Overdrive's 2023 Truckers of the Year: The 'exit interviews' toward the finale, Part 1

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Dec 7, 2023

We're getting closer to the finale of the 2023 Trucker of the Year competition. This week's edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast features a roundtable of sorts with four among 10 small trucking businesses among the 10 total 2023 Trucker of the Month honorees, with a huge amount of operational diversity among them -- from food-grade and hazmat tanker to car-haul and RGN, flatbed and step deck, reefer, hopper, dry van and more.

In what is the first of two podcasts featuring Trucker of the Year contenders, owner-operators John and Sarah Schiltz with their independent Veterans Transportation Services business were joined by fellow independents and now-four-truck Tim and Shelley Pulli of Pulli Express, owner-operator Matthew Karr of K-Mac Trucking, and Texas-based car-haul owner-operator Crystal Rives.

Howes logoOverdrive Radio's sponsor is Howes, longtime provider of fuel treatments like its Howes Diesel Treat anti-gel and Lifeline rescue treatment to get your ready for winter, likewise its all-weather Diesel Defender, among other products.What's been the biggest challenge this year for most? The revenue side of profit equation, whether shipper pushback on contract rates or the ongoing spot-market doldrums. For instance, it’s been been a tough year on the customer front for owner-operator Rives’ car-haul operation. One of her primary used-car-dealer customers decided to launch its own trucking company. Though she still hauls for them minimally, their move dramatically reduced the amount of work she got from them, for certain. Yet as with many a versatile independent, stick-to-it-iveness, hustle and a quick-on-her-feet nimble quality as a business owner yielded new opportunities, even in this market. 

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 OverdriveOnline.com and in Overdrive's Youtube and Facebook feeds the following week. You can subscribe for first access via Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, most anywhere you listen.The same can be said for others in the roundtable, too, including Missouri-headquartered Matt Karr. When he was featured as our Trucker of the Month in May, Karr was playing the waiting game on final registrations, insurance and more to go back out under his own authority after a big profit year leased in 2022. 

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers
The ALL NEW Rand Tablet
Presented by Rand McNally

The conversation among the four business owners was centered on the year just passed -- the challenges faced, and just how they chose to overcome (or at least start the process of overcoming) the worst of them throughout 2023.

Bonus: Each offers their best advice to new and/or aspiring owner-operators to wrap things up. Take a listen: 

Stay tuned next week for the remainder of the 2023 Trucker of the Year contenders. Read about all of them via this link. Find below a playlist, too, featuring all 10 of the contending operations. 

overdrive trucker of the year 2023 logoOverdrive's 2023 Trucker of the Year program recognizes clear business acumen and unique or time-honored recipes for success among owner-operators. Through October, we named Truckers of the Month to contend for this year's Trucker of the Year honor. Stay tuned for three finalists to be unveiled in the coming weeks, with a winner crowned early next year. Nominations continue to be sought for exceptional owner-operators, whether leased or independent, throughout the year -- new contenders at this point will be considered for the 2024 Trucker of the Year award. Nominate your business or that of a fellow owner (up to three trucks) via this link.

[Related: Behind the owner-operator: An exemplary business and life partner, buttoning up the biz for success]


Todd Dills: Hey everybody, it's Todd Dills here, your Overdrive Radio podcast host as usual for this edition. Dropping to the podcast feed December 1st and then at the world-famous overdriveonline.com, Monday the fourth. Wherever you're listening, you're in for a treat, a round table of sorts featuring four small trucking businesses among our 2023 Trucker of the Year contenders. We're in the process of wrapping up judging of 10 semi-finalists for the award this year with a huge amount of operational diversity among them.

Sarah Schiltz: Yeah, it's been really fun though to read up on everyone, and just all the diversity and all the different ways everyone came to where they're at. It's been really fun.

Todd Dills: That was the voice of Sarah Schiltz, operator of the second truck in nominee owner-operator John Schiltz and Sarah's VTS business. That stands for Veterans Transportation Services, and the business follows John's couple decades worth of military mechanic work in the Army. When it comes to freight, as you'll hear in today's podcast, VTS is plenty diverse itself. That aside, the Schiltz's were on a call live with me, owner-operators Tim and Shelly Pulli of Pulli Express and owner-operator Matthew Karr of K-Mac Trucking joined there and nominated for the award by his wife, Koren.

Separately and also featured here. I caught up with Texas-based car-haul owner-operator, Crystal Rives.

Crystal Rives: Oh, I got a load going to Waco. I was going to go to Abilene today, but I got to do it.

Todd Dills: It's been a tough year on the customer front for Rives' car-haul operation. Yet as with many owner-operator, a stick-to-itiveness, hustle, and quick on-her-feet, nimble quality as a business owner yielded new opportunities even in this market. The same can be said for others we'll hear from here today, including the man on the other side of a break, Matthew Karr, who when he was featured as our Trucker of the Month in May, was playing the waiting game on final registrations, insurance and more to go back out under his own authority for a big profit year leased in 2022. So now, we'll jump into these quote, unquote exit interviews with Overdrive's 2023 Trucker of the Year contenders after this word from Overdrive Radio's sponsor.

Advertisement: Stop fuel from gelling this winner with Howes Diesel Treat, North America's number one trusted anti-gel. Right now you need Howes Diesel Treat more than ever, not only to keep you gel-free, but to fight the shortcomings of today's ULSD by adding vital lubricity, removing water and preventing deposits. The only guaranteed anti-gel on the market, Diesel Treat also boosts fuel economy and improves performance. This winter do yourself a favor and add Howes Diesel Treat at every fill-up. Visit howesproducts.com for more information.

Todd Dills: That's H-O-W-E-S, howesproducts.com. Here's fuel-tanker hauling owner-operator Matt Karr of K-Mac Trucking about the year just passed, and as with all the owner-operators you'll hear in today's podcast, reflecting on the challenges faced throughout 2023.

Matt Karr: Honestly it's been pretty smooth. It's been pretty smooth, but one of the reasons it's been smooth is because of my past failures, my past mistakes. I've learned and learned to be patient, but we had a few little hiccups with waiting on the insurance and getting clearances at different places, but that's nothing to really get upset about. It's just one of them things.

Todd Dills: Your biggest challenge throughout the year it sounds like was simply getting everything in place that you needed to be in place in order to get out and actually run with the authority again.

Matt Karr: Yes, considering it was hazmat, and it's refined petroleum. There's some things I had to learn along the way, for sure. I need this or I don't need that. Luckily, I have built good relationships over the years and they kind of guided me, as you need to do this, you need to do this. You need this much insurance, you need that much insurance for this place. Just ask questions and be patient. That's all you can do.

For example, these trailers that we pull have to be certified every year, which I knew that, and then they have to have a five-year inspection and they have to go inside the trailer. But certain states require different rules on them. It's the same inspection, just different paperwork you have to fill out, like Illinois. If you get caught unloading without an Illinois sticker on there, then I'm not sure what happens. I don't remember what they told me, but it's an incredible fine for the trailer. I mean, it's the same inspection as for every other state. Arkansas, they have different rules. Missouri has different rules. It's just different rules and regulations you have to learn to be in compliance because at the end of the day it's hazmat. It's an explosive and a combustible, so they want to make sure stuff's right.

Todd Dills: You didn't have to deal with that before because you had not been pulling your own trailers. Is that right?

Matt Karr: Yeah, that's right. Some of that stuff, I knew about it, but I didn't know how to go about the procedures to take care of it.

Todd Dills: Matt Karr and his K-Mac trucking outfit weren't the only tank pullers on the call. Pulli Express, a three-truck outfit headquartered just west of Chicago and helmed by Tim and Shelley Pulli run mostly liquid sugars in Walker tanks regionally and locally.

Big things were afoot for the husband and wife with some recent history equipment purchases with the intent to expand that. Well, delivery of that equipment came a little earlier than expected, let's say.

Shelley Pulli: Yeah, we ended up, we have five trailers now. I think when we talked to you, we had four and we had one owner-operator and now we have two.

Tim Pulli: The extra trailer came about, so we ordered a trailer and the manufacturer, they cut off any orders after a certain date just because they were way too busy. We happened to make that cut and decided that, you know what, if this happens or it continues to happen, we better put another one on the books. And pretty much we forgot about it until we had a call from the salesman.

Shelley Pulli: We're talking a year. A year.

Tim Pulli: The first trailer was at least a year, and then the second one, what?

Shelley Pulli: About a year.

Tim Pulli: Almost a year, like 10 months? 10, 11 months?

Shelley Pulli: Yeah. No, it was November of 2022 I put the order in.

And then we were kind of like, what do we do? Take it?

Tim Pulli: That was a panic. I don't know if it was the wisest decision.

Shelley Pulli: We went with it.

Tim Pulli: Everything's up and running, so yeah.

Todd Dills: So that's been very recent then that you've gotten those trailers and then put on another owner-operator, right?

Shelley Pulli: Yeah, so we got the trailer last week. He picked it up and then the owner-operator was like a month ago.

Tim Pulli: He started a month ago, but to get the hydraulics and the truck set up and then he is probably only a week out on the road with us.

Shelley Pulli: The petroleum tankers, do they have to, do you guys have to put Hydropacks on that?

Matt Karr: We do. We sure do. Yep. I can pump off about, diesel's a little slower than gas, but gas about 245 gallons a minute. I don't know how that sugar is. It's probably a little thicker. Probably goes a little slower, doesn't it?

Tim Pulli: So the thinner products, sucrose or thinner corn syrup, we could probably anywhere from a 175 gpm to probably just about 220 would be a really good setup. The thicker stuff, you're definitely going to want to run it slower.

Matt Karr: On our pumps, the petroleum pump, so I'm sure yours are like this too, they have an internal bypass. Some of your above-ground tanks that you pump off into, they have a, I'm not sure how it works, but it's a check valve. If the tank gets full, it won't let the product keep pushing into the tank so you don't blow a tank over. Anyway and it will bypass internally or blow a tank over or blow a hose. I mean, you think about it, that's pushing it through a two-inch hose, three into the pump, and then two out at 245 gallons a minute. That's a lot of pressure.

Tim Pulli: Some of the pumps have the bypass, the older ones they do not, so they'll actually lock up if there's anything stopping the product. Obviously fuel a little more dangerous. For us, they just let us spill on the ground.

Matt Karr: We can't do that. It's a big ordeal when that happens.

Tim Pulli: We don't like to and you don't have a change of clothes, then you turn into a piece of rock candy.

Matt Karr: Well, you've been in, it sounds like you guys been in the tanker business a long time. This is something I learned a long time ago sometimes, and this is actually a fact. You have to go slow to go fast. You really do.

Shelley Pulli: Yeah, with the Farm share for sure.

Matt Karr: Well that and gasoline and diesel and sometimes, and I see these young guys doing it, they'll get in a hurry, then they'll have a spill and they'll spend two hours cleaning a spill up instead of just slowing down, taking your time and instead of saving 60 seconds, it costs them two hours. I mean you probably have ran into that too if you've been in the tanker business a while.

Tim Pulli: Yeah, we try to do, at least for me, I do my routine and if anybody like a customer wants to try and help out, I'll stop them dead in their tracks like, Nope, you can't help me. I got this.

Matt Karr: Yep. I'm the same way. I won't talk on the phone, I won't talk to anybody. I mean, for example, now this didn't happen to me, it's happened to another company. I knew the man that did it. He contaminated some product. He put ethanol and diesel and he hid it. Well, big construction outfit went in to get fuel at that service station, and I don't know how much they bought, but they put it in their big machines, their scrapers, they're dozers and everything else, and the last number I heard was like 950,000 that one driver screwed up because he screwed up. That's what it ended up costing the trucking company because of his foul up. So we have to be pretty diligent in what we do.

Todd Dills: In terms of the big business challenges for Pulli Express, Shelly walk back farther in time than just this year.

Shelley Pulli: I was talking to Tim earlier about this and I said, what was our struggle at the beginning, and it's 10 plus years ago, well since '05, but it was the customer and trying to find the right customer and Tim was like just getting direct with the customer. I think going to the load board, having a few, a broker, finding loads for you, trying to cut out that middleman. That was a huge struggle at the beginning and once we were past that struggle, it was a different level because we didn't have that.

John Schiltz: How did you get past it?

Todd Dills: The voice you heard there was that of owner-operator John Schiltz, headquartered in Wisconsin and running now in an independent two-truck operation with his wife, Sarah, whom you heard at the top, and who nominated Schiltz for the Trucker of the Year award this year. John went on to describe his own desire to get beyond spot-frame, which to an extent is his bread and butter for parts of the year when he's not working Midwest region harvests from field to processors.

Tim Pulli: I've been in since 2010, and that's still the biggest struggle. How many companies need one truck? How many customers can be serviced by one truck? None.

John Schiltz: The fact that we work for [inaudible 00:13:35]?

Tim Pulli: No, no. They do have leased-on drivers. They got about 11 of them and then there's us as a small carrier and there's another small carrier with just about the same amount of trucks.

John Schiltz: You're dedicated to that customer then?

Tim Pulli: Yeah, you're dedicated to, all our eggs are in one basket, which I should say no because I've had customers just say, you know what, we're not going to use you anymore. Good luck. And this is out of the blue and you're just standing there. I don't know.

Sarah Schiltz: What am I going to do with all my equipment? Yeah.

Shelley Pulli: We were Doing the Dump work.

Tim Pulli: I didn't know what to do.

Shelley Pulli: That was like '08 during those recessions. Persistence, getting into that niche independently, but still having a middleman and then getting to know people in the industry, and that is I think how we did it because we got to know people who knew them over there where we wanted to work, and I did a lot of just stopping in. How's it going? I need some parts. Just chit-chatting. A lot of networking. I would say.

Tim Pulli: Other friends too. I got a few other friends that have four or five trucks and then I call them and say, Hey, can you help me out? And sure enough, they talk to whoever does dispatching where they're at and they just, your circle kind of gets bigger and bigger from there.

Todd Dills: There's some commonality between the independent now four-truck business of Pulli Express and the two-truck independent operation of John and Sarah Schiltz VTS, again for Veteran's Transportation Service. John served nearly two decades as a heavy-truck mechanic in the Army. The commonalities between two businesses have to do with the go-between Shelly Pulli mentioned for Pulli Express's Sweetener Supply, liquid sugar customer who handles all of the dispatch for the primary plant they service. John Schiltz too with his harvest work works through playing field trucking on those loads, which were wrapping up by the time of this conversation about two weeks back.

John Schiltz: We're done with fresh vegetable harvest. Now we're on fall harvest, corn, soybeans out of the field. Sarah and I diversified a little bit. We have a combine, we do some custom harvesting and we do the custom hauling as well. So that's worked out pretty good. We're getting ready to go back to flatbed and we're just going to see what next year plays out. We've had a good year because we stayed diversified. We just try to make ourselves as valuable as we can to the small customer base that we have. We're too small to get direct freight. We're just too small. I can't go to John Deere. They will use you, but their requirements are huge. They want 2 million dollars cargo insurance. There's not one piece of John Deere equipment that is worth 2 million dollars, so I don't know how they justify that, but hey, it's their show so they can dictate the rules, right? We try to stay valuable and stay current and have customers when we deliver, call back to the shipper and say, Hey, we want those two back. They showed up with safety clothes on. They showed up on time, they showed up with a good attitude. They showed up with good equipment, they knew how to rig. I do a lot of my own rigging. I had rigging classes in the Army, so we just try to make ourselves valuable.

Todd Dills: What's been the biggest difficulty you faced this year and how did you deal with it?

John's wife and fellow owner-operator, Sarah Schiltz gave the initial response.

Sarah Schiltz: Probably going to, at the risk of sounding like everyone else, because we do use the spot market most of the year when we're not doing vegetables, the freight rates. This year have been the beginning of the year. The first half was pretty good. We were profitable. We go out, we typically stay out, we follow the freight. Wherever the rates are best, that's where we go. So sometimes we're out two, three weeks with both trucks and that works. Sometimes we sit a day or two or three and wait for the better rates, but once the freight kind of fell off the rails middle of the summer, we went back to our customers, our direct customers that we have, we always call them first. What do you have? Do you have anything? What do you need? They'll kind of give us an idea and we kind of knew we could count on harvest again.

That usually starts June, July. This year, for us, it didn't start until September, but that was fine. So really, like John said, just staying diverse. I feel like being able to go from a flatbed to RGN to a drive van to a open-top to a hopper, you can hook up to anything. It really gives us a lot of flexibility as far as what our customers need, and we've got great contacts that we've built over the years. If we need to get a trailer, we've got a gentleman here in Madison that we just call and, at Alliance, and let them know, Hey, we need a couple trailers. And he's great about, Yep, I got you. And they're usually available within a few days or a week and if we need to rent them for a couple weeks or a month or something they're there for us.

So yeah, I think the rates have definitely been a hurdle. Also, I wanted to mention we do a lot of our own repairs. Obviously we can't do everything. My truck's a little newer. John's very versed in the older trucks, his is a '99, mine's a '13, so the electrical stuff gets him, and I'm curious to hear what others think, but this year has just been awful as far as finding quality maintenance. I feel like every time we take our trucks somewhere it's just, yeah, it's crazy.

Shelley Pulli: We're totally there too. Yep.

Sarah Schiltz: So we just try to do everything we can ourselves. And it seems like I have so many stories of just every time we leave our local Peterbilt here, and we love them, we keep going to them. But we've just gotten to the point where they pretty much expect to see us back within 10 or 15 minutes because it isn't going to be done right and it's awful. And I'm just wondering if other people are experiencing that out there.

Shelly Pulli: I call out of state when I'm asking for when I have questions or parts. I don't even call in Illinois anymore.

Matt Karr: I have a couple of good mechanics that worked at Peterbilt back when they had to know a lot of stuff, and I use them guys. They have all the stuff that they need to fix whatever I need, and if the book says it takes five hours and it takes two hours, you're getting charged for two hours and that's how they do it. That's how...

Todd Dills: They're on their own now, Matt?

Matt Karr: Yeah. Yeah, they're on their own. One's north of Springfield, Missouri here and the other one's south of Republic where I'm at. Matter of fact, as soon as we get off the phone I'm taking the truck over there, here just a little bit, have a little bit of work done.

Sarah Schiltz: The downtime, it's like we only have two trucks, so it's really hard. This week we took my truck in Monday to drop off to get some work done, and granted he asked for an extra day. This is at a different shop, but still we still haven't heard anything and it's Thursday, so it's like when the truck's down for a whole week, that's really rough. So I was just curious if we need to keep looking around or if it's something that's kind of all over because I feel like it's on par for kind of the way things are as far as repairs.

Matt Karr: I mean personally, my personal experience, my independent guys have always been a little better.

Shelley Pulli: Sure. We have such a busy area that we're in and I just feel like there's a lot of people not showing up to work at the mechanic that we just left and they're just not doing the job very well, and we would constantly have to be going back and we're like, we need a change. We need a change. And then we're like, where do we go? Because you don't know the people you're going to and then is your truck going to sit? It's such a battle. We ended up talking -

John Schiltz: Three week wait times.

Matt Karr: That's where you got to build relationships. Like you was just talking about freight the same as me. I spent years, years building relationships. It's like hiring drivers. You got to try them out. All you can do is try them out and if they do you a good job, just keep going back.

Shelley Pulli: I think something very helpful that we have done is we have a spare truck -

And was it worth it because the plates in Illinois are super expensive and then maintaining, it has become worth it just by not missing a load or two. Thankfully we haven't run into anything major. I mean if one truck's down, at least we still have income coming in. Thankfully it can get frustrating when it's smaller, what seems like smaller repairs and then it ends up costing us because it doesn't get done right the first time. It's very frustrating, but thankfully we can do most of the maintenance ourselves and we're getting pretty good at it together as much as husband and wives can do that stuff together.

Matt Karr: Sure. What's that old saying? A five-minute job is a one broken bolt away from a two-day job.

Shelley Pulli: You guys work on your own truck. That is something that we don't really have the capability. We're in a, I call it the dust bowl. Parking is a huge issue for us being right outside of Chicago. Yeah, it's tough. We got four kids and I don't want to be an hour away from our house and that's -

Sarah Schiltz: Where, do you guys keep your trucks currently?

Shelley Pulli: In the Dust Bowl. It's an old quarry they filled in.

Tim Pulli: Yeah. So in the next town over from Brookfield, I mean we're out, everything for us is probably 15 minutes. The house, the plant, the parking, everything's about 15 minutes away, but with these types of truck yards, they got rules. They don't even want you to wash [inaudible 00:25:14]

Sarah Schiltz: That was one of the biggest decisions really that drove to bring another truck on was the fact that John is retired military, he worked on trucks in the Army. That is what he did. So that really, I don't think if he had that skillset, it would've been because then you're paying for all the maintenance on both trucks. And I told him flat out, I was like, I'll definitely help. I have no issue with getting greasy. I don't mind. So I think that was a huge factor in deciding to get the second truck and really kind of expand and do what we're doing now was the fact that we can do, we probably do 80% of our maintenance. I mean even like John just put in new injectors in his N 14, I mean, so it makes a big difference at the end of the year. The money that we save on labor, labor is crazy expensive.

Shelley Pulli: That would save us a lot if we do a lot of our work ourselves.

Todd Dills: Texas Intrastate Independent Car Hauler, Crystal Rives, who wasn't part of the group call, but who I did manage to catch up with a few days later. She had customer challenges this year as one of her main used car dealer customers decided to launch its own trucking company and though she still hauls from them minimally, that move dramatically reduced the amount of work she was doing for them for certain.

Crystal Rives: Losing a $100,000 contract almost. So yeah, I definitely was scrambling, but I got in hauling new cars, so I've been hauling a lot of new cars. Tomorrow I'm taking a load to Abilene for, I think they're KIAs.

Todd Dills: And that work she found through another motor carrier. She's now set up with them as a third-party carrier and doing steady work there. Other challenges, as with the customer who brought its transportation needs in-house – competition, generally speaking.

Crystal Rives: And there's a lot of people moving down here and taking other people's work. And there was another guy I talked to that had a [inaudible 00:27:21] he was doing and he was getting 40 cars a week out of the auction and he said somebody beside him was talking to him about it and then come to find out about two weeks later, they took all of his work and undercut him.

And he is been hauling parts for about nine years. So I was just like, got to be careful. You can't tell people who you're doing nothing for because they'll go in and try to steal your work and it's terrible.

Todd Dills: And how do you combat such dynamics? Just a couple words, "quality service," Rives said that's about all you can do.

Crystal Rives: And then they wind up calling you back because they think you charge too much, but they don't understand how meticulous I am about everything and I check all my cars, I make sure I write all the damage down and everything like that. And then I don't tear stuff up. So some people, they wind up pulling me back because they're getting cars that are just real tore up from people pulling. They might be cheaper than me. They might be 55 a car local and I'm 60 or 75 local a car, but I don't tear up your stuff. So you get what you pay for in the long run. That's what I always say. You want a good job done. Well, it's going to cost you, but you always have that guarantee that all my stuff's going to be here and it's going to not be tore up and damaged and it's costing me a little more to get it to me, but if somebody tears the whole underside of a car up, it might be totaled. And they really saved a lot of money, huh?

Todd Dills: Finally, I asked all these Trucker of the Year contenders for their best piece of advice for new or aspiring owner-operators. For Crystal Rives, her first thought had to do with setting expectations for the amount of work required to succeed, particularly in the early going.

Crystal Rives: I would just tell them, make sure they're willing to work hard and give 110% because a hundred just sometimes won't cut it.

And also to make sure you have a little nest egg saved up. So if something happens to your truck and you don't know how to fix it yourself, you can pay somebody to work on it. A lot of the things that I tell people, well, I wanted to get into the car-hauling business and I said, well, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. But it's very meticulous and you have to pay really close attention to everything because if you miss a damage and they say that you damaged the vehicle and if it's bad enough, you might be owing whatever that car is and you didn't make no money.

So I tell them if it was something that they really wanted to do and they give it their all and they can be successful, and it's like me. I'm the mechanic, I'm the driver. I do all the books and like I said, anything that I can't do, I don't have the certain tools to do, I take it to my guy. But you just have to, to me, if you're going to be an owner-operator, I think you need a little bit of a mechanic background or kind of know at least how to change the tire or say if your truck starts cutting in and out or something, you at least know how to diagnose what the problem might be because that will help you save money in the long run and you could also grow and have experience from that in itself.

Todd Dills: Personal growth through maintenance experience has been the story for John and Sarah Schiltz, particularly of late as John continues to walk Sarah through the paces of maintenance. I'm reminded of what Kevin Rutherford said as part of his talk to the NASTC conference, featured on the podcast last week about truly mastering a skill. Among the best ways to do that, he suggested was to teach it to somebody else. And once John Schiltz's first thought on advice to new owners was a little different, let's say.

John Schiltz: Run away right now. Vote, this is kind of a joke, but vote Republican because the politics in this industry have killed us. Safety and maintenance, huge.

Todd Dills: Learn how to turn a wrench, I guess is part of that too, right?

John Schiltz: Yeah. Or don't be afraid to find that good mechanic. Buy the good high-tier tires. Your tire pressures, my gosh, tire pressures are insane. You're all probably going to laugh at me, but I adjust my tire pressures every three weeks. I either raise it three pounds or drop it three pounds in all the tires so I can get wear on the outside. Wear on the inside to keep everything running true. Don't -

Sarah Schiltz: They're super expensive.

John Schiltz: Definitely don't over grease. Maintain your equipment. That's the biggest thing. Tire pressure and balance. We run centramatics on everything, even our trailers. Keep them balanced, keep it aligned. Just do what you got to do to. I see too many people cutting corners. Spend the money. If it rattles, fix it because in the long run it's going to keep you off the hook. It's going to keep you out of some shady garage down in wherever, Arkansas, where Jethro says, I always wanted to work on a transmission and you're only going to get a few weeks down the road and then there goes your transmission again, and now you're doing it all over again.

Matt Karr: Exactly. I concur with that. Completely

John Schiltz: Good oil coolant, constantly check everything, make sure it's your batteries are good. I just went through that.

Tim Pulli: For someone just starting out. After all of that, you kind of just say, good luck. I just was asked the other day, Hey, is it worth owning your own equipment? And I go into everything that was just said. You show up to a customer and your truck is shaking and rattling. That's the only time you're going to be there again with a positive attitude. So basically just everything reinforced and then kind of --

Todd Dills: I think, Tim, I'm having some deja vu here. You and I and Shelley talked about this very thing. I did ask you this question. I think Shelley said something like, everything is a lesson, right? I think that was part of the headline, wasn't it?

Shelley Pulli: Oh, for sure.

Todd Dills: Yeah. Constantly, constantly. Just constantly be teaching yourself from your own experience and learn from it. And don't do the bad things again. Right? Anyway. Don't make the same mistake over and over again.

Shelley Pulli: Yeah. Definitely learn from it.

John Schiltz: New people should be honest with yourselves. Don't let your mouth write a check that your butt can't cash. Don't make promises that you can't do. Don't go and take a job with a 15-foot wide case IH articulating tractor unless you know you're qualified to haul it. You see it every day. You see it on social media. Somebody smashed into something, they hit a bridge, they dropped this, a combine flipped off a truck because he tied it with rope and bungee cords instead of 3/8 inch chains and binders that were properly secured. Everybody runs out because they see a big dollar signs. And just be honest with yourself and take on jobs that are within your grasp, within your capabilities. I'm not going to haul fuel, I could get a trailer tomorrow morning, but I couldn't do it.

Matt Karr: Yeah, insurance is a bit high. One of the things that I see a lot is you see guys getting worked up and irritated and whatnot, and it's really hard not to sometimes, but people forget. Basically all we are is in the service industry. That's all we provide is a service. That's it. I mean, if you really break it down and think about it, we're just providing a service, removing somebody's freight for them. So you got to build relationships, maintenance on the trucks like you said, because if you don't do it, the OT will definitely find your problems for you. They're good about finding your issues if you have any out on the roadside, and that's not fun, but build relationships and it takes years sometimes. And what I get frustrated with is everybody wants to get into this and they see that I have a nice truck or whatever, nice trailer, and I get to go on vacations. But I've been doing this 25 years, like I said, gas 17, and I've worked many, many hundred hour weeks. A couple weeks ago my damn alternator went out. It was pissing and pouring raining. Only shop was open was Peterbilt. They couldn't get me in. So I changed my alternator in Peterbilt parking lot at 10 o'clock at night in a downpour. That's, broke a bolt too by the way. Be patient, do your due diligence, take your time.

Todd Dills: Patience is a virtue, right?

Tim Pulli: I'm still caught up on, you said vacation.

Sarah Schiltz: Right?

Todd Dills: Here’s a big thanks to Tim and Shelley Pulli of Pulli Express. Matthew and Koren Karr, K-Mac Trucking. VTS' John and Sarah Schiltz and Texas headquartered Crystal Rives for all the considered thoughts here in the conversation.

Stay tuned next week for most of the rest of our 2023 Trucker of the Year contenders as we wrap up the program for the year with top three finalist announcements to follow later this month. You can find profiles of all of them via overdriveonline.com slash trucker, hyphen of the hyphen year, overdriveonline.com, trucker of the Year, hyphens in between. I'll post that link in the show notes wherever you're listening to. Overdrive Radio is on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple and Google Podcasts. Tune in most any platform, subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And if you're enjoying these, leave us a rating or review there. Big thanks in advance to that.