HOME: Pell City, Ala.
FAMILY: Daughters Caroline and Candy, son Frankie, and grandchildren Lauren and Kelsey
LEASED TO: McClendon Trucking in LaFayette, Ala.
RIG: 2001 Freightliner XL Classic
Most days Frankie Bowman, 50, chooses to wear a black cowboy hat, some days white. But no matter which color he chooses, the good guy in him always shines through. Whether it’s stopping to offer roadside assistance or giving someone a load so the guy can get a little closer to home, Bowman’s Southern upbringing accounts for a big part of his success as an owner-operator for McClendon Trucking.
“One time I stopped to help an older guy in a wheelchair who was trying to change a tire,” Bowman says. “He had been trying for a while just to get the lug nuts off, and his wife couldn’t really help. They said that probably 300 people drove by, and I was the only one who stopped. It used to be that drivers would help people on the road, other drivers and anyone who needed it, but not anymore.”
Bowman was a company driver for McClendon before deciding to buy a truck. Since McClendon wasn’t using owner-operators at the time, he had to go to another fleet. Within less than a year, McClendon started using owner-operators, and Bowman went back to drive for McClendon.
“He’s very professional,” says John Biblis, vice president of safety and human resources for McClendon. “He represents the company and the industry very well. We could use a whole fleet of him. He’s hard-working, and overall he’s a really nice guy.”
Born and raised on a farm in Pell City, Ala., Bowman grew up knowing what hard work is. “If it rained too hard, we had to do everything by hand instead of using a plow,” he says. “Plowing 200 acres of corn by hand is not fun, and I didn’t really like it, but my dad always reminded us that when he was young they always did it this way.”
Bowman, who has been driving for 30 years, learned very early about trucking. His dad, L.E., was an owner-operator. He drove for about 40 years, hauling everything from scrap metal to toilet paper. Bowman’s brother, Freeman, pulls a tanker.
Bowman hauls general freight, mainly to distribution centers for companies such as Winn-Dixie and OfficeMax, and his hauls generally take him into the East. And some of his loads can get tedious.
“Hauling beer is tough to do because it shifts easily,” he says. “If someone pulls in front of you, and you have a hard stop, or if you even hit a big pothole and the trailer dips, you’re going to end up repackaging at least some of it.”
The last time Bowman had to repack some beer – about four pallets’ worth – was around 1991. But he’s had to repack whole loads, and sometimes he’s had to ditch the whole load and try again. “I wasn’t too far from where I picked up, and this lady in a minivan ran a stop sign. I hit the brakes hard, and she kept on going,” he says. “My whole load shifted to the front, and I had to go back and get some more. They just got in there with a skid steer, scooped it up and trashed the whole load.”
Bowman says that dealing with reckless four-wheelers is the worst part of trucking. “They just don’t seem to understand what it takes to drive – and stop – a truck,” he says. “Maybe they just don’t care, but they need to have more education about sharing the roads with trucks.”
He’s teaching his 15-year-old daughter, Caroline, about responsibility and cars, as well as how to drive around trucks. “I told her I’d get her a car, but she will have to pay for the insurance. Once she started researching how much it was going to cost, she went for safety more than sporty,” he says. “Which, of course, makes me happy.”
STRANGEST HAUL: Three Leer jet fuselages. I thought I was going to pick up some pallets or something from this company in Clearwater, Fla., but this guy wheeled out this airplane cockpit. I was pretty surprised.
STRANGEST PLACE I’VE BEEN: I had to deliver a load of paper rolls to downtown New York. First of all, I couldn’t find the company, but when I did it was on the 22nd floor, and there was no way I could get up to the dock. They had to get a forklift and unload one roll at a time and roll it to the elevator, and if someone had to use the elevator, we had to wait. It seemed like it took forever to unload that.
BEST ASPECTS OF TRUCKING: Meeting good people, getting to help people out and seeing interesting things.
FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: New Orleans. There’s just something about that city – the people, the atmosphere, the food.
HOBBIES: Bass fishing, deer hunting and NASCAR.
BEST TRUCKING MEMORY: Barbecuing out in the truck stop parking lots with a group of drivers. You could carry a grill with you in your truck. You’d get some meat cooking and call out on the CB, and we’d all just hang around and trade trucking stories.
FAVORITE FOOD: Red beans and rice.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Italian food.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Country.
FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOW: “CSI.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: Braveheart. Power to the little guy.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A TRUCKER: I would have been a mechanic. I used to help my dad when he worked on his truck, and now I work on mine.
MOTTO: Treat other people like you want to be treated. Try to be good to everybody.
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’m still accomplishing it, but raising my 15-year-old now as a single dad and making sure that she gets her education. She wants to be a criminal investigator.
LONG-TERM PLANS: Retire, enjoy life and travel.
Do you know someone who could be the Trucker of the Month? E-mail ovdeditors@eTrucker.com.