Stuck on trucking

The shared love of the industry that binds TCA’s winning contractor and his wife proves to be a formula for success.

After learning that he had been named the Truckload Carriers Association’s 2005 Independent Contractor of the Year, Henry Shriver called home four times in one hour. “I was just overjoyed,” says the 50-year-old owner-operator for whom the third time time proved the charm: He placed fourth and third in previous TCA competitions.

While four calls in one hour may be a bit excessive, touching base with his wife and business partner, Ann, and 8-year-old son, Louis, several times each day is a big part of Shriver’s life. He credits his win, which earned him a Cummins-equipped International tractor and other prizes, to “being a good businessman as well as a family person.” The TCA contest is sponsored by International Truck and Engine, Cummins and Overdrive.

Shriver’s strong family ties aren’t lost on his business associates. The Shrivers “are a team,” says Larry Owens, CEO of Smithway Motor Xpress of Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Shriver is leased. “They both take such pride in what he accomplishes.”

The Eagle Grove, Iowa, resident pins much of his success to having a wife who comes from a trucking background and thus understands the industry’s rigors. Ann’s uncles were the Umthuns of Umthun Trucking, which was purchased by Decker Transport in 2002 and where Shriver started as an owner-operator. Ann’s father was in purchasing, and her brother is a company driver. Ann, who describes trucking as “the glue” in their marriage, worked as an Umthun dispatcher and in its safety department.

Working with Ann “gives us both a part of the business,” Henry says. “It helps bind us together.”

“I help him make more money by gathering information,” such as monitoring the Weather Channel and using routing websites to steer Henry around bad weather, Ann says. “He doesn’t turn down a load because of weather. We just work around it.”

Such flexibility is critical to pulling the flatbed loads Shriver loves. “The shape, size, quantity and direction it’s going are a surprise and challenge every day,” he says. Shriver averaged 113,000 miles last year, but says, “I work for money, not for miles.” He earns 77 percent of total revenue on each load hauling mostly construction materials.

A key to Shriver’s success is carefully planning his fuel purchases. He’s added an extra 85-gallon diesel tank to cut overall fuel expenses. The extra fuel “lets me maximize my hours because I can get by without an extra stop,” he says. And buying an extra 85 gallons of fuel in Sioux Falls, S.D., instead of Rapid City, S.D., might save him 10 cents per gallon. Shriver fuels within Smithway’s fuel network to take advantage of its discount.

Buying is only half the equation in cutting fuel costs. Maintaining 62 mph, a speed he calls “the sweet spot,” helps him achieve 6.7 mpg. With Smithway’s fuel surcharge, he has been paying about 78 cents per gallon for diesel, he says.

Shriver chose his current truck, a 2000 International 9400i, because its lighter weight gives him more flexibility in the loads he takes.

He financed the truck through his local bank. “I keep my credit record very healthy,” he says, which assures him the best interest rate.

His driving record is equally clean. After 32 years in trucking, all but two of them as an owner-operator, he’s logged more than 2.8 million accident- and violation-free miles.

The Shrivers’ love of trucking benefits their community. They participate each year in the Iowa Special Olympics Truck Convoy. Henry also competes annually in the Iowa Motor Truck Association truck rodeo. He placed first in 1999, second the past two years and 13th at the national competition in 1999. In 2000, he was a member of the Iowa Road Team.

With his dedication to family and community, his excellent safety record and strong business acumen, Shriver is “a good ambassador for our company and industry,” Smithway’s Owens says.

“He really deserves this,” says Ann of the award. “He’s been such a consistent businessman all his life.”

In addition to an International tractor equipped with a 500-hp Cummins ISX, Henry Shriver will receive:

  • An Eaton transmission
  • Goodyear G300 series radial truck tires
  • Two National Premium seats
  • Two Velvac Aero Bell TriPod hood-mounted mirrors
  • A $2,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a personalized jacket from Overdrive
  • A $1,500 Rewards Card from Love’s Travel Stops
  • A $1,000 Frequent Fueler debit card from Flying J
  • A $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond from Great Dane Trailers
  • $1,000 from Mack Trucks
  • A $1,000 gift card from Pilot Corp.
  • $500 from ArvinMeritor
  • A $500 gift card from Qualcomm
  • A $500 gift certificate from TravelCenters of America

The runners-up in the 2005 Independent Contractor of the Year Contest are:
Second, Daniel Beber of Polk, Neb., leased to Warren Transport
Third, Art Reid of Breckenridge, Texas, leased to Dart Transit
Fourth, Ronald Warner of Missoula, Mont., leased to Davis Transport
Fifth, Lanny and Connie Beyer of Hancock, Minn., leased to Mid west Coast Transport.
They receive prizes from many of the same companies that provided awards to Shriver.