mile. He’s been running this business on his own since 2002.

  • Marishka

    While I respect what all of you do, I find it hard to agree with the plant load hauler….to have your drivers run so hard that they have to do what you refer to as “creative logging” is not only wrong but illegal…..not to mention that the co-driver was not the holder of a CDL. How do you get by with that for so long?

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.