She makes car-haul look easy: Trucker of the Month Crystal Rives

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Crystal Rives does just about all of it, when it comes to the maintenance of her one-truck Texas-intrastate car-haul business, C&R Trucking. She's put a big emphasis on solid partnerships through the years, whether with a trusted engine/major mechanical shop or a growing stable of customers. That's particularly so since she went out on her own with authority to haul cars in 2016. The move followed almost a decade and a half hauling cars for other companies, work in the Texas oilfield, end dump, side dump, pneumatic and liquid-bulk tank.

This week's Overdrive Radio tour through Rives’ business picks up with her history in trucking, part of our monthly series of podcasts and feature profiles of contenders for the 2023 Trucker of the Year award.

Howes logoOverdrive Radio's sponsor is Howes, longtime provider of fuel treatments like its Howes Diesel Treat anti-gel and all-weather Diesel Defender, among other products.[Related: Owner-operator Crystal Rives makes hay of car-haul work in Texas]

Rives is our July Trucker of the Month, in part recognized for a can-do approach to the work -- a real do-it-yourself spirit applied to her trucking business as well as her home life and animal-rescue around her home "in the woods" of Cleburne, Texas, south of Fort Wroth. She’s built a steady base of customers among used car dealers, restoration specialists and others, hauling in a 2006 Peterbilt 379 she calls "Ruby." Yes, the Pete's red, and powered by a 550 Caterpillar the previous owner overhauled right before she bought it in 2019.

Overdrive Radio logoSubscribe to the podcast on your listening platform of choice for early access to the weekly Overdrive Radio series -- it drops typically every Friday to the feed and follows here at and in Overdrive's Youtube and Facebook feeds the following week. You can subscribe via Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, most anywhere you listen.She’s no doubt got the bull by the horns, so to speak, with the car-haul business today, though it hasn’t been without its difficulty, particularly before she went out on her own to serve customers directly. At previous employers as a company driver, she was always the only woman behind the wheel, she said, which certainly added some unnecessary pressures.

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Since putting out her own shingle, though, her customers believe in her, that’s sure, as she follows through on lessons learned from her grandfather and father about doing more than just talking the talk: “Just show them you can do it,” her grandfather always told her, “and that you can do it better than them."

The chips fall right where you want them, then, more times than not. Take a listen: 

Overdrive Trucker of the Year 2023You can enter the 2023 Trucker of the Year competition via the form at this ink Hear Overdrive Radio podcast editions featuring all of 2023's monthly semifinalists via the playlist below.


Crystal Rives: Crawl around on the creeper and grease it on the concrete instead of these rocks, and I could work on other stuff while they're doing the major stuff.

Todd Dills: So she does just about all of it. The woman behind the voice you heard at the top, describing her engine and other major mechanical shop partner who's perfectly okay with the owner-operator utilizing his shop space for routine maintenance while he does larger work. It's a testament to the value owner-operators get from those close partners, which Crystal Rives has put a big emphasis on throughout the years and particularly since she went out on her own with authority to haul cars in 2016. That followed almost a decade and a half hauling cars for other companies, working in the Texas oil field, end dump, side dump, pneumatic liquid bulk tank.

I'm Todd Dills and today we're taking a tour through Rives' business and history in trucking as part of our monthly series of podcasts and feature profiles of contenders for the 2023 Trucker of the Year award. She's Overdrive's July trucker of the month in part for can-do approach to the work, a real do it yourself spirit in trucking and in life. She's out of Cleburne, Texas, south of Fort Worth, and today hauls solely intrastate after maintaining interstate authority for a time. She's built a steady base of customers among used dealers, restoration specialists and others hauling in 2006 Peterbilt 379 that she calls Ruby. Yeah, it's red and powered by a 550 Caterpillar the previous owner overhauled right before she bought it in 2019. You can find some pictures of the unit hauling a load of classic autos to the Mecum collectors' auction in Houston this past April, a bit of a perk for her operation. Whenever it comes around, she tells it.

Crystal Rives: That load that I sent you was like a half a million dollar load that went to Mecum auto auction back in April. When we dropped off the cars, we kind of got to, that's that time of the year, you get to go back there and look at all the cool classic cars and sometimes we get to look at cars that go for two, $3 million. Some of those real rare cars, it's kind of a behind the scenes thing.

After you drop off, you're like, hey, can we go back there and check all the cars? They're like, yeah, go check them out. And they just [inaudible 00:02:28] basically let us go back there and look at all the stuff and take pictures of all the cool cars and then it's cool to see them go across on the TV because I record that whenever Mecum comes through. I record it on TV. I'm like, oh yeah, that car's cool for like 80 grand. That's better than what they thought it would go for or something like that. It's good to see the customers selling their cars too for what they want for them because some of them, they put a lot of time in fixing them and restoring them and stuff like that.

But yeah, it's pretty cool. I definitely couldn't imagine doing anything else. I mean if riding horses all day, I could get paid as much as I could do this, then that's probably be the next best thing. That'd be what I'd do next.

Todd Dills: She's no doubt got the bull by the horns so to speak with the car haul business today though it hasn't been without its difficulty, particularly before she went on her own to serve customers directly. The previous employers as a company driver, she was always the only woman behind the wheel she said and added certainly unnecessary pressure was on in some ways.

Crystal Rives: They say equal opportunity, but sometimes I felt that it was more of a struggle just to prove that I could do the job that I was qualified. Now I have people wanting me to come and lease my truck onto them and email me constantly, but I can't. I can't do that because I have customers and if I lease on with certain companies then I can't do my customer's work that have been there for me for a long time.

Todd Dills: Those customers believe in her that's sure and she follows through on lessons learned from her grandfather and father about doing more than just talking the talk. As I wrote in the profile you can find via a link in the show notes for this edition of Overdrive Radio or in the post that will house it at overdrive on August 7th, "Just show them you can do it," her grandfather always told her, "and that you can do it better than them. The chips fall where you want them then more times than not."

On the other side of our break we'll drop into owner operator Crystal Rives' family history, trucking and farming. And I'll just note here that there's more time to enter the 2023 Trucker of the Year award competition. We'll for sure be taking entries for 2023 through the end of this month. You can nominate your own business or that of another deserving owner operator via overdrive trucker. That's overdrive trucker. Keep tuned.

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Todd Dills: You can find more about Howes Diesel Defender at H-O-W-E-S Howes Here's Crystal Rives diving into her family's history trucking local and over the road.

Crystal Rives: My grandpa, he started a trucking business in the forties and my dad, he drove a truck and my big brother drives a truck and I drive a truck. So it's kind of like it runs in the family even though I wanted to do other stuff when I was a kid or I wanted to be a veterinarian, but some reason it's just once you drive a truck and it's in your blood, it just can't wash it out.

Yes. I started my business in 2016 or 17, but I hauled cars for other people and it's just being a woman in the industry, it's like I was the only girl and they didn't want to hire me because I was a girl and said it was too hard. I couldn't do it. And I'm like you're talking to somebody that grew up in a truck so say it's too hard and I can't do it. Like my grandpa always said, just show them you can do it and do it better than them. So that always has been my kind of motto, saying that I've lived by, if somebody ever tells you you can't, just show them you can and show them you can do it better than them.

It was always [inaudible 00:07:11] one of those things.

Todd Dills: What was your grandfather's name?

Crystal Rives: It was Paul Peikoff Sr. He started a gravel business back whenever he was younger. They owned a farm, so farming and trucking and kind of goes hand in hand. My grandpa, he passed away in 2003 and left the business to my dad and my dad is in his sixties now, so he's retired. He's got a hernia, bad back from driving, but he don't drive trucks anymore. My grandpa passed away and my dad, he can't do it no more.

I remember bouncing around on the back of the truck with a little tiny black and white TV in my dad's 1983 359 with a 400 A model. It had that 15 speed, a little bitty sleeper back there and he'd be like, watch something and we'd have this little bitty five inch black and white TV back there plugged in and we'd stop at the cafe and get some chicken or something, but old school trucking [inaudible 00:08:25].

Just kind of one of those things. You just don't see a lot of people that were taught by the old school generation like my grandpa and that drove no trucks with air rod or people don't even know what a five and four transmission is. They look at you like you're crazy. But we have two dump trucks too. We have a 73 Kenworth with a five and four. It has a nice big old 400 big Cam Cummins in it. We have a 94 Peterbilt dump truck and that's just like my side hustle. But car hauling is definitely where I've made all my money. It's not easy because if it was everybody would be doing it.

Todd Dills: Owner operator Rives' husband, Justin, keeps on hand a couple of dump trucks that he calls the pair’s retirement plan, she said. And well that's okay, but...

Crystal Rives: I've been staying pretty consistently busy with my car hauling so I haven't really had to mess with the dump trucks other than just change oil on them and keep them running. Justin, my husband, he calls it our retirement plan and I was like, I mean that's okay, but for me it's been something I've been doing since I was little bitty kid hauling gravel up and down from the gravel pit in the back and I can barely reach the pedals to push the gas and then they're like, oh, we had a couple of dump trucks that just stayed on the rock pit and one of them didn't have no brakes. As long as you knew how to downshift and kind of put your tire in a hole, you were good. But it was just one of those things. We always worked on our own equipment most of the time and I learned a lot of stuff growing up and...

Todd Dills: How long were you driving before you started up the business? Was it hauling cars too?

Crystal Rives: Well, I kind of bounced around because when I got my CDL when I was 18, nobody would hire me. Now you have to be 21 to get it. Nobody would hire me because they're like, oh, you can't do this. So I started driving tanker for a little while and hauled side dump and end dump and bulk pneumatic and it's not that I didn't enjoy. It's just being the only woman, it just felt like to me that everybody was just eyes on me all the time and it was just like they were waiting for me to mess up and it's just like, man, that's a lot of pressure. But I did just about everything growing up.

I helped with the gravel business. I screened gravel, I ran a bulldozer D9 and stuff like that, so I used to know how to do all that stuff when I was growing. I'd had to work on my truck. I changed my own oil and I climbed underneath it and grease it after about the first two times of greasing it with one that you use with your hand, I bought me into [inaudible 00:11:52] electric one because I was like, this is, a lot of [inaudible 00:11:59] work but it definitely, you're willing to put the time in, it pays off in the long run.

I started out in just a little, it's like a little international six car because all I could afford, seven car and had to basically run seven days a week just to keep the truck going and get money built up where I could definitely upgrade to something different because that international was rough. It tore my back up. It was just [inaudible 00:12:33] short wheel base, trailer all the way slid out, so it makes the steering real soft and floaty. When you have that kind of weight pushing down on your drive axles all the time, it makes it have soft steering, which can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing, but I definitely, I got this truck back in, I think I got this one in 2019.

Todd Dills: As a reminder, here she's talking about that 2006 Peterbilt 379, “Ruby,” Caterpillar powered.

Crystal Rives: And it's been a good truck. I've poured so much money into it to get it like I like it because I like my stuff to where I can just get in it and go and I know it's not going to break down because I know what I've done to it. I change oil every 10,000 miles and all the filters and check everything constantly. I do overhead valve adjustments every a hundred to 150,000 and it's just been a really good strong running truck. Yeah, she's a ten car if you have small stuff, but I haul nine with it all day long. When I went and picked up this truck, I bought it from South Carolina, Spartanburg, South Carolina. The previous owner he passed away, was unloading and had a massive heart attack and passed away. I was like, whoa.

Todd Dills: Remind me, does that have that stinger set up on it?

Crystal Rives: Yes. Yeah, she's 84 foot all sucked in unloaded from nose to the tip of the stinger trailer, but when I have it all stretched out and I got some pretty good side stuff on there like a big old truck hanging off the nose and I only got about eight inches of window space to look out. Got my seat all the way to the floor, which I always have it all the way to the floor anyway because I like filling my truck to make sure there's nothing wrong with it.

A lot of people want to argue, well that's why your back's all messed up. But my dad never rode with air in his seat. Neither did my grandpa. He probably didn't even have air rod back when he was driving. He had to have that suspension with all the springs like the Kenworth has that my husband has, they don't have airbags on it. All spring suspension, so that's a rough riding truck. You feel every bump times 10. But yeah, she's a big old Peterbilt 06 pre-admissions. Got the big old 550 cab with the 18 speed. Got about a hundred lots on it, roughly.

Todd Dills: Cut quite a fine picture loaded with that half million dollars’ worth of classic cars bound for Mecum's classics auto auction in Houston in April.

Crystal Rives: I cleaned it up for three days before we even did that load. I washed it and kind of polished it all up and got that load and come back and take some really nice pictures. So you can't go to Mecum auto auction with all these nice cars and your truck be dirty.

Todd Dills: Tell me about the customer base and how you built it up.

Crystal Rives: Everybody wants me to get more trucks and stuff, but I can't find people that are as picky as I am and take as good care of their vehicles as I do. Even when I worked for other people, I always kept my stuff clean and well maintained and just like, hey, you need oil change. And you'd be surprised how many people like, oh no, you can go another 5,000 on that oil. And I'm like, really? Because that's not how I was raised to run your truck till the oils burn up. One day I had some guy, I was working in the oil field and I had a guy call me. He's like, hey, so-and-so retired and we don't have nobody to haul our cars and would you be interested? And I said, I'm going to have to get a truck. So that's where it started and then I just started hauling cars.

Todd Dills: Who is that customer?

Crystal Rives: It was Auto Liquidators. Yeah, they're real good to me. They sell good cars to people that have a hard time getting into something maybe. I've also had people steal customers from me as well because they thought I guess I couldn't handle their workload or whatever the situation or they wanted to buy into my company and I'm not looking for that, you know what I mean? I'm not looking to own 10 headaches and one is enough, but the more trucks you get, the more money it costs, the more people you got to hire that you trust and there's just not enough quality drivers for me to want to buy another truck and risk my business, risk them wrecking or ruining what I've established because I'm not a greedy person. I could live with just having the one truck. I don't need 10. I don't need a whole big fleet.

And I do have some friends that haul cars too and if I get overloaded I call them, I'm like, hey, you want to haul some cars? And they always help me out. When I get overwhelmed during tax season or something like that, I have plenty of friends that I can call to come help me go down to Austin or Houston two or three times a week and have a lot of local stuff. I try to give them the local stuff because they like it better and I'll go do the long distance stuff down to Houston or Buda or Austin or whatnot.

Todd Dills: It sounds like you're mostly home every day.

Crystal Rives: Oh yeah. I'm home every night and enjoy the occasional day off during the week and it's not really a day off because if I'm off during the week, even if it's 110 degrees outside, I'm finding something to work on on my truck. Even if it's just going through and crawling under it and checking it from nose to tip to tail end or just looking for anything that could become a problem, I'll fix it and then I'll know, hey, it's good to go for another, I crawl underneath it every week. You just never know what could be underneath there.

We always greased our trucks and took care of them. That's how we made our living and whenever I was a kid, we had I think three or four good big rock buckets. Then we had a couple of two or three dump trucks and all my dad's friends ran the other ones, people that he trusted because we had nice stuff. It didn't start out that way. It's just my grandpa had to start off with what he could afford and build it up from there.

Todd Dills: Yeah, but he goes back all the way to the forties in trucking. That's--

Crystal Rives: Yeah, 1948 he started his business, so he was in it probably before that. He was born in ‘28, so he was pretty young. He was a farmer, too. He could grow anything. He can grow grass on a rock. I'm not even kidding. He was a farmer and we still have a farm in Alvarado that family runs. That's where he came from, grew up over there. I did get to meet his mother, my great-grandmother. She was a nice lady. She was a farmer too, but we all come from that industry, the farming and trucking industry being full industries [inaudible 00:20:45]. Got to eat, you got to have stuff transported.

Todd Dills: Crystal Rives is building on that history of making all of it happen from a house out in the woods, as she says around Cleveland, Texas where it's sometimes difficult to get much of a cell signal, she added. Even hardwired internet connections can be spotty. She consequently doesn't fool around much with social media, she said.

Crystal Rives: No, I thought about getting a Facebook page for my truck, but the Red Ruby of the South is what my husband calls her.

Todd Dills: But you have a name for it other than that.

Crystal Rives: Oh, yeah. I just call her Ruby, because she's red. Yeah, I have a USDOT and then I have a TxDOT. I also have an MC to go outside the state, but I had deactivated it because I never went outside the state because I was staying so busy and it's just a lot of more stuff to keep up with for me because I do all my own stuff.

A lot of people hire people to do that for them. I use the Hoffenmer for the drug test consortium because I think they require you, DOT requires you to use a third party for that because of the federal rules. So I do use them for my drug test consortium and it's a lot of stuff to keep up with and I do the UCR through them as well. It can be a headache if you have multiple trucks. If I had 10 trucks, I’d definitely hire somebody to do all that headache work for me, but since I just got the one, I can figure it out and I think I've only ever been stopped one time by DOT and they're like, I'm not crawling under that. You can go. They're like, no, I ain't crawling under that because I kid you not, you cannot crawl underneath the trailer. If you were to lay on something and try to slide underneath there, you wouldn't fit if you you're not like 125 pounds.

Todd Dills: Who's the manufacturer of the trailer set up that you've got?

Crystal Rives: The manufacturer? Oh, definitely Cottrell. I use Cottrell.

Only the best.

They're made right here in the United States of America in Georgia. That just means quality and it's a 2006 model and it's in excellent condition. I've only had to replace one major cross member on it and it was like that when I bought it. I bought this truck and it was in the shop for three months before I felt that it was road ready and 30 grand, so only spending 85,000 on the truck and then spending 30 grand to get it to my picky requirements to get it where I knew it was safe. That's what it took, that's what it took and it already was rebuilt. The previous owner rebuilt the motor and didn't even put any miles on it before he passed away, so it had a overhaul from Caterpillar that costs 35 grand. I have all the paperwork for it, so I knew the motor wasn't going to be the problem. Not saying they did it, right, but I mean, I haven't had, knock on wood, any problems with it.

Todd Dills: It's been going well so far. Yeah, it sounds great.

Crystal Rives: Oh, yeah, it's been good. Other than just doing the valve adjustments when it starts getting a little loud, you just take the valve covers off and adjust everything and get it all nice and tight underneath there and the fuel mileage goes up a little bit and it's nice and quiet. Sounds like a Caterpillar should.

Todd Dills: Attendant to the feature I wrote about owner-operator Rives, which aired last week at, we spoke to one among Crystal's customers who lauded her skill and professionalism, pulling for them, moving cars between storage and used auto dealer lots and more in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. To read more about the customer base, get over to the site and find that story. I'll link to it in the post that houses this podcast there when it goes live Monday, August 7th. For those of you listening via the podcast feed, look for a link in the show notes wherever you're listening.

When Operator Rives ended this past year, which she noted felt just a little slower than usual,  nonetheless at a high profit level, and that's in spite of the challenges of maintaining rates with their customers in the face of ever higher fuel prices.

Crystal Rives: Fuel was my biggest expense last year and a lot of people didn't want to go up on rates or anything like that and or even want me to put a fuel surcharge on there, so it was pretty tough trying to convince some of my clients. I was like, man, I need to put a little tiny fuel surcharge on there just to try to even out the fuel. I was like, man, I want to make two or $300 off this load and it takes all day, but it worked out and...

Todd Dills: For owners operators just starting out or others contemplating the move to get into business for themselves, Rives offered these words, harking back again to her grandfather, Paul Peikoff Sr.

Crystal Rives: If you are willing to put the work in and if you want it bad enough, you'll be successful. But if you're not a hundred percent committed and you have any doubt, I wouldn't recommend it but that's from experience. It doesn't matter what other people think, the only thing that matters is what you think, what you want out of life. If you want it, trust me, nothing will stop you from getting it if you put the time in. Like my grandpa always said, if you want it, you got to go get it because nobody's going to give it to you.

Todd Dills: Clearly owner-operator Rives in her wheelhouse car hauling, and she said more than once while we talked.

Crystal Rives: I definitely couldn't imagine doing anything else.

Todd Dills: Yet she's certainly got another passion too, one through which she serves her community of friends and family and neighbors around Cleburne, Texas in various ways. That passion stretches back to her early years growing up when she looked at trucking, not so much as a career path, but simple fact of life.

Crystal Rives: I never knew that I would make a living out of it to be honest with you. I thought I was going to go to college and be a veterinarian. Do have a vet tech degree though, so that helped with all my animals. That's my other passion like animals and rescuing them and stuff like that. I have four horses, two of them are babies that are two years old. One of them I inherited from a friend because my good friend Lyndell, she was 84 and she passed away, and so I inherited her colt because her daughter's like, I don't know what I'm going to do with all these animals. I can't afford to take care of them. And I was like, well, I can take the horses and that'll help you hopefully. And she's like, oh, will you? And I was like, yeah, I'll take them and take care of them. So I have those four.

I got four horses and I have a bunch of rescue kitties that just showed up. When they come over here and they stay, I'll take them. I get them fixed and then have a bunch, I got five outside cats. They're all fixed. They keep the rats out of the barn and out of the house and they do their jobs. So I got three inside kitties. One of them I found in a car underneath, my husband, he was moving the car and I heard Meow, meow, meow. And I was like, I hear a kitty. And he's like, oh God, here we go. And I put it up on my trailer and it was up underneath the shock in the spring on the shock mount kind of, and it was a little orange and white kitty. So I brought him home. Nope. I couldn't find a home for him, so I fixed him and gave him to my daughter.

And then I have another black and white cat that I rescued. He was a little baby. I had to bottle-feed him and he rode in the truck with me for a long time until he was weaned and litter trained. And then he started staying at home and he'll be three the 21st of this month. He would've died without me. I found him up at my mother-in-law's in their, they have an outside barbecue pit for grilling for the church. My father-in-law grills a bunch of briskets or whatever for the church and he was in there and all of his brothers and sisters were deceased and the mother was nowhere to be found. So I heard him crying and screaming so I rescued him. I named him TK. It's like stands for a lot of different things like Trucker Kitty or Tough Kitten because he survived. Yeah, I bottle-fed him. He laid my lap while I was driving and he would just drink the bottle while, bottle-feed him while we were on the road and stuff.

Todd Dills: Read more about owner-operator and July trucker of the month Crystal Rives’ independent Texas intrastate car haul operation via our profile of the business owner at Here's a big thanks to Crystal for her time, and to you for listening. I'll post the link to the larger story in the show notes wherever you're listening. Leave us rating or review there if you haven't already. And send any direct feedback this way via our podcast message line at (615) 852-8530. Always love to hear from you.

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