Family: Wife, Sheryl; son, Mike; daughter, Patti
Rig: 1997 Peterbilt 379EX has a 500-hp Detroit Diesel and Alcoa Dura-Bright wheels that he and his wife won at the 2002 Mid-America Truck Show.
Career: 15 years full time, plus moonlighting as a driver at various times during 22 years in the Marines
Freight: Dry van general freight
Safety: No chargeable accidents
Net income: $30,000
George Shea of Jacksonville, N.C., started driving trucks part-time while he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. When he retired from the Marines on New Year’s Eve of 1987, he already had his trucking career planned. He hit the road for the first time the next day, running for Donnie White Trucking.
“I’ve been trucking full-time for 15 years,” Shea says. “The only time I didn’t truck was for about 10 months in 1990 after I had back surgery.”
Shea’s time in the Marines taught him skills and lessons that he carries into the trucking business, such as time management and self-discipline.
“Another thing is that it’s OK to spend money to make money,” Shea says. “One of the first things I learned in the Marines was that spending a couple of extra bucks a week for a clean, fresh uniform put me ahead of my peers. It’s the same with my truck. If I show up with clean, shiny equipment, people are going to remember that.”
Shea, who began operating under his own authority in 1994, makes it a goal to always arrive with clean equipment. A slogan on the back of his tractor reads, “When Image Matters.” The hard work he puts into his truck paid off at the 1997 Mid-America Trucking Show, where he won Conventional Combo, and again in 1998 when he snatched third place in the same category at the Pride & Polish competition at the Great American Trucking Show.
Shea is as devoted to his operation as he is to his image.
“He was always a good driver, always dependable,” says Billy Alford, a dispatcher at Donnie White Trucking. “He comes by to see us about once a month, and we just run our mouths. He’s been a friend of everyone in the company.”
When Shea began trucking, he was no stranger to it; his father had been a trucker for 46 years. Now most of Shea’s family has followed the same path. His wife, Sheryl, drives a Dumpmaster, and his son Mike runs LTL in Minnesota. Even his granddaughter has shown an interest in trucking, much to her mother’s dismay.
Shea and his wife have tried to share trucking with the community, as well.
“A lot of four-wheelers don’t understand the operation of a truck,” he says. “My wife and I used to take the truck out to expos and let people get up in the truck. We’d park cars behind and on the side of it. We’d even get a police car with the lights flashing, then we’d get them in there. We’d say, ‘Where’s the police car?’ They get the idea.”
While Shea loves driving, during the early days of the war with Iraq he contemplated going back into the Marines, as did many other retired Marines.
“I’d go right back in at the same rank. And if I went back in, I’d only have to stay 24 hours and then I’d get paid at today’s pay scale,” he says. “But they’d probably use us for something that someone has to do and no one wants to do – go knock at the door. It’s better to get a vet who’s been there to do that stuff, an older guy who probably has kids of his own. The hard part is, you don’t know what to expect when that door opens.”
FAVORITE FOOD: Italian – my wife’s spaghetti and meatballs. She learned to make them from my mother, who makes it from scratch. I don’t mind hauling Prego or Ragu, but I don’t want to eat it.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Vegetables.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Country. I love Faith Hill.
FAVORITE PLACE TO DRIVE: Texas. It’s just wide open and flat, and the roads are newer than the Northeast.
WORST PLACE TO DRIVE: Philadelphia. It’s a much older city, and the streets are not made for the newer equipment. The tolls will kill an owner-operator.
WORST THING ABOUT TRUCKING: The fact that shippers don’t want to catch up to the rest of the economy. They want you to still haul it for what you did 10 years ago.
BEST ASPECT OF TRUCKING: Independence.
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Pallets of film to be used for potato chip wrappers. It was unusual in that it was only three pallets. I came out of Atlanta and dropped two in Charlotte, N.C., then only had one more. That day I could ride up the hills with the big trucks.
UNUSUAL HAULS: Hauling after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 in Charleston, S.C., for 30 days. The residents were so kind and courteous. The stoplights weren’t working, and they’d stop and motion you through. They’d take deliveries whenever you got there; you didn’t have to wait at all.
HOPES: To see some realistic rules come out in the new hours of service – something other than one size fits all.
ADVICE: My father taught me when I was learning to drive: “You can go down that hill too fast one time, but you can go down too slow many times.”
If you know someone who would make a great Trucker of the Mont e-mail [email protected].