Trucker of the Month: Sounds of Success
When he’s not home in Hawaii, independent Howard Salmon focuses on costs and services to produce a healthy income. He also shares his musical passion along the way.
Howard Salmon, 49, is among rare company: He’s one of very few continental U.S. truckers to call Hawaii home. “I live in Haleiwa,” he says. “It’s on Oahu – I have to work over here for most of the year, park my truck in wintertime and spend the winter out there. The way I look at it is you only live one time.”
The drive to make the most of his time helps his business, too, where he nets $75,000 to $80,000 yearly hauling specialty foods, produce and other refrigerated freight in a long-paid-for and somewhat modified 1999 Kenworth W900L and Great Dane spread-axle reefer.
That drive also feeds a growing passion for music. This year, Salmon released his first country music record and shipped 600 copies to U.S. troops with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Truckers for Troops program.
The roots of his trucking and musical interests run to his own military service. His first driving job was in the late 1970s as a tow-truck operator while stationed with the U.S. Army in Kansas, Korea and Oklahoma.
He followed his army term as a driver stationed at Travis Air Force Base closer to his childhood home near Sacramento, Calif. “I drove anything they had,” he says. His mother first inspired the interest in music that blossomed while he was stationed at Travis. There, he “sang in the church with my friends and started to play the guitar,” he says.
His first trucking job was as a company driver for Morris Claiborn’s small fleet hauling brokered freight for Silva Bros. Orchards and Trucking of Sebastopol, Calif. Starting out in a 1976 Peterbilt cabover, “I had to open both windows and kick the door vent open just to try to stay cool,” he says.
“He was one of the tops,” says Bill Silva, who jumped at the chance to hire Salmon when Claiborn moved to North Carolina. “He never argued about what he did or didn’t want to do. He just went ahead and did it.” In 1985, the Silvas invested in a brand-new 1986 Pete to reward Salmon for his effort.
“I hated to see him go,” Silva says. “He was no dummy. He put [the specifics of the business] together pretty much on his own, and knew he could make it.”
Salmon utilized Silva Bros. for brokered freight early on, and his wife, Mary, urged him on from the get-go. Salmon had tried his hand at local work in Santa Rosa, Calif., when he met her; they were married a year later.
As he tells it, “She said, ‘I’m tired of your boss driving a new car while you’re running around in that old pickup truck. Why don’t you buy your own truck?’”
Mary “always took care of my paperwork” in the early days of the business, Salmon adds, as he hauled in a 1990 Kenworth T600 he bought used in 1995. The two proved an excellent team, with Salmon trading up to a new 1999 W900L he runs to this day.