The ups and downs (mostly the former) of self-dispatch

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Updated May 12, 2014
Find more photos of the 2004 Freightliner Coronado George and Wendy got running earlier this year, leasing to Landstar, in the gallery in this linked post.Find more photos of the 2004 Freightliner Coronado George and Wendy got running earlier this year, leasing to Landstar, in the gallery in this linked post.

So tomorrow we set out, for parts unknown, on a self-dispatch journey that doesn’t include a regular run. The Navistar thing George was doing weekly to Laredo and back finally dried up — it was good while it lasted — but now we’re going whole hog self-reliant for a couple months, until Navistar cranks back up and the gravy starts again.

I really can’t reiterate how much better the fit has been with us and our move to Landstar. We’ve been able to be home and present for two different surgeries (Papa Dirt and my step-dad, who had knee replacement surgery two weeks after PD had his lymph nodes removed – both dads have been out of commission) and still be able to make enough money to survive. No one cares if we aren’t running our tails off, and it’s awesome to have the option to decline a load with no questions asked. Scheduling yourself has extreme benefits when you have things like aging parents and kids at home at the same time – there’s always something going on. It was definitely the right move for us.

So tomorrow morning, we’re grabbing the first load that catches George’s eye and rolling again. We plan on doing a two-week stint, being home for the boy’s birthday, and then rolling for about a month so we can get to the point of being able to go home for a week at a time with no worries. George has taken the sage advice Dennis Mintling offered the first night we met him: “You want to get yourself to a point to where there’s a thousand bucks on your fuel card you never touch. Never. You keep that thousand bucks, so no matter where you’re at, you’ve got enough money to bobtail home if you have to. Takes a lot of stress off to know you can drop what you’re doing and get home if you have to.”

We’ve done the dedicated thing, now we’re going freestyle. I’m excited. I’m also a little nervous, as the mistakes made will be on us (namely me) and not a dispatcher. I’ll be the one sitting in the passenger seat, browsing the board, saying, “Look at this!” while George refrains from slapping the computer off my lap because I’ve asked him to look at something while he’s driving for the millionth time. I already know never to go to Florida (in a dry van) without a return unless you want to spend eternity there. People in the truck stops see you pulling in from the North and immediately ask, “This your first time down with a load?” They know. They laugh and offer you sandwiches, so you don’t starve to death waiting for a way out.

To be fair, we were in Florida in January, in a dry van. If we had been pulling a flatbed or reefer, we’d have banked. It’s all about the equipment with a lot of places you go, and that’s something you learn as you plow through it. We also had made exactly one run for one agent and had zero calls coming in. It’s nice when they start calling you, and it takes a minute to find the ones you can work with comfortably. It’s definitely a learning process and getting used to not having to run full-out, all the time, is harder than it might seem. I feel all panicky when we’re home, even though I don’t need to.

Here’s to a profitable and interesting summer for everyone. Keep your mind on the load and the rubber on the road. Be safe out there!