One owner-operator’s evolution through continual education: A run with Gary Buchs

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Updated Apr 26, 2021

Regular readers will know that the last week of June, just on the eve of the state of Illinois’ budget-fight deadline (turns out they met a compromise) as well as the July 4 holiday, I went out from Nashville for a run with Landstar-leased owner-operator Gary Buchs. Based in Bloomington, Ill., Buchs had the day prior finished a haul that made the grid display on his e-log look more like some kind of weirdly beautiful electronic transcription of a classical or free-jazz music score than what it was — a record of a single-day eight-drop/stop dry van load delivering to the same number of roadside fireworks stands in the area of Central-Southern Kentucky just North of my home base in Nashville.

Buchs runs in this long-paid-for 2000 Freightliner Century. Recent updates include the brand-new headlight assemblies.Buchs runs in this long-paid-for 2000 Freightliner Century. Recent updates include the brand-new headlight assemblies.

I met him at the downtown TravelCenters of America location the next a.m., and we moved off for a noon pickup at A.O. Smith of a pre-loaded trailer (“part of my efficiency plan,” he says) in the Landstar pool inside the secure facility in nearby Ashland City, from there North on the Pennyrile Parkway route through Kentucky into Indiana through Evansville, then U.S. 41 North to eventually connect with I-74 West toward Moline, Ill., the next morning.

In the podcast, Buchs talks through his history in trucking, learning the Landstar system throughout the last near decade-and-a-half just as the freight-procurement/self-dispatch tools at his disposal have evolved in sophistication. His business strategy has evolved with them, and today, he’s much less concerned than he may have been in the past with miles than he is with putting together loads that can deliver a level of income per unit of time (daily, weekly, monthly) commensurate with his assessment of his market. That’s mostly shorter-haul in and around Bloomington, Ill., and adjacent states.

For this run, as noted, he went a little farther afield.

Buchs at work assessing not his next load, but the one after that, at the unload location in Moline, Ill.Buchs at work assessing not his next load, but the one after that, at the unload location in Moline, Ill.

The empty-trailer drop and subsequent hook of the preloaded water heaters took less than 20 minutes all told, with a Moline, Ill., destination. That live-unload on the other end, then — with Buchs not involved — took two hours almost on the dot, good enough to serve as a 30-minute break and make splitting the required 10-hour off-duty period legal. He’d need it, in the end, given his next load was set to pick up outside Chicago in the wee hours the next morning. We arrived back in Bloomington at his home base just in time for Buchs to get an 8-hour rest and for me to head back off to Nashville.

As I note in podcast, though our conversation there centered mostly around business and regulatory matters, Buchs is laser-focused on safety and communicates his way of thinking effectively. My run with him, I can say without a doubt, changed my own decision-making on the road, with several things in mind, but mostly this: As he says about control on the highway: “The space is front of you is about all you’ve got.” Allowing ample following distance is a crucial concern, and Buchs’ near-constant easing back when four-wheelers swoop in front of him is clear evidence he takes that one to heart.

As far as my own decision-making: With driver-training classes he conducts with an emphasis on driving safely around trucks, he also emphasizes allowing “everyone around you to also make the safe decision.” Part of that is being mindful of just what you can do to encourage it. Buchs provided several reminders of the import of various basic strategies. Such as:

My passenger-seat view through Buchs’ Century’s windshield.My passenger-seat view through Buchs’ Century’s windshield.

Coming up around another truck with a four-wheeler tailgating you? Hit the right blinker while you’re still passing to discourage that tailgater from cutting off the other trucker. It doesn’t always work, given the distance you’ll go before you safely merge into the other lane yourself, but it’s worth the shot. I’ve found myself doing that routinely since Buchs reinforced the practice. Mostly, it works.

Thanks for the reminder, Gary.

Enjoy the podcast.

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