The right stuff

Owner-operator Jim Hall has been leased to Daily Express since 1989.

Jim Hall proudly drives from Tukwila, Wash., to Marietta, Ga., 3,000 miles one way, to deliver his load, knowing his freight one day will protect the United States around the world. Leased to Daily Express, Hall carries pieces of the F-22 Raptor for its co-manufacturers, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

“We have the only truck that has hauled all three major components of the F-22,” Hall says. “We’ve hauled the wings, the midbody and the aft fuselage.”

Hall and his wife, Wanda, drive as a team because their loads require 24-hour surveillance. Teams aren’t uncommon in the trucking industry, but the Halls’ operation stands out because it uses anywhere from two to six escort vehicles, both civilian and police, across their 10-state run.

“I’m basically the set of eyes farther up the highway,” says Jerry Hooten, Hall’s lead cross-country civilian escort. “So I call out to him things that are on the sides of the roads such as cars, construction or signs.”

Pulling a 17-foot-wide load can be especially challenging during the summer, when most federal and state road construction takes place. Because of construction zones and detours, the Halls wind up driving about 2,000 miles of two-lane highway, Hall says. “So during the summer, we’re as wide as the highway sometimes.”

Balancing the necessary police escorts also can be difficult. Hall remembers hauling a mold for the experimental Boeing X45 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle. “California said they couldn’t spare three sets of troopers to cover the districts we traveled through,” Hall says. The situation had to be worked out between Boeing and the office of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the load to move through the state on time.

Cooperation and communication among Daily Express, Boeing, the Halls, their escorts and the police have to be worked out before the trip begins. “You can’t do this unless you’re a team,” Wanda says. “Whether or not I drive, I have to be there for the surveillance.” Much like Hooten, Wanda is a second set of eyes for her husband, and also helps drive on the return loads.

Hall has run 55 loads of F-22 pieces so far. “In the 38 years that I have been trucking, nothing has been more rewarding than the work I am doing now for Lockheed Martin and Boeing,” he says. In the past Hall has carried everything from 5-axle to 9-axle freight, and hauls general oversized freight in between loads for Boeing.

The biggest challenge to Hall’s business is fuel costs, he says. “I have a 62-cent-a-mile fuel surcharge, and my truck gets 5.46 miles a gallon,” Hall said. “I’m up to about a $3.40 [per gallon] fuel surcharge. So the actual fuel cost out of my pocket is just about $1 a gallon.” According to Hall his net income, $46,000, has fallen only marginally as a result of fuel hikes, since Daily Express gives its drivers 100 percent of the fuel surcharge.

Managing load choices is one way Hall minimizes expenses. “You may want to take a load that pays just a little bit less money that’s a lot closer to you because you actually end up making more because of the fuel costs.”

Hall’s professional attitude makes him successful, says Dan Santry, senior recruiter and hiring manager for Daily Express. “He’s always brought a good demeanor with him, and he presents himself well to the customers,” Santry says. “With so many years of experience and a safe driving record, that’s what puts him ahead of the rest.”

The Halls don’t see trucking as just work. “We don’t just get in the truck and go from one place to another,” Wanda says. “Wherever we are, we take advantage of the sights around us.”

“We love history, and through driving we get to see things we might never see, like Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore,” says Wanda’s husband. The Halls make time between loads to visit vacation spots. “This helps us relieve stress and spend quality time together,” says Hall.

After 38 years in trucking, Hall says he still likes his job. “I don’t think many people like to work, but I plan to work for at least six more years,” he says. “I’m sure in a couple of years, the loads will slow down, and so will I.”

Jim Hall
1948: Born in Wynne, Ark.
1966: Graduated high school in Maysville, Okla.
1966: Bought first truck, a 1966 Freightliner.
1967: Deployed to Vietnam with the U.S. Navy.
1969: Returned from Vietnam.
1970: Leased as owner-operator to C&H Transportation of Dallas.
1974: Started E&J Trucking with his father
1980: E&J leased trucks to B.F. Walker Inc. of Wyoming to do oil field work.
1986: Leased to Getter Trucking of Billings, Mont.
1987: Safe driver award from Getter Trucking.
1989: Leased to Daily Express.
2000: Daily Express Contractor of the Year.

Trucker Trivia
Hall was a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman petty officer. After stints in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, he returned to the U.S. with a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V for action while under enemy fire. Hall went to the aide of wounded sailors at night, requiring him to drive with his lights on, exposing his position and drawing enemy fire. Enlisted, but not drafted, Hall extended his contract by five months to take a second tour in Vietnam. “I haul military freight because it is something I can do to help our troops and our country,” he says.

One of Hall’s most memorable loads was for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. “The load was three mermaids,” Hall says. The statues were identical and manufactured by a company in Orlando, Fla., that also makes statues for Walt Disney. He hauled the mermaids, said to be good luck charms, from Orlando to Charleston, S.C., where they were put on a boat to their final destination. “They were in open crates where they could be seen easily. This was a load that had many people, young and old, pointing and laughing,” says Hall.

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 [email protected]. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.

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