Lessons Learned

They’ve logged millions of safe miles. They serve in driver’s education programs, projects with school children and trucking image programs. They set an example, not only for other owner-operators, but for small business owners everywhere.

They are Overdrive‘s Truckers of the Year. While the men and women who’ve held this title are as diverse as trucking itself, they – and other successful owner-operators – invariably follow five common practices:

APPROACH TRUCKING AS A BUSINESS. Whether it’s calculating how to buy fuel at the best price, knowing what loads pay the most or keeping close watch on cost per mile, successful owner-operators know trucking is a business. “The only way to survive and make a profit is to become a better business person,” says Glen Rice, 1996 Trucker of the Year.

INVEST IN GOOD EQUIPMENT. “Those who have the most effective and efficient equipment and the knowledge to use it are going to have the best chance to thrive,” says Ray Barnes, 2000 Trucker of the Year. A truck that earns money doesn’t have to be the latest model – or have all the bells and whistles. “An old one that’s taken care of is as good as a new one,” says Butch Barnes, 2002 Trucker of the Year.

TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR IMAGE. Successful truckers look – and act – the part. Those who don’t not only hurt themselves, they reflect badly on the entire industry. “All it takes is one out of the basket,” says Harvey Zander, 1999 Trucker of the Year. “Everybody else has to make up for what one guy did.”

FIND A GOOD COMPANY AND STAY WITH IT. “Hopping around just costs you money,” says Chuck McQuerry, 2003 Trucker of the Year. Beyond that “it’s hurting our respect.” It’s not uncommon for successful truckers to stay with the same company for 10, 20, even 30 years.

PUT SAFETY FIRST. Successful owner-operators take to heart the awesome responsibility that comes with sharing the road. They know the only way to maintain their exemplary driving records is to emphasize “safety in everything, from the moment you climb in until the moment you climb out,” McQuerry says.

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Perhaps the most important lesson Overdrive‘s Truckers of the Year offer: What you get out of your career and your life relates directly to what you put in. “You don’t want to be a person who gets by,” Butch Barnes says. “You want to be the person who makes a little bit of a difference.”

To learn how 2004 Trucker of the Year Mike Curle puts these practices to work in his business, click here.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
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