Sharing the road

FAMILY: Wife, Amanda; daughters, Katie, 17, Hannah, 16
RIG: 2006 Freightliner Columbia
CAREER: 13 years in trucking, five years as an owner-operator
FREIGHT: Raw building materials, flatbed
NET INCOME: $58,287
LEASED TO: WTI Transport

For the past three years, Phillip Lee has had a loyal companion riding shotgun: his English setter, Buster. And Buster has two ears – however floppy they may be – to listen to Lee when he grows weary of the road. “I’m afraid that one day he’s going to look over at me and tell me that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever said,” Lee says.

me and tell me that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever said,” Lee says.

But now Buster isn’t Lee’s only road companion. Lee’s wife, Amanda, recently earned her commercial driver’s license and the two started driving team this summer leased to WTI Transport, based in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“Some people love each other, but can’t be that close to one another,” Lee says of team driving. “And for others, it’s the greatest thing ever. We believe that it would be the greatest thing ever for us. We only get a few hours together every weekend, so at the very least, we’ll enjoy being tired of each other.”

The new lifestyle has been exhausting for Amanda and difficult for Phillip, who’s not used to sleeping while the truck is moving, but “all in all, we’ve gotten along great,” Amanda says. “When I was at home and he was on the road, we talked three or four times a day on the phone, but now I get to be with him all the time. Believe it or not, he hasn’t left me at a truck stop yet, and there’s been no talk of divorce,” she says jokingly. “We cut up and talk and joke.”

Lee said he and Amanda wanted to obtain their own authority, but decided it would be too difficult without having their own shipping contracts. “I’ve done very well doing what I’m doing. At this point, I don’t wish to own more than one truck,” Lee says.

When he first started working in 1993 for Boyd Bros. Transportation, which later bought WTI, Lee had been unemployed for nine months after being laid off from a job as a retail business manager. His first truck was an International Transtar cabover with no power steering.

“It was a step back from what I drove in truck driving school,” he recalls. “It really gave me a taste of what we had come from. The equipment we have today is just so much better than what we had even 13 years ago.”

Now Lee hauls building materials from Alabama to Florida, where the frequency of storms and hurricanes keeps demand high. Lee has hauled just about everything that can be put on a flatbed, but his favorite load is his primary freight of recent years – roofing shingles.

He says success comes only from “watching every dollar like a hawk and squeezing every penny till it screams,” especially when it comes to fuel. He constantly checks the air filter and alignment, keeps his speed down and minimizes idling. “I would hook up a sail to it if I could,” he says.

WTI President Rendy Taylor, who has known Lee for 13 years, credits Lee’s success to his business acumen. “The more we can get other drivers into the businessman mentality, the more successful they will be. I think we will see in the future a businessman in the driver’s seat, and Phillip is leading the pack.