Small Fortune

| August 02, 2005

That integrity is crucial for success, says Sue Weaver, a recruiter, dispatcher and bookkeeper for Barnes’ operation. “You set yourself apart by running an honest company where everyone is treated with respect.”

Getting drivers to feel that they are part of the business, that the profitability of the operation rests on their decisions, earns you a whole new category of employee.

Ted Chapman of King, N.C., Overdrive 2005 Trucker of the Year, credits much of his success to the hard work, loyalty and devotion of his two drivers: Roger Gordon, who has been with Chapman for 30 years, and Curtis Shelton, who has been with him for 20 years. “I couldn’t chase them off with a stick,” Chapman says.

His three trucks each gross $150,000 to $175,000 a year, which gives Chapman an average net income of about $95,000 per year.

Chapman says he treats his two drivers more like sons than employees – for example, helping Shelton buy his own truck, which is now leased to Chapman.

When not driving, Chapman services the trucks, cooks and cleans for his drivers, shines their chrome and stocks their trucks with cleaning supplies. “I serve them. That’s my philosophy. That’s what these guys mean to me.”

He also provides liberal reimbursements for travel expenses.

“If their radio goes out on the road, they buy a new one and give me the bill.”

Chapman also involves the drivers in the details of his operation.

“I put a $100 bill on the table for the driver that saves the most fuel on a trip,” Chapman says. “It encourages them to drive economically and pays off by reducing fuel costs.”

One good driver is worth 10 bad ones, Chapman says. “Big fleets don’t involve their drivers. They don’t get them invested into the success of the company. Heck, they treat them like a monkey, just someone to drive the truck. Then the driver quits. That makes perfect sense.”

Go to the other extreme, and you gain a loyalty that’s hard to shake. Gordon sums up his feelings for his boss of 30 years. “I’d do anything, except kill someone, for Chapman.”

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