“I had the most fun in the 1990s,” says owner-operator Larry Severson, looking back over his five decades spent around the trucking industry. The Vadnais Heights, Minn.-based operator spent most of those go-go years in a series of Mack tractors, two R models and two CHs. Then he climbed into a 1994 Peterbilt 377 in 1999 and joined one of Eagan, Minn.-based Dart Transit’s dedicated fleets the next year, where he would embark on his most financially successful decade.
2011 also was good for the bottom line – $50,000 net income on 108,000 miles. Severson put the icing on the cake for that year when this March he was named 2011 Owner-Operator of the Year. He is the first winner of the award since two contests were merged: Overdrive’s Trucker of the Year and the Truckload Carriers Association’s Owner-Operator of the Year.
In addition to the prize of the Cummins-powered 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 he received, the award is fitting acknowledgment for a business owner who’s made safety and customer service an integral piece of his success.
Severson also bagged the Minnesota Trucking Association’s top prize for drivers in 2004. He made it to the finalist round for the TCA award in 2009, after being nominated by Dart Transit, to whom he’s been leased for more than 30 years. This year, having accumulated more than 5 million miles without a preventable accident, he took the grand prize.
- Severson was known on the CB in the old days as “Sugarfoot.” He garnered the “Legend” moniker after years of showing new Dart owner-operators the ropes around company operations — that’s the official tale, at least. Severson, a storyteller at heart, says the moniker really stuck after years regaling employees at Silgan Container, the dedicated account he hauls for today, with tales from the days of yore.
Still running dedicated, Severson enjoys both the stability that comes with frequent home time and big earning potential. He runs mostly short haul, moving steel cans and tops made by Silgan Container in Savage, Minn., around the state and occasionally into Wisconsin and Iowa. His current truck, a 2001 International 9900i, grosses a combination of $23.30 hourly, moving or not, and 45 cents per mile, as do those of other Dart operators on certain accounts. In addition to those compensation elements, another bonus is the fuel surcharge, Severson says, which “we get whether loaded or deadheading.”
Severson’s success is due in no small part to the equipment that powers the owner-operator business. Over the years, true to his style, all of his trucks he bought used and cared for with no shortage of sweat equity.
His maintenance prowess originated with his fascination with his father’s local milk-tank truck routes serving dairy farms around Turtle Lake, Wis., where Severson spent his early years.
When he was about 10, he says, the large family (ultimately including eight children) moved to St. Paul, Minn., where Severson’s father, Elmer, got a job as a millwright.
Often, he says, being the oldest son in the family, Severson went along with his father when he was called in after hours to do an emergency repair on the factory’s paper rolls or forklifts.