Sweat equity

Charles and Joy Maly

Owner-operator Charles Maly is a model of consistency: He has banked with the same firm since he was a boy. He’s been married to his wife, Joy, for nearly 25 years. And he’s been leased to the same company, Shaffer Trucking, formerly Sunflower Carriers, since 1982.

Staying the course paid off for Maly on March 13, during the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. Maly was honored as TCA’s 2006 Independent Contractor of the Year for his driving record, exemplary work history and involvement in the community and industry. The contest is sponsored by International Truck and Engine Corp. and Overdrive.

Maly never thought trucking would be his lifelong career, despite his father teaching him to drive a truck on a Nebraska farm at age 14. But, he says “there was never a thought of not doing my best.” That commitment has earned him many honors, including Sunflower Carriers’ first-ever Owner-Operator of the Year award in 1990, the Nebraska Trucking Association’s Driver of the Year in 2003 and Shaffer’s 2006 Owner-Operator of the Year.

“He is well-known as an individual who can be counted on to do it right without the shortcuts,” says Raymond Dunn, Shaffer president and CEO.

Safety is one area in which Maly never cuts corners. “I can’t do foolish things because I’m not the only one who’s going to be hurt,” he says. “Not only am I representing myself, I’m representing my company.” That attitude has helped him rack up 2.3 million safe miles, earning him the 2 Million Mile safety award from the American Trucking Associations and a 19-year ATA safety award.

Maly is equally careful when buying trucks. “He’s a shrewd shopper,” Joy says. “He bides his time on everything.” He knows that the decision, once made, is one he’ll live with for years.

“I used to trade at a three-year cycle to run the depreciation out,” he says. But he changed his approach when his accountant asked him how much it would cost him to keep running the truck versus paying on a loan for three years. He currently drives a 1989 Kenworth T600.

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Winning the TCA Contractor of the Year Award – and the Cummins-powered International 9000i that comes with it – brings Maly full-circle on truck ownership. His first truck was a used Cummins-powered International, which he financed at 17 percent interest. Despite the financial risk of becoming an owner-operator, “I didn’t think about failure like maybe a more seasoned person would,” he says.

While Maly is excited at the prospect of winning a truck, “I’ve never envied people with new trucks because I have a different philosophy on how I use my money,” he says. “Trucks go down in value. Land doesn’t.”

Working with the bank where he’s done business since childhood, Maly took out a $138,000 loan to buy one parcel of Nebraska farmland and a $335,000 loan to buy a second parcel, for a total of 320 acres. He and Joy live on 40 acres, but they plan to rent the remainder or sell off parcels to fund their retirement. He calls the acreage his 401(k) plan.

Too many owner-operators overspend, he says. “They see something bright and shiny, and they have to have it. Then when their health starts to go bad, they’ve spent a lot of money on things that probably aren’t useful to them anymore.”

Maly credits his success to his relationships with Shaffer and his family – Joy, their 36-year-old son who’s a major in the Air Force and his family. Joy’s experiences as a military wife during her first marriage and her 30-year career with the Nebraska Health and Human Services System prepared her well for the trucking lifestyle. “I was used to being independent,” she says.

Although he’s not quite ready to retire, Maly’s Nebraska farm is his haven from “the stress and intensity” of the road. “When I’m home I enjoy the quiet,” he says. “I go back there to recharge.”

The runners-up in the 2006 Independent Contractor of the Year Contest are:

Second, ROBERT MCCRAY, leased to Warren Transport
Third, ALBERT BECK, leased to Dart Transit
Fourth, CHARLES BOYLES, leased to Landstar Ranger
Fifth, BRUCE BARNES, leased to Witte Brothers Exchange

They receive prizes from many of the same companies that provided awards to Maly.

In addition to a new International 9000i powered by a 500-hp Cummins Signature ISX, Charles Maly will receive:

  • An Eaton Roadranger transmission
  • 10 Goodyear G300 series radial truck tires
  • A pair of National Premium cloth seats
  • A pair of Velvac Aero Bell TriPod hood-mounted mirrors
  • A $2,000 U.S. savings bond from Overdrive
  • A $1,500 gift card from Love’s Travel Stops
  • $1,000 cash from Ahern & Associates
  • A $1,000 Frequent Fueler MoneyCard from Flying J
  • A $1,000 U.S. savings bond from Great Dane Trailers
  • $1,000 cash from Mack Trucks
  • A $1,000 Pilot gift card
  • A $500 TravelCenters of America gift certificate
  • $500 cash from ArvinMeritor
  • $200 cash from Specialty Risk
  • A $100 cash card and duffle bag from Petro Stopping Centers
  • CoPilot Truck Laptop software from ALK Technologies
  • A DA 34100 Purest Air Dryer from Haldex
  • A 62120 Dieselmatic NVT Kit with Cylinder from Kold Ban International
  • 30 TripPak Overnite envelopes
  • Four Michelin passenger tires
  • Gauges software and tax preparation from the Rutherford Group
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