Motor skills

Trucker: Dave Cadell, 43, Madison, Ind.

Family: Wife, Sarah; son, Jeff; and daughter, Dannielle

Rig: 1994 Kenworth T600

Awards: One Million Safe Miles, 1994; 2 Million Safe Miles, 1999; Driver of the Month; and Safe Driver Award, 1993-1997

Freight: General commodities

Accident-free: 23 years

Income: $40,000

Like many other owner-operators, Dave Cadell, who has been leased to Schneider for 16 years, does his own maintenance. But the ribbons of oil that he pours into his Cummins N14 keep his family and friendships running as smoothly as his business and his 1994 Kenworth T600.

“That’s time that we spend as a family,” says Sarah, Dave’s wife. “Not only does it save us money and help us out in the long run, but it gives him a chance to spend more time with our son.”

Dave started working on cars when he was 17. His older brother liked fixing up antique cars, and the fix-it bug made its way into Dave’s heart. “I was a motorhead. I spent all of my money on my 1969 Nova,” Dave says. “I would take a motor apart and put it back together even if nothing was wrong with it.”

But just because Dave prefers to do the work himself doesn’t mean he does it alone. Dave has passed the love for greasy wrenches to his son Jeff, 17. “I got into fixing up cars because of him – he makes it fun,” Jeff says. “I started helping with his truck. Everything he does, I do with him, even if it’s putting on a new head gasket.”

Dave also recruits the knowledge and skilled hands of his friend Joe Righthouse, a mechanic. Righthouse knew Dave when he was in high school. “He would hang out at the garage, and I would tell him how to make his Nova go faster,” Righthouse says.

Even though Righthouse doesn’t work on big trucks, Dave still calls Righthouse for advice. “I have a friend who works for Cummins, so when Dave has questions, he’ll call me, and I’ll relay the questions to my friend and the answers back to Dave,” Righthouse says. Even Jeff will go out and ask Righthouse questions about his 1968 Chevelle.

When it comes to engines and working under the hood, Dave is willing to learn new things. He recently got a 1979 Jeep CJ-7 to work on, and even though he’s home only a few days a month, he’s going to do the work himself. “I’m kind of particular about the way I want things done, and the only way to make sure it’s done right is to do it myself.”

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Biggest accomplishment: Having 2 million accident-free miles.

Secret to your success: I don’t give up. If I have a problem, I figure a way to get out of it.

Advice you would give new drivers: When you get mad at a company, don’t quit, especially under bad terms. The grass is the same color on the other side of the fence.

Favorite movie: Any good comedy or Western. I liked Blazing Saddles and Lethal Weapon.

Favorite book: Louis L’Amour audiobooks.

Keys to a good marriage: Don’t do anything you’re not supposed to do. Be faithful. When a problem comes up with the family, just talk them through it the best you can.

Hobbies: Other than working under the hood with my son, I go to some of my daughter’s competitions. Dannielle twirls the baton, and she has about five or six competitions a year.

Prettiest place you’ve been: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

Strangest place you’ve been: Military bases – the places you aren’t supposed to be in. They would lead me in and lead me out.

Worst thing about trucking: As far as safety goes: politicians. They don’t know what’s going on, and they are the ones making the rules, and the rules they’re proposing aren’t doing anything. Also, the way people drive.

What would you change about trucking: Drivers would not have to load or unload. It’s one of the biggest safety problems. A driver may have to wait three hours, and he can’t get any sleep, and then he has to do his regular job to make a living. There is no reason we should have to unload.

Worst place to deliver to: Grocery warehouses, especially if it’s not a drop.

Best thing about your truck: It’s paid for.

How I keep track of expenses: I still depend on pen and paper. I use Ziploc bags to keep things organized and in their proper places.

Greatest challenge facing owner-operators today: Stagnant pay, but sooner or later, shippers will understand that a service must be paid for.

How I got into trucking: It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I worked for a farmer in southern Indiana, and I talked him into buying a truck.

Plans after retirement: I want to travel and go back to where I drove for work but didn’t get a chance to explore.

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, or at [email protected].