Family: Two sons
Rig: 1999 International 9300
Career: 10 years
Chargeable accident-free miles: 1.2 million
Leased to: Boyd Bros.
Freight: Steel and building materials
Vinson Jones says people often tell him that he never smiles. Some people think he’s unfriendly.
But Jones, 36, an owner-operator leased to Alabama-based Boyd Bros., isn’t callous or unkind. He’s simply quiet and focused. “I’m just always thinking,” Jones says. “My brain starts working an hour before I get up.”
“People think he’s mean because he doesn’t say much,” says friend and Boyd company driver Michael Richardson. “He’s doesn’t talk much, but he’s a hard worker.”
This Columbus, Ga., owner-operator may have more social skills than he thinks he has. Boyd Equipment Manager Jack Brown, who was Jones’ dispatcher when he began as a company driver with Boyd 10 years ago, says Jones is excellent with people.
“We could call a customer and they’d give you all sorts of reasons why you’re not going to be able to unload,” Brown says. “But then Vinson goes in there, and the next thing I know he calls and says, ‘Boss, I’m unloaded. Find me something else to go with.'”
If he’s considered unsocial, Brown says it’s because Jones is always concentrating on the task at hand. And with 1.2 million safe miles under his belt and the 2003 Boyd Brothers Owner-Operator of the Year title by his name, Jones’ concentration is paying off.
“I just try to do the job and be the best and then the other stuff comes with it,” Jones says.
An engineer in the U.S. Army for nine years, Jones entered driving school just two weeks after he got out of the military because he wanted to see more of the United States, rather than Europe, where he spent most of his time in the service. He signed on with Boyd two months later. After five years, he became an owner-operator because he loves a challenge.
With fuel prices continuing to climb faster than freight rates, Jones says his profession presents him with challenges every day, especially financial ones.
“Some guys just don’t manage their money,” Jones says. “When they make money, it’s time to go shopping, and the next month isn’t a good month, but they’ve spent their money from last month. They don’t realize that if you don’t put money aside for repairs, you won’t make it.
“I pay attention to detail, manage my time and manage my money,” Jones says.
Richardson says Jones is one of the few young drivers he sees that treats his truck like a business. Jones travels with his laptop and uses a routing program. In addition, Richardson says, his friend isn’t shy about seeking advice.
“He talks to older drivers so they can give him a little wisdom,” says Richardson, 56. Jones, in turn, shares his wisdom with other drivers. “You’re going to have your ups and downs, but here the positives are going to outweigh the negatives,” he says. “I tell the other guys that the perks and recognition will come, but you just have to have patience,” he says.
Richardson recalls when Jones’ appendix burst a few years ago while he was on the road, and he returned to work after just one month. “He came back strong and was determined,” Richardson says. “When you drive a flatbed, you have to have all your strength. I know I couldn’t have done it.”
Jones is “totally dependable,” Brown says. “He gets the job done, and he gets it done right.”
Johnny Godbold, Jones’ current dispatcher for Boyd, says Jones’ self-sufficient, laid-back and reserved demeanor differs from the trucker stereotype.
“One rare time that Vinson called in to complain – and they were legitimate complaints, but it was really out of character – I said, ‘Vinson if you’re going to start acting like a truck driver, I’m going to hang up on you,'” Godbold says. “He just fell out laughing. That tells you what a good sense of humor he has.”
When he’s not on the road, Jones spends time repairing friends’ computers, collecting model cars and playing video games with his sons, ages 13 and 15. He tries to call his kids every day.
“Since you’re not going to be there every day, you have to have them feel your presence,” he says.
Jones would like to have more spare time to go back to school to learn more about computers. He is considering taking classes online while on the road.
In the meantime, he’s willing to roll with the punches as an owner-operator. “You’re not always going to have a good day every day, a good week every week, or a good check every check,” he says. “I just live life on the road one mile at a time.”
FAVORITE FOOD: Seafood.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: The rolls of fence that you put around a house. They’re hard to secure.
FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOW: WWE Wrestling.
PET PEEVE: I don’t let anything bother me.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: No two days are the same. Every day there is a different challenge.
LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Congestion and traffic. And the lack of knowledge by the general public about what these trucks can do.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Jazz.
Do you know an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Laura Crackel, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail email@example.com. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.