Trucker: David Hicks, 40, of Monticello, Ky.
Family: Wife, Lisa; son, Greg, 12; daughter, Allison, 8
Equipment: 1989 Peterbilt 379, two dropdeck trailers
Accident-free: 2.5 million miles
Awards: Safe driver award, 1998-2001
Leased to: Bennett Motor Express, McDonough, Ga.
Miles a year: 100,000
David Hicks of Monticello, Ky., is always looking for profitable opportunities. “Sometimes something you think you don’t want to do turns out to be very profitable,” says Hicks, leased to Bennett Motor Express of McDonough, Ga. “But after you do it the first time, you realize it’s not so bad.”
Hicks used to hate going to California until he figured out a way to make the trip profitable. “If you can find a great load going in and have an OK load out already planned, you won’t have to worry about how many trucks are waiting on loads out,” he says. “Experience helps you learn what will result in the most profit for you.”
Hicks uses Internet boards to line up loads ahead of time or to replace loads that fell out. And if he has a little extra room, he uses them to look for less-than-truckload hauls. “A lot of guys don’t like the extra hassle of LTLs, but I have made picking up an LTL load every once in a while profitable,” Hicks says. “You have to make the most of the opportunities you have.”
For example, Hicks drove for Bennett for about a year without his own set of portable loading ramps. He soon saw the ramps as an opportunity to increase his revenue. “We have a lot of drive-on and drive-off freight, and if you don’t have ramps you can’t haul it,” he says. “Having ramps gives you another dimension.”
Benita Coffey, a Bennett dispatcher, likes Hicks’ go-getter attitude. “He’s always open for a challenge,” she says. “It may be difficult, but he has enough courage to at least try.”
One challenging load Hicks takes on is Ford F-650 Super CrewZers, which cost about $90,000 each and have gross vehicle weight ratings of 26,000 pounds. You have to pay attention when loading and unloading them because they sit low to the ground. One Halloween when Hicks was near home, he had to park in a big parking lot with one of those on his trailer. “I decided it would be best to unload it and drive it home instead of leaving it there like a sitting duck. I was afraid someone would bother it,” he says. “But just driving it around and trying to maneuver it into my driveway without scratching it was quite a task.”
Hicks was voted onto Bennett’s driver advisory board in March. “We discuss driver issues with the president and try to find common ground,” Hicks says. Marvin Scott, truck transportation division manager for Bennett, says the drivers on the advisory board look at a few things before they vote someone on. “They normally look at how long he has been with the company and whether a driver is able to make decisions and come up with new ideas that would help the owner-operator survive,” Scott says. “They also look for people they know will attend meetings and come in with positive attitude.”
As a third-generation owner-operator, Hicks knows a lot about the troubles that drivers face. His grandfather, Delbert, hauled logs in the 1940s and ’50s with a few straight trucks, and Hicks’ father, Estil, helped out from age 14. “He was like lots of people back then; he gave up school to help support the family,” Hicks says. Hicks’ father, who will be 65 in September, still drives. He owns three trucks and hauls automotive parts.
Hicks’ father let him haul a few loads when he came home from college for the summers. “One summer, I just decided not to go back to college,” he says. And he’s been driving ever since.
Hicks believes one of the greatest challenges for owner-operators is finding a good company. “But you have to find your place in the system,” he says. “I’ve found a great company with Bennett, and if you’re willing to work, they’ll really try to help you make it.”
Always willing to work a little harder to create an opportunity, Hicks plans to become a broker in addition to driving. “If you watch what others are doing to succeed and learn from your own mistakes, you’ll make it. You just have to keep your options open.”
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Houseboats. I would haul them from the factory in Kentucky to Arizona. They were usually about 16 feet wide, 15 feet tall and 80 feet long.
WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Any state with a split speed limit.
HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN WHEN I BEGAN DRIVING: Patience.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Seeing new places and facing new challenges.
WORST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Being away from family.
HOW I GOT INTO TRUCKING: My grandfather and father both drove. My father had a trucking company, and he would let me drive short trips to start with.
SECRET TO A GOOD MARRIAGE: Communication.
DREAM VACATION: A cruise.
FAVORITE BAND: ZZ Top, Aerosmith and Bob Seger.
FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOW: “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: The Fugitive.
FAVORITE FOOD: Steak, medium well, and a baked potato.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Hamburger Helper and Brussels sprouts.
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Staying in business.
HOBBY: Boating and NASCAR. I’ve been watching it about 20 years, and I was a big Dale Earnhardt fan.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE: I want to see my kids get a good education, and I want to retire and move where it’s warm.
PET PEEVE: Drivers who don’t pay attention to their surroundings when they’re driving.
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