Trucker: Charles (Chuck) McQuerry, 43, of Ringgold, Ga.
Family: Wife, Theresa; sons, Chuck and Desmond
Leased to: U.S. Xpress
Rig: 2000 Freightliner Classic XL
Awards: Yearly safe driving awards from U.S. Xpress 1995-1998
Accident-free: 16 years
Motto: Something done safely is done right
Chuck McQuerry is a man with a mission: Do the job and do it right. “Tell me what you want me to do and consider it done,” he says. “It’s worth something to be reliable.”
McQuerry’s reliability has brought him more than a profitable trucking career; it’s earned him a reputation with his company and his customers. Larry Dennis, director of contractor services for U.S. Xpress, says of McQuerry, “If it’s time for him to go home, and we have an emergency, we don’t hesitate about getting it to Chuck. He will do whatever has to be done.” McQuerry earns numerous positive comments from his customers and dispatchers.
Getting it done is important when you haul mainly expedited and just-in-time freight, as McQuerry does. But in his 16 years of driving, first as a company driver then an owner-operator, he’s hauled a variety of freight, from tanker, flatbed, reefer and dry boxes to doubles and triples.
When he decided to buy his own truck, McQuerry had a few troubles starting out. “I knew a lot about driving, but I had a lot to learn about business,” McQuerry says. “I was running hard and outrunning my expenses.” When freight dropped, trouble followed.
Instead of quitting, McQuerry kept running hard, sought help through his company, learned from trucking manuals such as Overdrive’s Partners in Business – and turned his business around. “A guy once told me that this business is just the opposite of school – it gives you the test before it teaches you the lesson,” he says. Surviving the hard times helped McQuerry in the long run. “I have a strength and a confidence in my ability to run a business that weren’t there when I started.”
McQuerry was a trainer for six years and has volunteered to train for U.S. Xpress. “He came into my office one day and told me, ‘I like to see people who are interested in making trucking a career get off on the right foot because this is hard work,'” Dennis says.
According to McQuerry, success takes more than getting started on the right foot. “Support. Support. Support. I have been blessed with boundless support from my wife, my family and U.S. Xpress. They have supported me through the good and the bad. When you have people like that behind you, it’s hard to fail.”
GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING OWNER-OPERATORS: Maintaining safety at all times. We deal with so much adversity on a daily basis, and we cannot afford to trade safety for anything.
HOW TRUCKERS CAN IMPROVE THE INDUSTRY: We should pay strict attention to how we present our equipment, our companies and ourselves to the general public and to customers. If we want respect from others, we must first show respect for ourselves.
ADVICE FOR NEW OWNER-OPERATORS: Be prepared to work hard. You have to establish yourself. Keep your wheels turning. And be prepared for the money issues, because startup costs are high, and it costs a lot to maintain a safe rig.
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a trucker, becoming a trainer. That was tough.
BEST MEMORY: My first coast-to-coast load. I was pulling a tanker of Class 8 poisons and pesticides, and I had never even driven to California in a car. I made it on time and by myself.
FAVORITE LOAD: Air freight. They are mainly drop and hook, and they’re always loaded light. It’s pretty cut and dried with those loads – you know where it’s going, and they’re ready for it when you get there.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Perishables and refrigerated. The temperature and the equipment have to be perfect. I used to haul ice cream out of Minnesota into Arizona, and you can lose the whole load of ice cream going into 110-degree weather if anything goes wrong.
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: A load of ceramic snowflake ornaments for two Macy’s Christmas displays. There wasn’t enough freight to fill up the bunk, and it didn’t weigh 200 pounds. They set it on the floor, and I wrapped it with blankets.
MOST UNUSUAL PLACE I’VE HAULED: Jackson Hole, Wyo. The road was unpaved for about 40 miles. I had never really had a truck off the road before.
HARDEST THING TO LEARN WHEN I BEGAN DRIVING: It’s a business of pennies. Have to watch every cent. You never know when those variable expenses are going to hit, and you have to be ready.
PET PEEVE: Lack of communication. When you’re on the road, there are things going on minute by minute, and everyone needs to be informed.
PLANS AFTER RETIREMENT: I would like to start a barbecue restaurant.
HOBBIES: Working out in the yard. Cooking on the grill. I used to do a lot of painting and drawing, but I’d like to get more into photography since I travel so much and see so many things.
FAVORITE FOOD: Seafood.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Eggplant.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Amistad. I was amazed at the truths it brought out.
KEYS TO GOOD MARRIAGE: Patience. The way a marriage starts has a lot to do with how it’s going to end up. We started our marriage in a church, and we have a lot of faith, and we keep the good Lord in front of us in everything we do.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Jazz, especially David Sanborn on saxophone. It’s so relaxing when I am driving.
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