Planting seeds

Trucker: Mark Conner, 44, of Kettle Falls, Wash.

Leased to: Werner Enterprises

Income: $50,000+

Family: Wife, two daughters, two sons and one grandson

Accident free: 21 years

Mark Conner, of Kettle Falls, Wash., put himself through college driving a bus. He was a pastors major at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “But suddenly, things didn’t fit anymore,” Conner says. “I would read the Scriptures and then listen to my professors, and the two things just did not match.

He headed home to northeast Montana and returned to driving – this time, a truck in the oil fields. “The guy asked me if I had ever driven a truck,” Conner says. “He threw me in a [twin-stick] Kenworth and showed me how to drive it.” Even though it wasn’t specialized training, Conner says it was a good education. “I went to the college of mud and hard knocks, and I think we’d have a lot less damage if more drivers learned that way.”

Conner is doing his part to teach drivers. He is training a driver to hire, and he has two more lined up. “I plan to add another two or three trucks within the next three to six months,” Conner says.

He attributes his success to a lot of things, but gives God the primary credit. “There’s no real explanation of why I’m making it and others are failing; guys that started at the same time as I did aren’t succeeding,” Conner says. “I take the Book literally, and I believe that by seeking righteousness I am moving to be more successful. God promises that the other stuff will come.”

Conner realizes that he has to do his share of the work. He does all of the routine maintenance on his 1995 Freightliner. “A man needs to put on some coveralls and work on his truck,” he says. “I feel safer because I know what condition my equipment is in because I am constantly looking at it.”

Dave Reynolds, a dispatcher at Werner, thinks that Conner’s success comes from his hard work and positive attitude. “He takes the extra time to make sure it’s done right.”

Conner’s long-term plan is to develop enough income to stop trucking and evangelize full time. Until then, his main goal in life is to spread God’s word. “Trucking is what I do for income, but my priority is to be the man, husband, father and breadwinner that God wants me to be,” he says. “Trucking allows me to meet more people, to plant little seeds and to share the peace that I have, one person at a time.”

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Favorite part of the country: I like the wilderness areas. One day I hope to own my own mountain and retire to a cabin by the lake.

Favorite music: Classical – Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

Favorite food: Chicken. I like it baked, fried, any way, as long as it’s not running across the road.

What you like most about trucking: It’s an accumulation of the feeling that you are doing a job to the best of your ability without making mistakes.
Motto: Help people get what they want, and you’ll get what you want.

Miles a year: 130,000.

Years without a moving violation: 19.

Greatest challenge facing owner-operators: Dealing with the stress of the changing needs of the industry and the economy.

Advice to owner-operators: KISS – Keep it simple, stupid. Don’t get an expensive truck that you can’t afford or do maintenance on. Be happy with what you have. Keep your records simple but complete.

How to improve the industry’s image: Maintain a commitment to an almost-forgotten moral of concern for your fellow man.

Favorite book: Kovia Shuvik, which is an Eskimo phrase for “one living in present moment with joy and happiness.” It’s a true story about Sam Wright, who wrote the book, and his wife going to and living in Alaska.

Favorite Bible verse: Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Favorite hobby: Fishing.

Key to a good marriage: Honesty and everything that comes under that like trust and communication. No matter what, talk it out. There may be nothing you can do about it, but if you talk it all out, it might resolve itself.

Least favorite load: Heavy liquid because it sloshes.

Most unusual load: Large plastic balls, like the ones that kids play with at the supermarket. My trailer was full from front to back, and I didn’t have 1,000 pounds.

Most unusual place I’ve hauled: A horse ranch in the woods north of Whitefish, Mont. There were a lot of curves, and they had to get a bulldozer to pull me sideways around the curves.

Worst thing about being a trucker: Lack of a good home life.

Best thing about being a trucker: Independence. I make my own decisions, and I am responsible for them.

Dream vacation: Alaska.

Pet peeve: Sitting without a load.

Do you know an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record?

Write to Laura Crackel, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403.