TRUCKER: Rick Wagster, 44, of Floral, Ark.
FAMILY: Wife, Nancy; children, Brian, 21, Brittany, 17
RIG: 2001 Freightliner Classic
CAREER: 16 years
FREIGHT: Cars, often Mercedes and BMWs
SAFETY: No chargeable accidents
LEASED TO: RayTrans Trucking
NET INCOME: $120,000
Rick Wagster is an Air Force veteran with a wife, two kids, a beloved Harley-Davidson and a strong work ethic.
If he sounds as American as his mom’s apple pie – the only kind of pie he’ll eat – well, he is. Wagster enjoys not just mom’s pie but any home cooking, whether it’s from his mother or his wife, Nancy. “I love fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Anything, as long as it’s not from a truck stop,” he says.
“You are not going to find a finer person out there,” says Jeff Tenkate, who, like Wagster, is leased to RayTrans Trucking. The Matteson, Ill., carrier runs 35 owner-operators.
The two met when they drove for Waggoners Trucking five years ago. Wagster’s sense of dedication really shines, in trucking and life in general, Tenkate says. “If he tells you he is going to be somewhere or do something, then he’ll be there, or it will get done.”
Chris Loebach, a diesel mechanic for Waggoners, also has known Wagster for years. He says that if more people cared for their trucks the way Wagster does, Loebach would be out of a job. “His truck is always in shape,” Loebach says.
“If I don’t give my truck and trailer my full attention all the time, I know I’ll be parked,” says Wagster, an 11-year owner-operator. “I’ve always taken care of my truck, and it’s always taken care of me. You have to maintain your truck first.”
He also has a specialized trailer to maintain – his own car trailer in which he hauls vehicles from dealers or auto plants.
“Besides that, we transport a lot of Internet sales,” Wagster says. “We move a lot of BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches, Lamborghinis, muscle cars – high-end, top-dollar products like that.”
Regular maintenance is just as important in marriage, says Wagster, who considers Nancy his “right arm” in life and business. “I call every day so that I’m able to talk to her about everything,” Wagster says. “She’s a wonderful trucker’s wife. She never complains, but she doesn’t like me being gone this much.”
Married for 25 years, the Wagsters went to high school together but didn’t know each other then. “I joined the service and came home [on leave], and we got to talking,” Wagster says. “She started writing letters, and the next thing you know we were married.” Wagster adds with a chuckle that he doesn’t think he and his wife ever really “went out” before they were married.
“My wife and I have raised two wonderful kids,” Wagster says. “They’re my greatest accomplishments. That has got a lot to do with their mother, but it has some to do with both of us.”
It’s not always a long haul that takes Wagster away from home, though. An avid motorcyclist, he often can be found cruising the hills of his home state, Arkansas, on his 2001 Harley-Davidson Dyna Glide. Nancy often rides with him.
He takes longer trips, too, sometimes with friends. “We’ve biked around to South Carolina and Daytona [Fla.] for Bike Week,” Loebach says.
Wagster and two friends once stashed their bikes onto a load bound for Miami. After delivery, they parked the truck and biked to Key West. “That was a great trip,” Wagster says. “Bridge after bridge over the water.”
FIRST TRUCK: The first I ever owned was a 1994 Peterbilt I bought new. The first I ever drove was an old R-model Mack.
HOW I GOT STARTED: I was in the U.S. Air Force for nine years, and when I got out I moved home and wanted to go into something I’d be interested in. I started trucking for Werner Enterprises out of Omaha, Neb.
FAVORITE LOAD: Cars.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Tires.
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Muscle cars restored from the ’70s and ’60s.
UNUSUAL PLACES I HAVE HAULED: When pulling tractors I went to Come By Chance, Newfoundland. I went to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and got on a great big ferry to get there.
FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Washington and Oregon because of the scenery. I love Pennsylvania for all the pretty farms.
WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Connecticut, because the traffic is awful.
WORST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: The sacrifices you make being away from home and kids. You miss a lot of birthdays and ball games.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Independence. I can run my own business the way I want it and not have anybody breathing down my neck.
BEST VACATION: Water skiing at Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Ark.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Classic rock ‘n’ roll and country. I like Bruce Springsteen, Alan Jackson and Keith Urban.
BEST MEMORY: Any memories of my wife and kids, and I have fond memories of me and my dad going fishing when I was a kid. He passed away in 1985.
FAVORITE MOVIE: In Harm’s Way, with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.
PET PEEVE: People who are too lazy to get out and work.
IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: Probably still in the service.
DREAM JOB: I wish I had listened to my mom and dad and gone to college. My dream job would be one where you go to work at 8 a.m. and come home at 5 p.m. and still be able to make a living.
HOPES: Prosperity – to be able to make a living.
MOTTO: Tomorrow is another day.
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.