Owner-operator Steven Brosnan enjoys seeing the countryside, whether from the cab of his Peterbilt or the cockpit of an airplane.
Steven Brosnan of Henderson, Nev., is a master of mobility. When he’s not pulling a flatbed, he’s liable to be piloting a small airplane, and he has much more than a passing familiarity with stock cars.
Brosnan has spent 31 of his 50 years full time in trucking. He’s managed to work flying into his busy schedule, and before planes, his passion was stock cars.
He built a 700-hp alcohol dirt model from the ground up and raced it for six years, earning quite a few trophies along the way. He says he got interested in racing around 1980 after being on a friend’s pit crew, but Brosnan attributes to his wife his shift from crew member to driver.
“She said we needed a hobby, and who was I to argue?” he says. They started out with a Super Stock and eventually with sponsorships upgraded to higher models, racing in Idaho, Oregon and Washington with at least one familiar name: Nascar driver Greg Biffle.
Flying was something Brosnan had always wanted to do, and he again credits his wife for prompting him to take the first step. He started lessons in 1997 in Troutdale, Ore., considered one of the most treacherous airports in the Northwest because of constant winds. After receiving his pilot’s license in 2000, he purchased a 1984 Piper Warrior II single-engine four-seater. Owning a plane wasn’t cost efficient, so now he rents. “Even if it’s just for a couple hours to fly up and down the Florida coast, I rent one wherever and whenever I get the chance,” Brosnan says.
“You close the doors, and the whole world goes away,” Brosnan says of climbing into the cockpit. But Flyboy (his handle) adds that it’s less an escape from trucking than a complement. “I thought I was a pretty good heavy hauler before I started flying, and then I realized that there’s a lot more you can preplan for, pay attention and look ahead to.”
The attention to detail necessary in flying has carried over into Brosnan’s 20 years of safe driving. Leased to Anderson Trucking Service’s specialized division, he hauls oversized loads such as military vehicles, aircraft parts and sections of power-plant windmills. The challenging loads, most of which require escorts, take some of the monotony out of driving, Brosnan says. “A lot of patience, knowledge and experience are required for oversize. It takes defensive driving to another level because you have to watch so much more going on around you, and you always have to have a plan B.”
Brosnan expects other truckers on the road to maintain the same patience and awareness that help him stay safe. “It doesn’t cost anything and requires very little time for truckers to have more respect and patience for other drivers.”
His detail-oriented diligence also pays off with his finances. He tracks maintenance expenses and fuel costs with Drivers Daily Log software and uses a national truck tax accounting firm to monitor his revenue. He earns an average net income of $66,000. Making a profit in a stagnant economy is the toughest challenge owner-operators face, he says.
“The burden has been placed on the truck and the driver to keep the profits the same versus raising rates,” he says. Brosnan concentrates on cutting costs by reducing his cruising speed and idling, he says. He also recommends being selective when choosing loads.
Brosnan is saddened that many younger truckers don’t display the proper regard for the industry when talking with each other at the truck stop or over the CB. “The drivers that come out of school now aren’t taught the pride and respect associated with trucking,” he says. “Our grandfathers earned the respect of a nation through responsible trucking.”
Anderson dispatcher David Witfall calls Brosnan one of his best drivers. “You don’t have to do a follow-up with him because you know whatever he’s asked to do, he’s going to do right,” Witfall says.
Fellow driver Les Davis describes his friend as calm and patient. “I can be having a bad day, and he reminds me that there’s got to be a way to work it out,” Davis says.
After graduating from high school, Brosnan started his driving career hauling produce in a 1968 Freightliner cabover. Two years later, in 1979, Brosnan bought his first truck, a 1978 Kenworth cabover, and leased to West Coast Truck Lines. His career has taken him into Hoover Dam’s engine rooms, to Nevada’s Goldstrike mines, and within sight of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, which sent ash over 11 states, killed 57 people and laid waste to hundreds of square miles.
Through years of experience, Brosnan has worked out a balance of trucking, flying and family. He spends time with his children, 9-year-old Michael and 11-year-old Nicole, whenever he can. “I enjoy working with my daughter and her horse, and my son and I enjoy going fishing,” he says.
Brosnan and his wife, Jan, spent a year on the road together before their children were born, and they plan to relive some of the past. “I’m going to continue to heavy haul,” he says. “And the wife says when it comes time to retire, we’re going to buy a bigger truck with a bigger sleeper and travel together.”
AS A 14-YEAR-OLD high school drop out, Brosnan was polishing wheels at a truck stop in Portland, Ore., when a regular offered him a job at his shop on the condition that Brosnan finish school. He graduated from Parkrose High School in 1975 and began his trucking career.
BROSNAN WAS STRANDED with other truckers in Portland, Ore., in 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted 70 miles away in Washington. “We all climbed out on top of our trailers and watched it,” he says. “The eruption was a once-in-a-lifetime view.” He and others used cheesecloth to protect their engines from volcanic ash.
1957: Born May 30 in Ladysmith, Wis.
1973: Worked in maintenance for a small fleet.
1975: Graduated from Parkrose High School in Portland, Ore.
1979: Bought a truck and leased to West Coast Truck Lines.
1981: Started driving flatbed.
1986: Married wife, Jan.
1987: Named RTS Transportation Driver of the Year, Flatbed Division.
1996: Began pulling low-boys.
1997: Started flying lessons in Troutdale, Ore.
2006: Leased to Anderson Trucking Service, bought current truck, a 2005 Peterbilt 379.