One step ahead

FAMILY: Ann, wife of 13 years; children Louis, 7, Lindsey, 18, Katrina, 20, Clint, 22
RIG: 2000 International 9400i
DRIVING CAREER: 32 years, owner-operator for 28 years
FREIGHT: Flatbed, 48 states
ACCIDENT-FREE: 2.5 million safe miles over 28 years
INCOME: $27,000 – 32,000
LEASED TO: Smithway Motor Xpress

Steve Carnine, general manager of the Cummins Central Power branch in Des Moines, Iowa, has come to value Henry Shriver’s professionalism in the 10 years he’s known him.

“He is the look-down-the-road-a-long-ways-and-figure-out-what’s-going-to-happen type of guy,” Carnine says.

Planning is one key to being a successful owner-operator, Shriver says. “And patience and understanding of people, whether it’s out on the road, or on the phone with dispatch and customers,” says Shriver, 50.

Shriver keeps his eyes and thoughts ahead of him, and not just for safety reasons, Carnine says. It also helps him save the most fuel.

“There aren’t a lot of panic stops. Not a lot of braking,” Carnine says. “The guy comes to an exit ramp and is downshifting and not on the brake. He doesn’t speed up fast.”

Shriver’s truck isn’t geared to go as fast as it can because Shriver knows what’s important, Carnine says.

“Some drivers just think about how fast they can go and how much chrome they put on their truck,” Carnine says. “Their biggest goal in life is never to be passed, and he’s more concerned about getting there on time and putting the money in his pocket when the day is over.”

Shriver hauls flatbed loads, usually building materials, across the continental 48. It may be dirty work, but Shriver still tries to look his best when he meets clients. He keeps a spare set of clothes in his cab, another indication that he’s always preparing for what’s next.

Shriver hauled feed and agricultural products as a company driver for Chaddron and Sons, based in Le Center, Minn., for four years. “I wanted to do more with my life than work for somebody else, so I became an owner-operator,” Shriver says. He hauled for Umthun Trucking for 27 years. After Umthun was taken over by Decker Trucking, he moved to Smithway Motor Xpress in 2002.

Becoming a successful owner-operator involved many hard-earned lessons, he says. “You have to go out and look for information and look for help.”

Even now that he’s established in his business, he finds preparedness helps in many ways, such as handling people in difficult situations. “Keeping your eyes open all the time opens you to the fact that someone you come in contact with may be having a bad day,” he says. “It helps you understand their position on their decisions.”

Shriver says he’s fortunate to have a wife who helps with his business. He met Ann when she was working the phones at Umthun, where she later moved to dispatching. Her trucking experience helps his operation, such as when she goes online to find the best places to buy fuel. “I know the taxes each state will be charging,” Shriver says.

While at Umthun, Shriver also met Ron Berg, then the fleet’s safety director. He’s now mayor of Shriver’s hometown, Eagle Grove, Iowa.

“He is very safe and dedicated to the industry,” Berg says. “He is the kind of driver that any trucking company would love to have – honest, dependable. He just portrays the professional driver well and shares that with other drivers.”

FIRST TRUCK: 1971 Freightliner cabover.

HOW I GOT STARTED: Hauling grain and feed and hogs on the farm.

FAVORITE LOAD: The ones with no tarp are always the best.

LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Boulders, like big rocks. I’m very concerned about it falling off. Tying them down is tough.

MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: A 1948 Mack fire truck, fully restored and operational. I picked it up in Utah and hauled it to Colorado.

UNUSUAL PLACES I HAVE HAULED: A rock quarry in Oakley, Idaho. It was June 5, and I was in a snowstorm on top of that mountain.

FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Oregon. They have vast deserts. Then they have forest in the west. They have a good combination of things I like.

WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Illinois. I usually end up in the north end, so you have high traffic and poor road conditions.

BEST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: The variety of people you can meet and the scenery you can see.

KEYS TO GOOD MARRIAGE: Communication. We call every day, and now that we have cell phones, it’s a lot easier.

BEST VACATION: We make it a ritual to go to Sturgis, S.D., for the Black Hills motorcycle rally.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Rock ‘n’ roll from the 1950s and 1960s.

BEST MEMORY: We got married in a Catholic church in Eagle Grove. The priest said, “Be careful on those Harleys. They scare the hell out of me.” That was a weird thing to say.

FAVORITE MOVIE: John Wayne movies.

FAVORITE FOOD: Steak and asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: We own a nice acreage, which has been developed from the income of the truck. It is a big thing to own your home and have a nice one. I’ve planted trees and seen them grow.


MOTTO: Not a day goes by that I can’t learn something.