Trucker of the Month
Independent Tim Costen holds out for the best rates and delivers service that’s worth it.
When you call Tim Costen’s cell phone, behind the twang of a steel guitar a soulful tenor sings, “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t workin’ here no more.” These lyrics of country singer Johnny Paycheck’s 1977 hit are Costen’s choice ringback.
“Those words apply to so many days,” says the 43-year-old owner of Starbuck Enterprises, a mostly less-than-truckload service.
Though Costen says he’s more polite than the song’s bluster, he often turns down loads that promise little revenue. Last September, a broker asked Costen to pull a full load of avocados from California to Atlanta for $3,600, but Costen refused to take the job for less than $5,000. The trip was 2,500 miles, and at the time Costen was not driving for less than $2 per mile.
“He said no way,” Costen says, sporting blue jeans and cowboy boots. “So I said, ‘OK, bye!’” Without another word, he was gone.
With a gritty self-determination, Costen has acquired the skills and sense to choose the loads that benefit him most in his 22 years’ trucking, first as a company driver and then as a leased owner-operator.
In 1987, as a 21-year-old chemical plant worker in Ontario in Canada, Costen got his CDL after he noticed the truckers hauling chemicals were pocketing more than he was. He drove a dump truck and equipment for KW Paving for three years.
“I liked driving, anyway,” says Costen, who was already driving 26 hours straight to the ski town of North Bay, Ontario, for weekends on the slopes.
For the next decade, he held a variety of trucking jobs, hauling flatbed, reefer, oversize loads, dry vans full of footwear and a scrap wagon.
In 1999, after relocating to Illinois, Costen became a company driver for Christensen Transport. Soon after, he lease-purchased the company truck he was driving at the time, a 1999 Peterbilt 379. He continued at Christensen as an owner-operator until January 2004, when he made his last payment on the truck, leased a reefer trailer and got his own authority.
The truck has five Nathan air chimes, a fully chromed dash, a 72-inch sleeper with a kitchenette and a flip-up front bumper. He had the wheelbase stretched from 245 to 287 inches in 2007 to accommodate extra fuel tanks. Now four fuel tanks hold 480 gallons.
He says the extra capacity saves money because he can make one stop where fuel is cheapest. Hauling the extra weight is worth what he saves by avoiding fill-ups in states like Nevada and California, where costs are high.