Owner-operator Andy Freeman, headquartered in Richland Center, Wisconsin, hauls in a 2014 Freightliner 122SD pulling a much newer Trail King RGN mini-deck, outfitted for what are mostly oversize loads on the hook. I caught up with Freeman in Orlando, Florida, on the site of the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association’s annual Specialized Transportation Symposium.
Freeman, leased to Landstar now for many years and hauling most aviation-related freight -- “airport to airport,” as he puts it -- had his rig empty and set up in the conference hotel parking lot where Florida Highway Patrol inspectors demonstrated a walkaround Level 2 inspection of it for conference attendees.
The trailer was empty, that is, unless you looked a little more closely:
There’s more to it in the conversation with Freeman in this week's Overdrive Radio podcast, likewise the owner-operator's fortuitous find delivering a solution to a long-suffered problem for many a heavy-specialized or other open-deck hauler. "Sometimes, you just want to have a shower," he said, particularly after solving the securement puzzle on hot days. For those of you with no more than your standard sort of 70-inch sleeper, as is the case for Freeman's 122SD, listen on for an off-the-shelf (mostly) solution to that issue he's carried with him since this past December:
Also in the podcast: We hand it off to Long Haul Paul Marhoefer here for his tale of the long, cold road, mistakes made, and more marooned with closures late last month along I-80 in Wyoming. Reader Brian Sheehan, too, underscores Marhoefer's ultimate "lesson learned" from the experience, noting Marhoefer's better half Jumper knows best, in this case. As Sheehan wrote, “The reason checking those weather reports before you leave is wise is that you already know you’re going to need to take the southern route before you go and can plan for it. Though this time of the year it’s almost a forgone conclusion. You’d think 70 across the high peaks would be worse in the winter, yet it rarely is.”
Point taken, Marhoefer noted. Safe trip, everyone.
Automated: Rolling closure from Exit 6, Evanston to Exit 83, Labarge Road as of 6:57 PM, February 28th, 2023, the estimated opening time is unknown.
Todd Dills: As Long Haul Paul Marhoefer had it early this week detailing his experience in Wyoming in late February when that automated voice you heard up top was in his ear quite often during an extended stay at a particular truck stop in Laramie, yeah, it's been a winter from hell along I-80 in Wyoming. I'm Todd Dills, your Overdrive Radio podcast host as usual. In case you missed that story early this week of March 17th, 2023, the podcast coming to you on our usual Friday drop here, Marhoefer was kind enough to relay it for the podcast listeners. But we've also got a special treat in this one in the voice of owner-operator Andy Freeman out of Wisconsin, who hauls in a 2014 Freightliner 122SD, pulling a much newer Trail King RGN Mini-Deck outfitted for what are mostly oversized loads.
I caught up with Freeman in Orlando, Florida on the site of the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association's Annual Specialized Transportation Symposium. Freeman, leased to Landstar now for many years hauling mostly aviation related freight, airport to airport as he puts it, had his rig empty and set up at the conference hotel in the parking lot where Florida Highway Patrol inspectors demonstrated a walk around level two inspection of it for conference attendees. Well, I say the trailer was empty. That's not entirely true. Almost dead center lengthwise on the mini-deck was an itty-bitty, strapped down toy loader that of course I had to ask Freeman about. Turns out it wasn't just his attempt at good humor for the conference attendees and those inspectors, as it were.
Andy Freeman: I always have a load. I'm always loaded. Whenever you're loaded, it's mental. Whenever you're loaded, it's not all that bad.
Todd Dills: You're making money, right? There's more to it in the conversation that follows. Also, owner-operator Freeman's fortuitous find delivering a solution to one particularly long suffered problem for many a heavy specialized hauler, not to mention flatbed-ers, particularly those with no more than your standard sort of 70 inch sleeper. This is the case for his 122SD.
Andy Freeman: So that is a standard, really off the shelf. There's a lot of little extra goodies on it, but that truck is a regular Freightliner Daimler piece of equipment.
Todd Dills: 70 inch sleeper, right?
Andy Freeman: 70 inch sleeper. It could have been a company truck for that matter. In the end, I've been in the industry now for 33 years. I've been in platform for 23 years. A lot of times, you just want to take a shower just to take a rinse.
Todd Dills: After a little bit of tarping or something.
Andy Freeman: If you're in Miami or you're in Orlando and it's 90 degrees outside you're tarping. You're going to get hot and sweaty. Well after you get all done tarping, it's time to go. You're all hot and sweaty. Now you've got to sit in a seat all hot and sweaty and funky for however long it takes you to get to a shower. Now ultimately, you're going to try to do this to where you can get to a place to park safely and legally then take a shower. So it took me a while. I finally went on Sprinter Van RV and I just don't even know how I got there, but somehow I searched through. I was surfing the web and I ended up crashing into this site and I found-
Todd Dills: And what did he find? The big reveal after the break. We'll dive right into the scene in late February with Paul Marhoefer out on I-80 in Wyoming after a quick word from Overdrive Radio's sponsor, Howes.
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Okay, handing it off here to Long Haul Paul Marhoefer for here for the tale of the long cold road, mistakes made, marooned with closures late last month along I-80 in Wyoming.
Automated: As of 6:57 February 28th, 2023, the estimated opening time is unknown.
Paul Marhoefer: Packing to leave on Sunday is the worst. You'd think I'd be used to it by now after four million miles, but I'm not. In fact, for some reason it's getting harder. While the folks around us readied themselves for Sunday mass, I commenced to disgorge the dining room table of an unruly mound of clean laundry, rolling up bib overalls and stuffing them into my red and black Stoops Freightliner duffel bag, a door prize from a 2017 company safety picnic held well before the pandemic sent such events the way of the dinosaur.
Then there was the hanging of the shirts, the stowing of socks and undies into their respective compartments. As I packed, my other half, Jumper, was transfixed upon her phone watching the weather out west. "Have you seen the weather in Wyoming, dear?" She said. No, and I'm not looking at it. Okay, one of those okays that bore the imprimatur, let's say of a long-suffering trucker's wife, elongated "O" followed by a singsong-y, "kay," a portent of imminent doom followed by a kind of resignation. Look, I drive the mile that's in front of me. "If they shut me down, they shut me down," I said. That's how I do it. I don't look at the weather. I never look at the weather. I've got food, water, and a blanket, got everything I need. What am I going to do, call off the load?
Automated: The estimated opening time is unknown.
Paul Marhoefer: Then came the loading of food, shaving kit, hung shirts, guitar, and that red and black Stoops Freightliner duffel bag into the old F-150 until the last darkening of the door and the hug goodbye. But this time, Jumper broke down sobbing. She's really not much of a crier, so just what was that all about? Too late, got to go. Been 41 years with that woman and I still really don't know how to read her most of the time. You think I'm afraid of a little snow? Nothing clears the head like a reefer load to Salt Lake City. You go to a small town in Ohio, drop hook, and there's two and a half days of nothing but pure driving. When it comes to trucking, at least where I work, Salt Lake City, man, that's the best of the best. If the load shakes loose late or if you simply sandbag it out of the house, all you've got to do is get yourself to the Iowa 80 truck stop, declare victory, go to bed, and let the light noise of I-80 sing you to sleep.
On better days, you can make Brooklyn, maybe even Stewart before you shut down for the night. Then there's nothing you'd have to do but get up the next morning, go about your morning rituals, pre-trip your truck, and drive. It's old man's freight really, easy-peasy. On the second day, you declare a victory at Ogallala or points west and have yet another nice relaxing sleep, get up the next morning, go about your pre-trip morning ritual, and drive. On the third day, you deliver. Yes, it's simply the best run they've got except for weeks like this one when you're laid up in a fetal position in Laramie with I-80 shut down, calling the 511 line over and over again for the automated male voice to tell you, over and over, "The estimated opening time is unknown."
Automated: The estimated opening time is ... The estimated opening time is unknown. The estimated opening time is-
Paul Marhoefer: So you walk into the Petro. There's nothing left to do now but order the hamburger steak and put yourself in a food coma. The ecosystem of a truck stop changes when the road shuts down. People were lingering, having long conversations. I hadn't seen so many customers in there since before the pandemic. I got my belly full and sauntered into the TV room to see if I could catch a little conversation. Before nap time, a disheveled man of about 30 was holding forth, telling us troubles to whoever would listen. "I've been shut down five times this winter, last week for four days," he said. It was Tuesday afternoon. There was something wrong with his voice and demeanor, as if all these shutdowns were on the verge of shutting him down. He spoke like a man who couldn't quit shivering.
I've been here this time since Sunday. He was probably some Mega Fleet rookie psyched out by a handholding dispatcher, I thought. That's what you tell yourself when you've got a job to do and people around you are melting down. I had to get out of that room. The food coma was beginning to make itself known just as a desperation was coming over me. I walked outside. I thought of my wife asking if I'd looked at the weather. Maybe I should have given it a look-see at least in Ogallala. I called her and told her as much then went to sleep. I came out of the food coma around dusk. The wind was still howling. The automated male voice broke the bad news.
Automated: The estimated opening time is unknown.
Paul Marhoefer: 8:00 PM, same.
Automated: The estimated opening time is unknown.
Paul Marhoefer: Around 9:00, I slammed a court of whole milk and some Oreos and induced my second coma. I was slept out by 1:00 and called one more time. We were open. This was different than previous road closure situations I'd been in in years past. In pre-ELD days, you could tell the road was open by a mass exodus of trucks. It was like people leaving a concert. Now, just two or three were trickling out. Somehow, I relished the change though. Surprisingly few rigs were on the road now. Almost all of them were driving like real pros. The hardest thing in recent months has been the sheer volume of trucks going insanely fast in icy conditions. I've seen it.
You're barely holding it together at 35 or 40 miles per hour and they scorch past you doing 60, maybe 70 in the lane that hasn't even been cleared of snow. They all look so young to me, California, Illinois from wherever they're from. Maybe it's my own perception bias, I'll admit. But you just know they're going to wreck. Sometimes they do. Many times you see those same trucks jackknifed in the median. At least for now, those guys weren't on this road, as if a higher force was out there somewhere saying, "No worries, hand, I got this." It's been a winner from hell here. The Wyoming Business Report noticed fatalities went up from six in 2022 to 20 in 2023 as of February 17th, a spike north of 300%. After some time, conditions cleared and we were at road speed westbound and heading for Elk Mountain. Maybe next time, I'll catch the weather ahead of time and go the southern route through Denver. Thanks for listening. This is Paul Marhoefer. Have a safe trip.
Todd Dills: Big thanks, Paul. Most definitely check those weather reports. Jumper knows best in this case, noted Overdrive reader Brian Sheehan in well considered commentary under Paul's story at OverdriveOnline.com early this week. As Sheehan wrote, quote, "The reason checking those weather reports before you leave is wise is you already know you're going to need to take the southern route before you go and you can plan for it. Though this time of the year, it's almost a foregone conclusion. You'd think 70 across the high peaks will be worse in the winter, yet it rarely is, end quote."
Sheehan added that he, quote, "Always finds it humorous when someone is calling out the rookies and the fleet drivers. When you watch any of the videos of the massive pileups, there are more fancy owner-operator trucks crashing than any fleet in them," he contended. He then went on, "It always amazes me how other veteran drivers out here talk about how they don't want to use newer technology like weather apps that would make them safer, more productive, like not using those technologies is some kind of a virtue," end quote. So Jumper's long, drawn out, "Okay," Sheehan rightly dubbed, "A worried wife knowing her husband was being foolish." "Point taken," Paul Marhoefer says, and food for thought. Now, jumping right in with owner-operator, Andy Freeman detailing a long career including military experience toward where he is today.
Andy Freeman: Andy Freeman in Richland Center, Wisconsin. I've been in heavy specialized for 23 years. I worked for another company and I wasn't really happy with them. I thought, I've heard good news about Landstar. I talked to some Landstar BCOs, business capacity owners, and they could not talk anything bad about them. So I thought, well, I'll just try this out and that's where I ended up. What I really like about Landstar is I'm a one truck, one guy operator, but I have the buying power of 10 or 12,000 trucks. That's how Landstar is set up. So I get discounts on tires. I get discounts on fuel. I get discounts on repairs. I can get discounts on buying equipment. So instead of me going in there as an owner-operator and they're like, "Okay, well it's $9 for this thing," we'll just give it for instance, Landstar's price might be $4. If you're buying tires, tires can be really expensive. But if it's for an owner-operator, it could be $500. You might get it through Landstar or corporate discount and get it for 350, $400.
Todd Dills: Tell me about the truck and trailer that we're looking at here.
Andy Freeman: I ordered. That's a, that's a GHG '14, 2014 Freightliner SD122. I ordered that truck in 2013. We got it in 2014. It's not de-rated. It's 100% GHG. It's still GHG. The trailer is a '21. I special ordered a trailer, a Trail King. We spent five months spec-ing it out, trying to get everything just right for it. It's got very little camber in it. It don't haul a lot of weight. I didn't build it to haul a lot of weight. I built it to haul tall and wide, mostly airport to airport, although I still do a lot of vehicles, not so much military vehicles, but more show semi trucks.
I do a lot of semi trucks and show trucks or NASA. I've done NASA stuff too. It's a DD16, a 600 horse. I cut it back to 1850. The drive train is set up for 2250, but by reducing the torque out of the motor, it takes the stress off of the bearings. It takes the stress off the drive train. It takes the stress off of everything, even though the bearings are set up and the whole drive train is set up to do heavy or heavy torque. By reducing it, it'll lower my risk of a maintenance or a failure on the road. 13 speed manual.
Todd Dills: You've got the manufactured housing style adjustable mirror brackets on your tractor there. Tell me about why you did that and when you did that.
Andy Freeman: I chose and I went through a manufacturer in Indiana that does conversions. They convert semi trucks over to toter trucks. Toter trucks are the guys who haul mobile homes down the road. Generally, they can be anywhere from 14 to 18 foot wide. When you start looking at what heavy haul does, either, well, we can be all the way up to 18 foot wide or wider. The toter mirror system that I put on the truck allows me to put the mirrors out without any painful trying to modify something or make something work so I can get a mirror out there so I can see behind me.
A lot of states, almost all the states require me to have something back there so I can see. Camera systems are starting to come in where they're letting us do more cameras, but ultimately it's a mirror that's down the side of it. With the electric mirrors, I'm able to adjust the mirrors in and out so I can get them out there where I can see down the side of the trailer. Even though I have a pilot car or escorts behind me, having the mirrors is always best because then I always have that ability to see.
Todd Dills: With some of the high and wide pieces he pulls on the Trail King RGN Mini Deck, that ability to see is paramount for sure, particularly in keeping an eye on the average motorist or another trucker who might be coming up alongside approaching a bridge or another shoulder obstruction that may well require Freeman to maneuver back a little further into parts of the left lane. At the Specialized Carriers Conference, a big topic of discussion among the variety of panels centered on education of those both inside and outside of trucking for greater awareness of safe practice around oversized loads, about being mindful of pilot car maneuvering and the like. It's a big part of what owner-operator Freeman wants other pros and non-professionals alike to recognize about what he does.
Andy Freeman: So whenever a load is going down a road and it's flagged up with or without an escort, the best way to think about what that load is in front of you that's going slow, and it could be a truck with no escorts. It could be a truck with a half a dozen escorts. The easiest thing to remember is that truck is actually hauling somebody's job. There's something on that trailer that's going somewhere that will directly or indirectly affect anybody and everybody who's going to be around it. In a lot of cases, I haul haul people's jobs. In my department where I do a lot of airport to airport, somebody's going to use that and engine and they're going to be sitting on an airplane, not even thinking about it. That motor's going to help them get on travel.
I've hauled power plant equipment that's going to turn your lights back on. I've hauled equipment into manufacturing that stamps out automobile parts. Almost everything that you use today or you're going to buy today, it ends up on the back of somebody's truck. Generally at the beginning of it, it's on a specialized piece of equipment. It's probably more than likely going to be oversized. It's the widgets that make people go to work. In the specialized department, we haul widgets.
Todd Dills: Big ones.
Andy Freeman: Big widgets. It could be a little widget, but at the end of the day, somebody is going to work.
Todd Dills: You've got a little one on your trailer here today. Tell me what that's-
As noted up top, Freeman had a little Tonka loader secured to the big expanse of his empty mini deck throughout the day out in the conference hotel parking lot through the mock walk-around level two inspection and everything.
Andy Freeman: So that started decades ago. It really comes down to it's a fun little toy. A lot of people, for just one second when it takes them for to go flying by you, they'll see it and it'll put a smile on their face. For one brief minute, they won't be as [inaudible 00:22:19] as they were. It helps break the monotony up and it makes them smile. It puts them in a better mood so when they're driving around you, they have a different attitude. The other hidden meaning is if I'm going down a road and there's nothing on my trailer, well, I'm not making any money. With my little loader on there, having it on there, I always have a load. I'm always loaded.
Whenever you're loaded, it's mental. Whenever you're loaded, it's not all that bad. Now there's a little key note about that. In states like California, because this happened to me, they actually consider that to be freight. If you're hauling freight on a commercial vehicle, you have to have a permit. I have been asked for a permit for one little loader. I have actually two bill of ladings filled out for my little loader. I picked it up at my house at my convenience and I deliver it at my house at my convenience.
Todd Dills: You've got them like pre-filled out?
Andy Freeman: They're already filled out. When I get there, it get delivered. But you've got to have a bill of lading. I actually have a bill of lading for the little guy. I get a lot of people that smile at me, one who can and do look around. They just smile. For that little bit they're around me, they're happy campers. The whole time they're around me, they're happy campers. When they're happy campers, they're a safer driver. They're not as tight. They're not as tighter or-
Todd Dills: Distracted. You can be happy and distracted, I suppose, but the things that really wind you up and make you mad are the things that really distract you the most mentally, right?
Andy Freeman: Yes. Usually people when I'm oversized is a lot of it turns out to be the van division and trucking. They'll pull right in front of you. That's probably the biggest thing that pisses somebody with oversize off. Because we try to stay to the right, whether on the white line or over the white lane and we're over the rumble strips. We try to keep one lane of the interstate open and try to put most of the load into very right lane or onto shoulder. Most of the time, I'm on the shoulder. But invariably what happens is I've got to be able to look up the road as far as the eyeball will let me go, whether it's a half a mile or two miles. Or I might see something around a corner that you can only see for a split second.
But if I get a van right in front of me, I'm unable to see that for that one second, which means I'm not able to start moving my way off the shoulder. So ultimately what happens is somebody with a van or a reefer, somebody with a big trailer will pull right in front of you. You can't see nothing. Then if I have an escort, everybody's going to be arriving alive at 55 because that's what we're going to end up doing. That's just to get me the cushion out in front because you never want to hit somebody or hit a bridge or hit structure that's on the shoulder that just magically appears or if somebody just automatically just stops and think the white line is the safe line when I've got load sitting two feet or three feet on the other side of that white line.
I've got to have time to react. I've got to make the time to react so they can react to me. When I've just got to move over for a split second, I get so many semi trucks that hang out on my driver's side and I need to get over to get away from something or somebody on the side of the road. That makes my job really, really hard. Ultimately what happens is we end up shutting down two lanes instead of one. I'll put a pilot car over in the left lane or I'll go to ... Most of the time, I'll stay in the right and put the load over to the next lane and then put the pilot car in the next lane to my left so they have a clear vision down the road too. That's just the way it's going to end up being.
Todd Dills: So I guess the word of advisement there for our big box pullers out there is to-
Andy Freeman: Get seven to 10- Stay in the left lane and go seven to 10 truck lengths out there. Don't cut right in front of me. Give me the seven to 10 lengths. It's okay. Y'all can stay out there in the left lane. You're not really going to be upsetting nobody. If you can't pass me within two miles, stay behind me. If it's going to take you forever because you're doing a half a mile or a quarter mile faster than I am, you're better off. You'll get better fuel mileage, just stay back there. If you can pass me and you can do it and be two to four miles an hour or more, five miles an hour greater than what I'm doing, by all means, pass me, because I don't want you behind me. But if you can't pass me, if you're unable to go at least five miles an hour faster than I am, just stay behind me. You'll get there at the same time. We could be going coast to coast and you're not going to get to California any much quicker than I am.
Todd Dills: Most stuff you're doing, is it all daytime?
Andy Freeman: When I'm oversized, there's about a half a dozen, almost 10 states that will allow me to go. If I'm 10 foot and under wide, we can drive at night. Most of the time if you're flagged up, it's a daylight move only. Then you have to really, really read your provision sheets. Because there's a lot of cities that do not want oversized equipment or loads on their streets in their cities. It's generally morning commute and afternoon commutes. Albuquerque's a good one. It's out in the middle of nowhere, but they have a 6:00 to 9:00 and 4:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon curfew. If you're caught inside of the city limits moving during that curfew, that's a ticket. They will pull you over and they'll park you and write you a ticket. That's just to keep the flow of traffic moving. Chicago, they finally figured out that if we're on the tri-state, they'll let us go around. But for the longest time, we couldn't even be on the tri-state.
Todd Dills: Really? The toll way around 294?
Andy Freeman: Yeah, 294 going around to Chicago because that was considered during commute. But then what happens if you're out there and traffic all of a sudden comes to an abrupt stop and you're stuck? It's hard when you give yourself three hours to go through there. Now all of a sudden, it's taking you five or six hours to go through there. So it's hard to do a parking plan.
Todd Dills: Now for that big reveal I teased up at the top. Just what did Freeman find to fit that Freightliner standard 70 inch sleeper in his SD in the way of a shower? Well, here we go.
Andy Freeman: A lot of times, you just want to take a shower just to take a rinse.
Todd Dills: After a little bit of tarping or something.
Andy Freeman: If you're in Miami or you're in Orlando and it's 90 degrees outside, you're tarping. You're going to get hot and sweaty. Well, after you get all done tarping, it's time to go. You're all hot and sweaty. Now you've got to sit in a seat all hot and sweaty and funky for however long it takes you to get to a shower. Now ultimately, you've going to try to do this to where you can get to a place to park safely and legally and then take a shower. So it took me a while. I finally went on Sprinter Van RV. I don't even know how I got there, but somehow I searched through. I was surfing the web and I ended up crashing into that site. I found Evershower. I'm not promoting them, but I found what's called Evershower. I've seen how flexible this shower system was.
I'm able to set it up in my truck in just a matter of minutes, in fact about a minute. I could dump a gallon of water into it. It recycles the water so it just recycles it and you can take a shower until your life's content and just on one gallon of water. So even if I'm in a disaster zone, and they happen, it's always down here a hurricane season, you can find yourself in a ... You can use one gallon. You could do it as little as three quarters of a gallon of water. But you can use one gallon of water and at least you can take a shower and get the sweat off of you, get the salts off of you and make you feel better. So when you do crawl in bed, you're not as nasty. You're not sticky.
Todd Dills: Can you use more water than that, I'm guessing?
Andy Freeman: I think you can use two gallons of water. It's as flexible. You can hook up a drain hose to it and hook it up to a garden hose, run it through a hot water heater, and then use regular garden hose water. You can set it up out in the parking lot. You can set it up in your truck. You can set it up almost anywhere. It comes with a canopy, so once you crawl into it, it's got its own frame that comes with it. You can use what you need to set it up.
Todd Dills: I think you said you often just set it up in your truck behind the passenger seat.
Andy Freeman: I set it in between the driver's seat and the passenger seat. I hook the front part of the parachute material, which is actually what you stand in, into the netting part of the Freightliner and the back part of it, I put on the cabinets in the back. I just flip it over to the back corners, and that's it. So it's four simple little hooks, dump a gallon of water. Well, I heat up some water and I dump a gallon of water in it and away I go.
Todd Dills: It sounds like a great just option for those situations where you don't have a shower facility.
Andy Freeman: And there's a lot of times when you're oversized, you spend all day strapping and securing and loading and tarping. All right, well, I can't go nowhere because now I've got curfew. I'm running out of daylight, I'm not going to get to where I need to go to be safe and legally parked. I'm where I am. I'm parked, but now I'm all hot and sticky and I just want to be able to be clean in the morning, put some clean clothes on. So when I jump in Evershower, I can take a quick shower and I'll be a happy camper and be clean. Literally, I found out on Sprinter Van RV. That's how I ended up running in on it.
Todd Dills: I think you said it's an Australian company, right?
Andy Freeman: It's an Australian company. They have a- Yeah, it's an Australian company and they have a distributor in Missouri. I've got to give it to them. I ordered that thing on a Wednesday. I think Thursday or Friday, it was at the house. We kind of looked at it and went, "What the hell? What box just came up the driveway?"
That thing runs on 12 volts. Plug it into the cigarette lighter and away you go. I did come up with a way to heat up water in a one gallon jug. They use it on a farm. It's called a five gallon bucket heater to keep the water from freezing for the animals in the winter. That's 110 and it's not very big of a thing. You plug it in. Well, you stick it in the water. You plug it in. In about 10 minutes, I can warm a gallon of water up to 115, 120 degrees. I usually let it cool down a little bit. I found about 110, 112, usually it's a good feeling hot water. Then because I control the climate inside of the truck, I can either turn the heat on or I can turn the air conditioner on or I can turn it off so that way when you step out of the shower, you're still in the shower, whatever temperature you want to be at when it comes out, you set that. So life's a lot better now that I can take a shower.
Todd Dills: How long has that been since you found that?
Andy Freeman: December. Usually, I'm at a point now when shower showers are anywhere from 13 to 15 on the bottom side. I've seen shower receipts for as much as $25. So if you can take a shower in your truck and it's just a gallon of water and you can literally pick up a gallon of water almost anywhere, so you could save yourself 15 to $25 by taking a shower in your truck. I dry everything off before I pack everything up so I don't have to work with any mold or mildew. Everything gets dried. It's really simple. I use a sham towel that will air dry in literally no time. I don't use cloth or nothing like that for towels. I use the Shammy. They do the job. So I make sure everything's all dried and I make sure I'm all dried. Then I know who stood in that thing and I know how clean that thing is. I don't have to worry about catching anything after my little shower, because this is just my little shower.
Todd Dills: Right, it's just you, right? Cool. At the same time, this is kind of a stop gap for, you told me about some other plans you had for your next truck, which is hopeful for next year around this time.
Andy Freeman: So I'm in the process of putting another semi, this will be my third. Well, this is my second one, so I'm building my third one. It's going to be a Western Star 49X. It's going to go through Bolt, Bolt Manufacturing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I'm going to put it on a 270-inch wheel base, and then Bolt will figure out which sleeper needs to be on Nat Wheel base. Right now, they're estimating 120 inch or 130 inch sleeper.
Then that Truck will be 100% self-contained. The bed folds up and down into a dinette into a bed. It'll have a single hot plate. It'll have an air induction microwave. It's got a nice refrigerator in it, a refrigerator and a freezer. So you can cook. Actually, it's like an RV with a fist wheel. It has a permanent mount shower and a bathroom in it with a cassette bathroom. So when you do go to the bathroom, you can always wheel it in and use Flying J, Pilot. Flying Js, a lot of them have dumps where you can take the black water and dump it.
Todd Dills: It's like an RV dump.
Andy Freeman: It's just an RV dump. You can take it home and dump it in your own sewer system. Then my next one, like I say, I'm building that one. The reason why I'm going to a 270, maybe a little bit longer but not much, is because folks like Canada still have link laws. The longer the truck, the shorter you have to have a wheel base on a trailer. So if you get a van, you can suck the tires up on a van, but on specialized equipment like this, RGN, them tires don't move. Them axles are solid.
They're not going anywhere. So in order for me to go into more of a custom build semi, I've got to watch my overall length. Because Canada ultimately is 75 feet, six inches. But like I say, if you're pulling a van, it's about that kingpin setting. You could be 80 feet long, but you can suck the tandems up underneath of it and still make kingpin and be legal in Canada.
Todd Dills: And you do go up there good bit?
Andy Freeman: I do. Right now, I am all 48. I've actually been to half. I've been in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. I've got a load pretty much booked already to go to Kodiak Island, Alaska. On that trip, there's no ifs, ands, or buts. The maximum length trailer, because the boat will not take anything else, the maximum length trailer to go to Kodiak Island is 48 foot. You actually drop your trailer on the boat. Then you have to disconnect because there's no room for you. Then you park next to the trailer or you park in a parking spot on the boat. That's a 137 mile boat ride. It could take a long time to get there, but they said preplan for 15 hours to get there. Once they do that, that's the bucket list for anybody who's been in the industry for a while. Everybody has Alaska on the bucket list. So I've coined this years ago, actually when I became an owner-operator. I am not a truck driver. I haven't been a truck driver for years. I'm a paid professional tourist and I enjoy my job.
Todd Dills: Oh, that's good. When are you doing that? Do you know?
Andy Freeman: It's supposed to be sometime second quarter, third quarter. They've already put my name on it and I've already agreed. Hey, I'll go up there. There is a lot of logistics that I have to do because one, getting to Alaska, it's not like down here in the States where you can stop every 20 miles at a truck stop and go take a shower. [inaudible 00:39:42] that's not going to happen up there. A lot of the infrastructure up there for truck stops, they don't have showers. So you can stop and get fuel. Now there's garden hose out back if you want to stand in, I don't know, 10 degree weather, go take a shower. Knock yourself out. Hence, the little shower system I got now will come in extremely handy, because every night I can take a shower and I don't care where I'm parked. You can get parking, but you're not get the creature comforts that we have here.
You're not going to get the same as the petro TAs where it's a full service sit down restaurant, whatever. You're not going to get that all the way up there. A lot of places in the states, you're not going to get that either.
Todd Dills: Yeah, sure. You came to trucking after military service, right?
Andy Freeman: So I had dueling careers. So I went active duty in '88, went through Desert Shield Storm and Desert Farewell, came back to the United States and said, "Yeah, no, I've had enough of this military stuff." Got out and went into the Army Reserves. When I got out, I used my GI Bill. I invested about 3,000 $3,500 in my GI Bill. I actually went to work for ... Well, I went to school at JB Hunt and I worked for JB Hunt for a number of years. Then, long story short, I stayed as a reservist. Then I'd get called up. I still do my two weekend or one week or two weeks a year and one weekend every month. I still did all of that. My last tour as a senior non-commissioned officer in the military in the Army, my last tour back over in the Middle East, went to Baghdad, and that was in 2010. Then I retired with 25 years out of the military in 2013.
But in between all my military time, I continued to drive truck, either as a company driver or after '05, an owner-operator. Being an owner-operator and being in the Army Reserves made it really tough. Because every time I got a good, really paid load that went, I don't know, long distance-
Todd Dills: They called you up.
Andy Freeman: I had a reserve. I had drill weekend. It was like, "You've got to be kidding me." But I managed to stick it out for 25 years. My wife was in it for 26 and a half years. Then she retired out when I was in the Middle East this last time. She was in the Army as well. In fact, a lot of times we were in the same unit. I ended up as a promotable E8. She ended up as an E7 Sergeant's First Class. It worked out great, although I was a private when I got home and she was still a sergeant. That's the way things work.
Todd Dills: Big thanks to owner-operator Freeman and Marhoefer both as well as Mr. Brian Sheehan for their input on this one. You can contribute feedback yourself anytime with a message to our podcast line at 615-852-8530. Overdrive Radio is available wherever you get your podcasts, at the world-famous OverdriveOnline.com, Apple and Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, and many more. Leave us a rating and review and subscribe if you haven't. Find pictures of Freeman's oversized hauler in the post that houses this podcast for March 17th, 2023 at OverdriveOnline.com/Overdrive-Radio.