The Comeback Kid

| December 12, 2008

As the 2003 Trucker of the Year Chuck McQuerry will receive:

  • All-expense-paid trips to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.; the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas; the Randall Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and a trip anywhere in the continental United States, with $1,000 cash.
  • One year of TruckCare PM service from Peterbilt.
  • A set of Bridgestone R227 steer tires.
  • A Spinner II Model 960 centrifuge bypass oil-filtration unit.
  • A boxed-end, customized 100 percent stainless steel bumper from American Durabilt.
  • LVD with installation, ABS Lectracoil, aircoils and anodized gladhands from Phillips Industries.
  • A Wilson antenna from Interstate Connections.
  • Kits of LED running lights, including endcaps and extrusions, from Nexlite Corp.
  • Six Alcoa Dura-Bright Wheels and wheel accessories.
  • A Bostrom Wide Ride Seat.
  • Navigational side mirrors for his pickup from Webasto.
  • Two diamond-plated chrome Step N Store tool boxes from East Manufacturing.
  • Six slack adjusters and spring brakes and three pairs of SureStroke Indicators from Bendix.
  • A fifth-wheel slip plate from Northfork Industries.
  • An EQUAL tire-balancing system installation from IMI EQUAL.
  • An HVAC system from Bergstrom.
  • Two pairs of customized Xtreme mudflaps from Globetech Manufacturing.
  • A Delphi SkyFi unit and one year of XM satellite radio service from Antenna Specialists.
  • Wilson Electronics cellular accessories.
  • A Tundra T22 refrigerator from Taylor Made Environmental.
  • A TC-18 thermoelectric portable refrigerator from WAECO Adler/Barbour Inc.
  • Tax service from The Alliance.
  • One year of consulting, bookkeeping, cash flow analysis and tax preparation through American Truck Business Services and a leather jacket from Freightliner.
  • A copy of StreetRouter software from Prophesy Transportation Solutions.
  • Street Atlas 2003 Mapping Software from Delorme.
  • Leather duffle bag and $200 gift certificate to the Iron Skillet from Petro.
  • A $100 gift certificate from TravelCenters of America.
  • Brew-enabled Kyocera phone from Qualcomm.
  • Four nights from Knights Inn.
  • Two nights from Days Inn, Savannah, Ga.
  • One night’s stay in the Deluxe King Suite at Days Inn, Lincoln, Ala.
  • A driving entertainment package including $200 worth of best-selling audiobooks, a portable cassette player, baseball cap and duffle bag from Simon & Schuster Audio.
  • An audio starter kit that includes six audio programs from Random House Audio.
  • A case of 75/90 synthetic gear oil, a case of fifth wheel lube and a case of hub oil from Lucas Oil Products.
  • Swisher Sweets from Swisher International.
  • A guest appearance on The Bill Mack Show on XM satellite radio.
  • A year’s worth of weekly CD copies of the Overdrive Top Ten Countdown.
  • Case of Citgo OverDrive HD grease.
  • Two cases of Shell Rotella T oil and a leather jacket.
  • A Volvo prize package that includes a cooler and his-and-hers gifts such as travel bags, watches and leather folios.
  • A CRC Industries prize package that includes a $25 Home Depot gift card, a windbreaker jacket, cooler, Aviex fuel system treatment, a case of CRC Brakleen and Siloo anti-freeze booster and assorted electrical maintenance products.
  • A Cummins Power truck badge, all-weather jacket, Swiss Army knife, cap, shirt, thermos, key chain and license plate from Cummins.
  • A leather jacket from RoadRanger/Eaton.
  • A prize package from Michelin including a shirt, cap and a die-cast model truck.
  • A limited edition leather jacket from International Truck and Engine.
  • A leather jacket, T-shirt, limited edition Ertl truck and an autographed limited edition Sterling Martin Coors Light die cast car from AMBEST truck stops.
  • A NAPA leather jacket.
  • A winter jacket from The Holland Group Inc.
  • A Delvac Care Package that includes a jacket, hat, polo shirt, leather shaving kit and travel mug from ExxonMobil.
  • A Permatex prize package including various No-Touch products, a shirt, collectible toy truck and race car, and a Mag-Lite flashlight from Permatex Inc.
  • A Buck Lightning Model 175 knife from Buck Knives.
  • A prize package from East Penn Manufacturing that includes a jacket and a hat.
  • A prize package that includes logo apparel from Rostra Precision Controls.
  • A No Rinse prize package that includes bathing wipes, shampoo and body wash from No Rinse Laboratories.
  • A jacket from Donaldson.

    According to an old truckers’ tale, it’s bad luck to take a picture of a truck, says Chuck McQuerry. “But, I don’t believe it,” McQuerry says, in spite of the fact that his 2000 Freightliner Classic XL caught fire shortly after the photo shoot when he was featured as Overdrive’s July Trucker of the Month.

    The electrical fire that put his Freightliner out of commission just south of Albuquerque, N.M., last summer was a small set-back compared to the financial difficulties the 43-year-old, Ringgold, Ga., resident faced just two years earlier. “I was in sort of a shambles,” he recalls. “I hadn’t been running good, and my revenue was falling off. I was beginning to turn upside down.”

    Seven months behind on his truck payments, McQuerry decided to return to U.S. Xpress, a carrier where he’d had success as a company driver. “When I started to think, ‘I’m sinking fast,’ I thought, ‘at least go back to where you were happy.’ No sooner had I signed than they went right to work to help resolve my problems,” he says.

    McQuerry began working closely with Larry Dennis, U.S. Xpress director of contractor services, but he admits he was skeptical at first. “I had tried everything. I had been working very hard. What answers did this guy have that I didn’t?”

    But success made a believer out of McQuerry. The U.S. Xpress Contractor Relations department showed him ways to get his operating costs down, got him running more miles hauling expedited and just-in-time freight to increase his revenue, and helped him set up a business account in which he puts aside a percentage of his revenue for maintenance and emergencies. The department also put McQuerry on an accelerated truck payment schedule so he could repay missed payments while keeping up with his current obligations. “Larry told me: ‘Don’t worry. Keep rolling,’” McQuerry recalls. “‘Let us take care of the problems. You take care of the freight.’”

    The combination of hard work and smart business decisions paid off. Not only did McQuerry turn his business around, he’s expanding. This spring, he will add a 2002 Kenworth W900. The custom-built truck features a doeskin leather, diamond-tuck interior, 550-hp Caterpillar engine and an 18-speed Eaton Fuller transmission. He plans to drive the Kenworth and to put a team in the Freightliner.

    “Chuck is the consummate professional driver, and he’s learning to become the consummate professional businessman,” Dennis says. “He was at death’s doorstep as far as his business is concerned, and now he’s getting ready to realize his life’s dream of owning a small fleet.”

    Another dream was realized on Thanksgiving Day when McQuerry received a call from Overdrive telling him he’d been named 2003 Trucker of the Year. “I never dreamed in all my career that I’d be sitting in this position,” he says.

    “He said it over and over, ‘Is this for real?’” his wife, Theresa, recalls. “He’s been up and down this year with his truck burning and everything. It was great to see him so happy for a change.”

    McQuerry has come a long way since his trucking career began. His first influence was his dad, who drove truck and bus. McQuerry taught truck driving to his brother, Tony, 32, who now drives for Jevic.

    In 1985 McQuerry was working as a parts inspector for Pratt & Whitney when he caught the trucking bug while on a fishing trip with his mother in northern Georgia. “I saw a truck go by and told Mom, ‘That looks like fun,’” he recalls. One week later, the then 24-year-old McQuerry enrolled at the Alliance Tractor Trailer Training Academy in McDonough, Ga. Two months later he took his first driving job pulling tankers.

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