Survivor

1944: Born July 30 in Manchester, Iowa.
1962: Graduated from high school in Delhi, Iowa.
1963-1966: Served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
1966: Married Carolyn Cromer; began driving part-time for cousin’s trucking company.
1968: First son, Leslie, born.
1970s: Worked for father’s construction company during the summers and drove a truck for CRST during the winter.
1971: Second son, Russell, born.
1981-82: Bought a 1980 Peterbilt 359 and began hauling for CRST Malone.
1987: Bought 1984 Peterbilt 359.
1990: Bought 1991 Peterbilt 379.
1993: Received CRST Malone’s Flatbed Owner-Operator of the Year award and 1 Million Safe Mile Award.
1994: Bought 1994 Peterbilt 379.
2000: Bought 2000 Peterbilt 379.
2003: Received 2 Million Safe Mile Award from CRST Malone.
2004: Bought 2005 Kenworth W900.
2005: Named Owner-Operator of the Month by CRST Malone
2006: Awarded 22-Year Safe Driving Certificate by CRST Malone.

David Schwandt of Earlville, Iowa, has weathered many changes during his 40 years in the trucking industry, but he’s still at the job, hauling steel and machinery for CRST Malone. Schwandt’s greatest challenge hasn’t been rising fuel prices or restrictive government regulations. It’s been surviving colon cancer, and now he’s committed to raising awareness about the illness among his fellow drivers.

restrictive government regulations. It’s been surviving colon cancer, and now he’s committed to raising awareness about the illness among his fellow drivers.

One Friday evening in January 1996 after a day of heavy lifting, he was in his workshop when his wife, Carolyn, called him to supper. “As I was walking over to the house, it was like I had diarrhea, but it was all blood. It scared us both half to death.” The next day, Schwandt went to the emergency room; on Monday, surgeons removed more than a foot of his intestine.

Schwandt’s nephew, John Winistorfer, says his uncle handled cancer the way he handles the rest of his life. “He dealt with it straight up,” he says. “He wasn’t down very long. He was back on his feet and going.”

Schwandt, 62, now urges anyone who has a family history of colon cancer or who has a history of bowel trouble to get a colonoscopy. “It can be cured if it’s caught early,” he says. “I’m lucky to be here.”

While Schwandt endured six weeks of chemotherapy through the Mayo Clinic, his oldest son, Leslie, took a leave of absence from driving for Coachman to drive his dad’s truck. Every three weeks, when Schwandt felt strong enough to work, he joined his son. “It was good quality time with him that I had never had before,” he says.

Such times are important to Schwandt, who tries to get home about every two weeks from his hauls across the eastern United States. “When I get home, I don’t want to leave,” he says. “I always wait until the last minute to get on the road.”

Leo Luskey, a friend and former CRST Malone agent, says this attention to family keeps Schwandt well-rounded. “He talks about his family a lot, and he always schedules his trips where they’re not neglected.”

One of his favorite road trips was with his granddaughter. Having just finished reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition across the United States, the two visited the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center in St. Charles, Mo. Each night of the trip, they watched 30 minutes of the Ken Burns documentary on the historic trek and discussed it.

Schwandt has his own journeys, of course, and he doesn’t mind discussing how he keeps them profitable. “I try to run in the same freight lanes where I know I can get loaded,” he says. That method helped him take home $59,866 before taxes last year.

Schwandt also keeps deadhead miles to a minimum. He prepares most of his own food in the truck. He has installed auxiliary heating equipment on every truck he’s owned since 1987, saving thousands of dollars. He started out with a Cummins auxiliary heater, but decided to purchase an APU for his newest truck because the older device drained truck batteries.

Schwandt keeps track of exactly how much fuel he uses and how much of that goes to the generator and idling. “I had 6 percent idle time on the last truck I had,” he says. “My buddy said, ‘What do you do, shut it off at the stoplight?'”

Winistorfer says he has always admired his uncle, whom he worked for as a teen. “He’s one of those guys who can do just about anything,” he says, referring to Schwandt’s ability to remodel houses, rebuild cars and do most of the maintenance on his truck.

Saving for retirement is Schwandt’s main financial goal. He plans to retire in about five years, when he reaches his 15th year as a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

After 40 years in trucking, Schwandt says he’s looking forward to retirement.

Accident-free for 22 years, Schwandt was extremely safety conscious and always punctual, Luskey says of his time at CRST. Luskey never had to follow up on Schwandt’s loads because Schwandt kept him posted from pickup to delivery. “If I had a fleet of drivers all like Dave Schwandt, I would not need any supervisors,” Luskey adds.


Trucker trivia
DAVID SCHWANDT OWNS four Chrysler 300-series cars: a fully restored 1960 300-F, two 1958 300-D’s and a 1957 300-C that he is restoring. “They are part of my investment portfolio,” he says.

HIGH-DEFINITION DIGITAL SCOREBOARD screens are often hauled by Schwandt to football stadiums across the country, including Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas and the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It’s his favorite freight because it’s crated and easy to unload.


DO YOU KNOW an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Steven Mackay, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail smackay@rrpub.com.

Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
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