Third generation

1979: Graduated from high school in Franklinton, La. Went to work as driver for his father’s company, Bryant Trucking.
1983: Leased to Bestway Cartage as owner-operator.
1985: Given a 1976 Peterbilt 359 by his father.
1987: Leased to Landstar Inway. Bought 1987 Peterbilt 379, the first of seven new trucks he’s owned.
1993: Built first new home in Mobile, Ala.
1994: Son Jaden born.
1999: Received a Landstar 10-year Safe Driving Award and a Bahamas cruise.
2000: Earned a million-mile Safe Driving Award from Landstar.
2002: Elected a Landstar Roadstar.
2006: Bought 2007 Kenworth W900L.

Bruce Bryant’s grandfather drove a six-wheel truck on regional hauls long before the Interstate Highway System was built, and his father was an over-the-road trucker when Bryant was growing up in Franklinton, La. So it’s no surprise that Bruce Bryant was only 13 when he drove his first truck, or that at 14 he helped his father overhaul a Cummins engine. When he turned 15, Bryant earned his learner’s permit to drive a truck while earning school credit at the same time. He’s never looked back, opting for a career in trucking despite his mother’s wishes that he go to college.

“My son is very interested in trucking also,” the Mobile, Ala., resident says of Jaden, 13.
Bryant has been an owner-operator for 24 years. He’s been leased to Landstar Inway, based in Rockford, Ill., for all but four of those years and has accumulated an impressive list of safe-driving awards. Bryant says his dedication to a good company is the main component of his success. His motto: Be loyal to your company, and it will be good to you.

“They are not perfect,” Bryant says. “But neither am I. If you know how to work the system and work hard, you can do well and have a decent lifestyle.”

Bryant also credits his father, Daniel Bryant, with much of his success. It was his father who gave Bryant his first truck, a 1976 Peterbilt 359. “I drove that thing almost six years, and it had almost a million miles on it,” Bryant says.

Bryant’s supervisors see firsthand the influence of Daniel Bryant in the son’s work. “His father taught him a lot about the business when he was young, and he applied his own personality to it,” says Gregg Nelson, Landstar vice president of freight operations and a family friend for 20 years. “He’s a good businessman. He knows what he needs to operate, but he doesn’t do that at the fault of being a good father, husband and son.”

Bryant’s mother, Peggy, still drives for Landstar, but her husband is semi-retired. “He’s been trucking all his life,” Daniel Bryant says of his son. “While he was in school, he would haul grain all night long, load it, and then go to school. There ain’t no such word as ‘can’t.'”

Bryant earned more than $90,000 last year, hauling mostly oversized heavy equipment. He gathers information on a load’s dimensions and weight before getting it and ensures that flags, signs, strobe lights and other accessories will be available. Bryant uses Landstar’s intranet system, which alerts him to loads available for pickup in an area where he’s delivering.

Bryant purchased his first new truck in 1987, a Peterbilt 379. He since has purchased six trucks, trading every two to three years to minimize maintenance and depreciation. Every truck he owned until this year was a Peterbilt. His 2007 Kenworth W900L has an 86-inch sleeper and, to avoid the new engine technology, a 2006 engine.

“Perhaps the bugs will be worked out by my next upgrade,” Bryant says, adding that his next purchase is planned for 2010.

How much to invest in that first truck can be a sink-or-swim decision for new owner-operators, Bryant says. The choice must be made with an eye more toward finances than appearances, so used equipment often is the best choice for a first truck, reflecting the discipline an owner-operator needs to succeed, he says.

“You have to push yourself when you don’t want to, and do things you don’t want to do, and go places you don’t want to go,” Bryant says. “I do it because I’m self-employed. I don’t have sick days. I don’t have the luxury. Your work ethic will have a lot to do with whether or not you are successful.”

Now 41, Bryant expects to keep trucking until he is 65, the age his father decided to enter semi-retirement. In the meantime, Bryant has several other goals to reach. As of press time, he was 8,000 miles short of 2 million safe miles. “It makes me a more cautious driver because I want to make that mark,” he says.

BRYANT PURCHASED his dream car in 1982 for a mere $3,500: a 1977 Corvette. Restoring the car has become a lifelong hobby. To drive around on his property, Bryant recently bought a 4-wheel-drive Yamaha Rhino utility vehicle. It has two seats and a roll cage, with a sidecar for son Jaden to sit in.