Owner Operator of the Month

Katharine Martin | August 06, 2011

Larry Severson’s racecar mechanic skills helped jump start a career as an owner-operator

Owner Operator of the Month

You can’t measure success in dollars and cents, Severson says of his nearly 50-year career. Success, he says, is the feeling you get when you’ve done the job right.


Owner-operator Larry Severson’s first haul was the clincher for the start of a nearly 50-year career.

On a Saturday afternoon in 1963 while working part-time at a local gas station, Severson was asked by a customer if he’d drive a truck for Northwest Transfer.

“It was the following Monday morning I got over to his place where he had the trucks parked and he gave me a load to Country Club food stores, and I took that first truckload,” he says. “I had to use a road map to get there.”

The Vadnais Heights, Minn., resident grew up immersed in the trucking industry. His father, Elmer, was a company driver. Severson, now 68, says he became intrigued by his dad’s work at age 7 or 8.

“Anything that was bigger than a toy tractor is what I was interested in,” he says. “The bigger it was, the better.”

After graduating from high school and before he became a Northwest driver, Severson worked as a team mechanic for drivers who raced late model stock cars around Minnesota on the weekends. Severson says he got involved through friends who knew he was good at working on motors and suspensions, another skill he learned from his father.

He put his mechanic skills to work for himself when, in 1974, having driven for nine years, he bought his first truck, a 1972 International cabover, for $3,200. In the beginning of his career, Severson did all of his own maintenance work and repaired what he could without sending the truck to the shop.

“I’m not as young or as poor as I used to be, and the shop at Dart does a darn good job for me now,” he says of Dart Transit, where he’s been leased since 1975.

Severson has owned nine trucks and prefers Internationals because he says he’s had the best luck with the brand. Using his current truck, a 2001 International, he hauls empty cans and tin plates in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Dart spokesman Steve Gundale has known Severson since Gundale began working for the carrier in 1984.

“He’s very concerned about providing good customer service,” Gundale says. “He’s extraordinarily reliable and extraordinarily safe.”