Harvest of safety
Farm equipment hauler with 4 million accident-free miles finds best yield in helping others.
Larry McCann, of Altona, Ill., grew up on a farm in Illinois, where he learned how to drive a truck. At 16, he began hauling feed and produce for his dad. Five decades later, he’s hauling farm products again.
Since he got his start, McCann, 69, says he’s found trucking more rewarding when he’s able to help others and willing to endure delays.
McCann started hauling reefer freight in 1959, and in 1996, bought his first truck, a 1993 Peterbilt 377B. He’s been leased to Tennant Truck Lines for the last five years, and earned a net income of around $30,000 in 2011.
McCann hauls John Deere equipment, mostly parts and small tractors, across the country. “It’s my favorite haul yet, because I love being around the tractors and the dealers,” he says. “Tennant treats you like a family.”
McCann, in turn, tries to relate to others in the same way. He often stops to help truckers in trouble, friends say. “Treat others how you would want to be treated,” he says. “I try to help someone out whenever I can.”
One night during an ice storm, for example, McCann spotted a vehicle that had left the roadway. He offered the driver blankets and let him sit in his truck until help arrived.
“I’ve changed many a tire for elderly people and women, and it helps me just as much as it helps them,” he says. “By getting them back on the road, I feel a little better, too.” Instead of accepting any offered payment, McCann asks them to show kindness to someone else.
He was on the receiving end when an oil filter collapsed and stranded him in Nevada. A driver took him to the nearest truck stop, and then drove him back to his truck.
Rod Gust, a broker who worked with McCann through Ator Brothers Trucking, has long been impressed by McCann’s professional appearance. “He doesn’t run around with a stringy beard and dirty clothes, like a lot of drivers you see,” Gust says. “He always looks clean and put-together.”
Gust says McCann always delivers safely and efficiently: “I’ve been in trucking for 37 years. Most drivers, you have to stay on them to make sure they get the job done. Larry, though, when you put a load on him, you know he will take care of it.”
McCann says customers form an opinion of drivers based on how they handle their cargo and how they relate to them. “I always try to keep my complaints in check,” he says. “If I’m early, I sit and wait patiently.”
McCann reminds truckers to leave their road rage at home. “I’ve had very few tickets in my lifetime,” he notes of his accident-free record. “I stay safe by staying under the speed limit and staying calm while driving.”
He also keeps his truck clean and in good condition, getting seven miles to the gallon, and changing the oil and fuel filter every 19,000 miles. McCann takes his truck to the Volvo dealership for repairs other than small maintenance work.
McCann has gained the handle “Packrat” because of the variety of freight he has carried over the years and, according to him, “if you’ve seen my garage … you’d know.”
Tennant driver Charlie Brown is a longtime friend of McCann. “I used to ask his opinion on everything, because Larry tells you what he thinks and is always up-front and honest.”
For instance, McCann agrees with recent regulatory changes regarding hours of service and restrictions on cell phone use while driving. However, he also thinks drivers’ attitudes are ultimately more important than regulations. He advises new drivers to practice patience and dependability.
His safety advice includes never taking unnecessary risks, staying under the speed limit and pulling over during storms until they have passed.
McCann enjoys spending time with his family, which includes four daughters, two sons, grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. McCann’s girlfriend of 23 years, Rita Gravis, used to ride with him before she became a school bus driver. Now she helps McCann keep the business’s books.
1943: Born in Burlington, Iowa
1959: Started driving a 1958 cabover on his dad’s farm
1959: First trucking job, with Asche Transfer, Shannon, Ill., pulling a reefer
1990: Drove for Munson Transport of Illinois, hauling meat
Catching the big ones
Fishing has been one of Larry McCann’s favorite hobbies since he was 6. He started casting a line with his grandfather in a pond on their Illinois farm. “I like to fish for catfish the best,” McCann says. His biggest fish ever: a 14-pound channel flathead catfish.
1996: Bought first truck, a 1993 Peterbilt 377B
2005: Bought current truck, a 2006 Volvo 780
2006: Leased to Tennant Truck Lines
Larry McCann is a finalist for the 2012 Owner-Operator of the Year award, which is sponsored by Overdrive and the Truckload Carriers Association. The winner will be announced at TCA’s annual convention, March 3-6, 2013, in Las Vegas.