The talk above was conducted with owner-operator Gary Buchs, based in Bloomington, Ill., on the site of the TravelCenters of America location named after him in the wake of his 2015 honor in TA’s Citizen Driver Awards program.
Overdrive was in Bloomington after a run with Buchs from the A.O. Smith manufacturing location in Ashland City, Tenn., where he picked up a drop-and-hook dry van load of water heaters bound for a live unload in Moline, Ill., the next morning.
In the video, Buchs details the variety of considerations that went into his 2004 purchase of the 2000 Freightliner Century he hauls in to this day, likewise his decision to lease to Landstar at that time. Prior to the decision to become an owner-operator, he’d been a Teamster with Roadway in and around St. Louis, Mo., and a nonunion company driver for an Illinois-based fleet for a time. But his trucking career followed longer work as a small hog farmer and a variety of ventures in animal feed.
Part of what he learned from that business experience, as he translates it to trucking, has to do with the importance of closely managing what you have the most control over, whether that’s your following distance or, key for his business, your costs.
“People complain about the rates,” he says, referring to a perennial source of angst for many an independent, but “not everybody’s losing money.” Buchs suggests too much emphasis is placed on an aspect of the business that owner-operators have only partial degrees of control over. “It’s better,” he says, “to have your costs in line — I have total control over that.”
His current operating cost: 78 cents a mile, with his truck long paid off, of course. His truck payment might have added around 20 more cents per mile to that, he says.
As he explains in the vid, his business sense, built from a very young age in agriculture, also set him up well for self-dispatch in Landstar’s network of independent freight agents. His use of the company’s in-house load board as both a barometer of the state of the market he specializes in — relatively short haul in and around Illinois — and a source of leads in the advance planning that comes with the territory was well in evidence during the day and longer we spent with him. Hear more about it in the video, and stay tuned for further reporting from the run in the near future.