Long-haul loyalist

FAMILY: Children: Kassie, 22, Ashley, 19, Corey, 17
RIG: 2000 Kenworth W900L
DRIVING CAREER: 30 years in trucking, 25 years as owner-operator
FREIGHT: Refrigerated meat products
ACCIDENT-FREE: 3 million miles
LEASED TO: Commercial Services

While many truckers skip from carrier to carrier like a game of hopscotch, Tim Cummings stands out as a company man.

“I believe the reason I have been successful for so long is because I stayed with the same company all these years instead of hopping around from place to place,” says Cummings, 52.

Cummings began driving for Commercial Services in 1979. He pulled in his friend Scott Schultze in 1991, and the duo team-hauled for 10 years. Schultze quit driving in 2001, bought the company and took over as president.

“I really admire Scott for what he’s done,” Cummings says. “He bought it in January 2001 and started with eight owner-operators, and that’s grown to 25 owner-operators in four years.”

Based in Algona, Iowa, Commercial Services is dedicated to shipping meat products for Hormel Foods of Minnesota. Cummings’ home in Grand Junction is halfway between the two points of his 320-mile daily run between Hormel plants in Algona and Osceola, Iowa.

Home time is a big plus for Cummings. He says his children are his first priority and he enjoys spending time with them on weekends.

“He is very dedicated, very loyal to everybody,” says Jim Nelson, a friend who’s leased to Auto Transport. “He’s making good money there, and he can be home during the week if he wants.”

Cummings is devoted to his truck as well. He does all his own maintenance and record keeping on his 2000 Kenworth W900L. He trades every three years to keep down maintenance costs.

“I watch my expenses on the road, not eating $10 meals at truck stops,” he says. “I don’t overspend at home.”

Cummings keeps records of his weekly expenses in an envelope and later transfers them to Drivers Log, a software program. “At the end of the year, I go back over every entry to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” Cummings says. “I keep track of gallons per mile and fuel used on a separate form. I use a professional accountant at the end of the year to do my taxes.”

Cummings credits part of his success to Hormel readjusting its fuel surcharge weekly. Without it, he says, “We couldn’t make it.”

He enjoys passing on to novice drivers the lessons he’s learned in his three decades behind the wheel: “Drive like a professional. Be courteous. Anticipate everything. Be helpful to others on the road. Take pride in your profession.”

And above all, practice safety. “I try to tell new drivers to drive defensively and not to act like hot-rodding super-truckers,” Cummings says. “Too many drivers don’t take into consideration what mistakes four-wheelers are capable of making.”

One driver who heeds Cummings’ advice is his brother, Tom Cummings, 49, who has been in trucking for the past 27 years. Four years ago, he decided to make the switch from company driver to owner-operator. He’s now leased to Jim Wake Trucking of Willow Springs, Mo.
“He talked to me about tires and engines,” Tom Cummings says of his older brother. “He was very helpful in me making the jump to owner-operator.”

Tom Cummings admires his older brother’s attention to detail. “He checks things out to the ‘T’ before he even attempts it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a truck or a trailer,” Tom Cummings says.

FIRST TRUCK: 1974 International cabover.

HOW I GOT STARTED: My grandfather owned and operated gravel trucks in the 1940s, and he was killed in 1944, run over by a gravel truck. My dad quit school and had to drive the trucks when he was 16. Dad became an owner-operator in 1954, hauling hogs and cattle. I’ve got it in my blood.

FAVORITE LOAD: Back in 1977, I hauled a load of athletic equipment to Laredo, Texas.

MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Frozen pork lungs. They stunk to high heaven!

MOST UNUSUAL DESTINATION: A federal penitentiary in Minnesota. It was meat products for their lunch program.

FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Iowa, so I don’t have to run very far.

WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: I’m not fond of Illinois. Their 55 mph speed limit and back roads are rough.

HARDEST THING TO LEARN WHEN I BEGAN DRIVING: How to shift. I’ve been driving farm trucks since I was 15, and they were just little five- and six-speeds. The first time I got into the Roadranger, I had some trouble.

WORST THING ABOUT TRUCKING: Time away from home.

BEST THING ABOUT TRUCKING: The freedom to do as I pretty much please.

DREAM VACATION: Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a golfer’s heaven. I’ve been there three times for a week’s vacation, just to play golf.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Country and Western.

BEST MEMORY: When I was married, we camped a lot. We went up to the Black Hills of South Dakota for a week, and that was the best vacation I’ve ever had.

FAVORITE MOVIE: The Sting.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Blue Collar TV.

FAVORITE FOOD: Homemade chicken and noodles.

LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Liver.

PET PEEVE: Four-wheelers who think they have the right of way.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Having my three kids and raising them right.

IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: A teacher.

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE: To retire and play a lot of golf.

MOTTO: Work hard. Play hard.

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