Positive Thinking

| December 12, 2008

TRUCKER: Charles Strauser
FAMILY: Wife, Deloris; daughter, Mandy Dawn
LEASED TO: S&M Moving Systems, with United Van Lines
HOME: Banning, Calif.
ACCIDENT-FREE: 3.9 million miles
RIG: 2001 Kenworth W900
FREIGHT: Electronics

Charles Strauser has hauled freight since 1953 and worked as an owner-operator since 1963. Through his half-century of trucking, he says, two things have helped him succeed as an owner-operator.

The first is a good attitude, even in the midst of loading delays, routing mix-ups, increasing fuel prices.

“If you’re not happy with what you are doing, then go do something else,” Strauser says. “Complaining all the time doesn’t get you anything.”

Strauser “is always positive and upbeat,” says Jeff Stevenson, general manager of S&M Moving Systems, where Strauser is now leased. The two have known each other since 1998 and have worked together the past four years. If there is ever an issue with a load, Strauser works hard to adjust the situation to benefit the customer, Stevenson says.

“He looks professional at all times,” says Deloris, Strauser’s wife of 26 years. “And he likes what he does so much he doesn’t ever get excited if something goes wrong.”

One thing that’s gone right for Strauser sprang directly from trucking.

“I was leased to Von Der Ahe Van Lines, out of Fenton, Mo.,” Strauser says of the now-defunct fleet. “It was a small company, and one of the drivers let us stay at his house after hauls, and we would have barbecues. That would involve people in the neighborhood.” At one of those get-togethers, Strauser met Deloris – reason No. 2 in his formula for success.

“The support of a good woman is basically how I did it,” Strauser says. “Not that my work changed any, but she rounded the situation out. She covers all the loose ends.”

Strauser is especially thankful his wife was with him during the 35 years he hauled household goods. “She could do the public relations and inventory, and all I had to do was drive,” he says. “She made my life so simple.”

Stevenson says Deloris rides with her husband 90 percent of the time and handles most of the non-driving work, such as paperwork, routing schedules and tracking numbers. Strauser, too, helps with record-keeping.

“He keeps a notebook of all his oil, filter and tire changes,” Deloris says. “That lets us keep track of a lot.”

“I keep two books,” Strauser said. “Any repair I do to the truck goes in one. In the other book I keep my mileage. I keep miles per state and miles per gallon.”

Strauser says keeping up with miles per gallon is important, especially with high fuel prices, even though he receives a fuel surcharge. He recently lowered his top speed to 55 mph, rather than running the prevailing speed limit. That improved his fuel economy from 6.1 mpg to 7 mpg.

Strauser has racked up almost 4 million accident-free miles hauling over 48 states and Canada. He attributes the safe record to preventive driving.

“I’m watching everybody else,” Strauser says. “Any time I see myself coming into a new situation, I look for a way out. I try and drive far enough ahead that if a problem arises I can do something about it.”

One of the high points of Strauser’s career came when he won the American Movers Conference Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. Deloris says he hasn’t slowed down a bit in the 15 years since. Stevenson agrees.

“Charlie and Deloris took a trip to Hawaii back at the first of the year,” Stevenson says. “She told me that was the first vacation they’d taken in 14 years.”

That’s no surprise, given Strauser’s love of the road.

“Even when I was a kid, I liked driving tractors. Anything, if it had a motor, I wanted to drive it,” he says. “I still feel the same way.”

FIRST TRUCK: 1958 White 3000 with a JT Cummins diesel.

HOW I GOT STARTED: A friend of mine worked as a trucker, and he got me into trucking.

FAVORITE LOAD: Climate electronics.

LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Household goods.

WIFE’S BIGGEST COMPLAINT: That I come home tired and aggravated. She says that we don’t have time to live a normal life.

KEYS TO GOOD MARRIAGE: Communication, caring and thoughtfulness.

BEST VACATION: We went to Hawaii in January 2005.

FAVORITE MUSIC: I like country, rock and classical. I listen to different kinds. That’s what so great about the XM radio. You listen to what you want when you want, and you don’t run out of stations.

BEST MEMORIES: When I got [United Van Lines] Driver of the Year [in 1983, 1985 and 1989]. And the Lifetime Achievement from the American Movers Conference. And my wedding day.

FAVORITE MOVIE: I like John Wayne movies.

FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOW: I watch the History Channel, mostly.

FAVORITE FOOD: Mexican.

PET PEEVE: People not paying attention on the road. Some people just wander around in a daze. We have to watch out not just for ourselves but everyone else. They will do really stupid things.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Staying married for 26 years.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: I was eating a steak, and I pulled it into my lap. But Deloris says it was the time someone tried to pay for a haul with a silver bar. We couldn’t take it because we didn’t know if it was real or not.

IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: Probably a cop. I don’t know anything about it, but it has always appealed to me.

MOTTO: Pay attention to details.

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