Tight Operator

TRUCKER: Allen Smith
HOMETOWN: Oak Hill, W.Va.
RIG: 1998 Kenworth T2000
CAREER: 23 years, accident-free
INCOME: $75,000
LEASED TO: National Carriers, Liberal, Kan.

Allen Smith, 46, clearly has what it takes to win monthly driving honors. He was Kansas Driver of the Month in October 2000. National Carriers named him Driver of the Month in October 1998. But he always came up short when those groups picked their annual winner.

Not until Smith’s third Driver of the Month honor, for National Carriers in February 2004, did he go on to win Driver of the Year for National.

“I’m prejudiced,” says his wife of 24 years, Sandy. “I think he should have gotten it years ago.”

Smith, who’s been an owner-operator almost as long as he’s been married, has had a stellar career by anyone’s measure. Hauling all over the 48 states and Canada, he has never had an accident and has logged more than 1.3 million miles since his last speeding ticket.

Not only is Smith safe, but he keeps a positive attitude and pays close attention to good business practices.

“You never hear a negative word out of him,” says Kelly Ramirez, a National Carriers spokesperson. She says Smith often stays out three weeks at a time.

“He’s out here strictly for profit,” says Jerry Davenport, a fellow National Carriers driver.

Maximizing profit includes doing his own maintenance and getting the best fuel mileage. “He shifts properly, and he’s got one of the most aerodynamic trucks on the road,” Davenport says. “If everyone else is running 80 mph, he still goes 65.”

Smith started his trucking career by driving for his father, who owned a coal mining and hauling business. “My dad was around trucks, and they were just something I always loved,” Smith says. “There are two things I never had a question of: trucking and marrying my wife.”

Allen first became an owner-operator in 1982, when he entered a lease-purchase with North American Van Lines. He took a five-month break to oversee the family business while his father went through the final stages of cancer. His father died in 1983.

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Soon after that, Allen got back into trucking with a new 1985 Kenworth K100 cabover with a doublewide sleeper. He leased to Western Express and its successors before joining National in fall 1987.

Sandy was on the road with her husband for 10 years, from 1982 to 1993, and now helps her husband by crunching the numbers for his operation. “He wants to know about them, but I take care of them,” she says. Allen, who admits to being “about as computer illiterate as you can get,” logs in notebooks every dollar spent or earned, what type of oils and fuels he uses and maintenance records.

Allen not only keeps track of where his money goes but does all he can not to spend money he doesn’t have. He doesn’t take advances and avoids using credit cards.

“I’m not out here just to pay the bills,” he says. “I’m here to make money.”

FIRST TRUCK: 1982 GMC Astro. I got it in a lease deal with North American Van Lines.

FAVORITE LOAD: Meat, because it’s not real temperature-sensitive. If you have trouble with the reefer, it’ll take a while before there’s trouble.

LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Produce. Lots of times you have several pickups, and half the time when you get there you have to wait. Sometimes it takes two days to get the load on.

MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: I once hauled some goose feathers.

UNUSUAL PLACES I HAVE HAULED: New York City. It is a place of its own.

FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Texas, because it is open, and if you don’t get around the cities, there isn’t a lot of congestion.

WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Connecticut, because it is so congested and expensive.

WORST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Being away from the people you love.


HOW I MET MY WIFE: We went to high school together but didn’t date. After high school, her parents and my parents were camping together. I went to visit them, and we met then. We dated a year and a half before getting married.

WIFE’S BIGGEST COMPLAINT: She doesn’t complain very much. I do most of the complaining.

KEYS TO GOOD MARRIAGE: Having consideration for the other person. It is all about compromise. It is not just about one person.

BEST VACATION: I’ve never had one. I like deer hunting. I don’t get to hunt very much, though.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Country-western.

FAVORITE MOVIE: The Lonesome Dove television miniseries.

FAVORITE FOOD: My stepmother-in-law makes a bucket steak that is very good.


PET PEEVE: People acting like idiots in the truck. We have too many CB Rambos out here.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: My marriage. It’s been almost 25 years, and she’s the only woman I’ve ever loved and been married to. It takes a real special woman to be a trucker’s wife.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: I came out of the woman’s bathroom one time. I was in a hurry and all I saw was M-A-N, and when I got out people were staring at me.

IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD HAVE BEEN: A heavy equipment operator or mechanic. I do everything I can to my own truck or my pickup.

DREAM JOB: I’m doing it.

HOPES: To continue to have good health for my family and me. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything. And to make enough money to be happy.

MOTTO: If you take care of your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves.

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 protected]. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.