Getting back in the saddle with an Oklahoma small fleet

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Regular readers may well recall a picture or two featuring this old thermos -- then-owner-operator Scott Reed gave it to me back in early 2017 (it was his backup, with a bit of a busted top but still more or less functional) during our multiple-load run around Ohio. Well appreciated, Mr. Reed, well appreciated, and still going strong.Regular readers may well recall a picture or two featuring this old thermos -- then-owner-operator Scott Reed gave it to me back in early 2017 (it was his backup, with a bit of a busted top but still more or less functional) during our multiple-load run around Ohio. Well appreciated, Mr. Reed, well appreciated, and still going strong.

Side-step coffee break was the scene again with Buckland, Ohio-based Scott Reed last week down at my hometown Nashville TravelCenters of America downtown. It'd been quite a while since I'd seen Reed, who's back in the saddle, as it were, working over-the-road after several years pursuing other local opportunites, now with three children at home, two of them still in their first few years of life.

Reed had loaded north of town that morning after the Kansas City Chiefs' loss in the Super Bowl the previous night, and over sandwiches (leg of lamb I'd fire-roasted over the weekend) at the deckplate diner behind the cab of the AK Trucking 2019 Kenworth W900L he's piloting, Reed caught me up on his first couple weeks out.

Does he feel at home back behind the wheel? No doubt, he said, though it's a 'dual thing for me,' he added. He absolutely loves being out on the road, but the feeling is likewise for 'my time at home.' The three-plus years off when he worked in truck service, in dispatch and more began in part because his wife was in a high-risk pregnancy and he felt like he needed to be close by if something happened. When I went on the road with him early on in 2017, that was the case even then, as he'd been working with his then-Ohio Transport agent closely to stay within a few hours' drive from Buckland, running mostly short and regional.Does he feel at home back behind the wheel? No doubt, he said, though it's a "dual thing for me," he added. He absolutely loves being out on the road, but the feeling is likewise for "my time at home." The three-plus years off when he worked in truck service, in dispatch and more began in part because his wife was in a high-risk pregnancy and he felt like he needed to be close by if something happened. When I went on the road with him early on in 2017, that was the case even then, as he'd been working with his then-Ohio Transport agent closely to stay within a few hours' drive from Buckland, running mostly short and regional.

As the youngest of Reed's children continued to grow the last few years, he'd thought about a return to the road off and on. Then he noticed former Bardstown, Kentucky-based small fleet owner Greg Anderson, whom he'd known for years, was in a bit of an expansion mode with a six-(by-now-seven-)truck fleet based out in Oklahoma. Anderson was in need of a driver, and the pair struck a tentative agreement that would have had Reed come on behind the wheel of one of Anderson's three KW T680s -- all of the owner's trucks are leased on with Woof Trucking out of Yukon, Oklahoma. 

"Greg had bought a 2020 W900, and I was going to go into one of the T680s," Reed said, "but when he offered me" the one other W9 in the fleet, "my first thought was, 'Oh, yeah.'" Reed's early years as an owner-operator were spent in a quite similar rig, and this one, though with a decidedly modest, basic white paint scheme, felt just about right at 300-plus wheelbase with a 72-inch aero flattop sleeper, just tall enough to stand comfortably inside. 

“Everybody was wondering if I could be a company driver again,” after years as an owner-operator, Reed said. At 50 cents a mile, then 60 after the first year and with access to health and dental among other insurance with the fleet, Reed noted, he's doing fine on the compensation front, with the prospects for getting home every other week or more often, given his Midwest location, too. 

It might well be the Cummins X15-powered Kenworth that's got him the most jazzed about the return, though. 'A buddy of mine said, 'That’s a really long truck – it’ll be hard to back into places. It’ll take you twice as long as everybody else,'' Reed said. 'I said, 'Yeah, and I’ll look twice as good doing it.'”It might well be the Cummins X15-powered Kenworth that's got him the most jazzed about the return, though. "A buddy of mine said, 'That’s a really long truck – it’ll be hard to back into places. It’ll take you twice as long as everybody else,'" Reed said. "I said, 'Yeah, and I’ll look twice as good doing it.'”

The years now away from the road have “made me a better driver,” Reed said, with a practiced patience he wasn't always able to muster prior -- “not getting in a hurry, taking my time.”The years now away from the road have “made me a better driver,” Reed said, with a practiced patience he wasn't always able to muster prior -- “not getting in a hurry, taking my time.”

Greg Anderson’s seven-truck AK Trucking is leased to Woof Trucking out of Yukon, Oklahoma, where Anderson’s also a sales agent and a principal small fleet partner to the originally very small fleet's owner when Anderson leased under the owner's authority about three years ago. Anderson says that followed a period when he had gotten out of the business entirely after one of his trucks was involved in a fatality accident that really hit him hard, emotionally. 

Then he met Woof's owner and discovered a philosophy similar to his own ideal. "They had a vision of starting a company to help owner-operators be more successful," Anderson said, "and I've always been hopeful for that."

Anderson moved to Mustang, Oklahoma, and he and the owner today are fast friends, he says. "It's worked out really well." The umbrella company is up to more than 100 power units aggregating small fleets and single-unit owners. More power units, more opportunities for direct freight contracts with an improved service level. 

A year ago "I was making phone calls and having to burn the phones up and emails every day" to score new business and maintain current levels, Anderson said by way of illustration. "Now I’ve got people calling me every week. It’s growing with good service – that’s what sells. They’ve done really good with their vision on it."

A look at Anderson's recently purchased 2020 W900 to make his AK Trucking fleet of seven with the W9 Reed's in, three T680s, a Pete 389 and a Volvo, all late model equipment. Anderson's adopted a quicker trade cycle to keep most all of his equipment ideally under warranty given rising repair costs with ever-more-complex emissions and other truck equipment, he said. During his prior time in business trucking, his equipment strategy was nearly the opposite, with long-term maintenance on long-paid-off trucks the reality.A look at Anderson's recently purchased 2020 W900 to make his AK Trucking fleet of seven with the W9 Reed's in, three T680s, a Pete 389 and a Volvo, all late model equipment. Anderson's adopted a quicker trade cycle to keep most all of his equipment ideally under warranty given rising repair costs with ever-more-complex emissions and other truck equipment, he said. During his prior time in business trucking, his equipment strategy was nearly the opposite, with long-term maintenance on long-paid-off trucks the reality.

And under cover of darkness -- dark no more. 

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