Trucker of the Month

Muscle man

TomFrom overhauling the engine and transmission on his Peterbilt to rebuilding classic muscle cars in his garage, Frank Hockaday takes the hands-on approach to building his successful business.

By Lanier Norville

Whether he’s in a truck, bus or muscle car, or atop his Harley-Davidson, Frank Hockaday loves being on the road. He says it doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle it is, just as long as it goes.

Others may recognize his flare for all things mobile. Hockaday’s collection includes two 1964 Ford Galaxies, a 1972 Corvette convertible, a 1976 “Smoky & the Bandit”- style Pontiac Trans Am and two Harley-Davidsons. His 2000 Peterbilt 379 has an interior accented with chrome, a custom grille, fenders, headlights and light bar – quite an impressive rig considering he hauls aluminum and steel full-time with his own flatbed.

“Guys ask me all the time, ‘Do you take that to shows?’ And I say no. I don’t have anything to prove, it’s just something for me,” Hockaday says.

Frank Hockaday plans to retire in his 2000 Peterbilt 379.Frank Hockaday plans to retire in his 2000 Peterbilt 379.

The 62-year-old owner-operator has made working on trucks, cars and motorcycles his lifelong hobby and driving his longtime career. In his 29 years as an owner-operator, leased to CRST Malone, he has been accident-free and has received two safety awards from the company. He’s overhauled the engine and transmission on all three trucks he’s owned and fixed other owner-operators’ rigs at roadside. He spent 10 years restoring his 1972 Corvette from the suspension up, and he’s put in six months so far on the Trans Am.

“They’re never done,” he says. “There’s always more I want to do.”

His love of all things automotive and trucking began on a trip to Kansas in his dad’s International when he was in grade school. The two rode from their hometown, Moline, Ill., Hockaday’s lifelong home, hauling a load of corn.

“The motor blew up and he had to bring me back home on a bus. It was idyllic to me,” Hockaday says. He recalls watching his father bent over the engine, diagnosing the problem, and a tow truck pulling the rig away.

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“He was a gearhead, too,” Hockaday says of his father. “He taught me everything I know mechanically.”

Still, Hockaday wasn’t sure he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as an owner-operator. After graduating from Moline High School in 1966, he bounced between jobs for two years before he was drafted into the army. After his basic training in Missouri, he found work installing drywall and driving a straight truck for a construction company in California. But after 13 years, Hockaday grew restless.

“I needed to be outside, needed to be independent,” he says.

He moved home, asked his younger brother to teach him how to drive, and became the third son to follow in their father’s footsteps as an owner-operator. Frank Hockaday’s stepson Jerry has continued the legacy.

The eldest child of eight, Frank Hockaday often looked after his younger brothers and sisters while his father was on the road.

“I was like John Boy from ‘The Waltons,’” he says. “I was like the overseer for my mom.”

Hockaday says he didn’t want Jerry to choose a career that might leave little time for family.

Though Frank Hockaday drove over the road when his four children were young, he made time to be a dad, often by taking one of his children with him.

“He didn’t miss many ballgames,” says Jerry, who adds that overnight trips with Frank made a lasting impact.

Jerry enrolled in driving school at age 23 and leased to CRST Malone. This year marks his 10th with the company.

Today, Frank Hockaday says having Jerry in the business has benefits. The two often convoy, hauling steel on their covered-wagon flatbeds.

“There’s a lot of stuff I’ve done on my truck that when he was my age he probably wouldn’t try,” Jerry says. “Now, with him getting older, I work on his truck and mine a lot.”

Through careful planning, Hockaday has been able to spend most weekends at home. He chooses mostly regional loads and ensures that he’s punctual, professional and reliable.

Joyce Merriman, Hockaday’s dispatcher of 29 years, enjoys working with him. “He’s been with the company for such a long time and he’s worked with our agents for so long,” she says, “They know if they put a load on him, it’s going to get picked up and delivered on time, even if it’s a Friday night.” She adds that his clean-cut appearance and polished equipment help.

Hockaday netted $50,000 last year, after $16,000 of his operating costs went to overhauling the engine and transmission on his Peterbilt 379, which had nearly 1 million miles on it. He says only the head on his 550-hp Caterpillar 3406E was cracked, but doing the overhaul now instead of just a repair will save him money in the long run. He says he hopes it to last another million, though he says he hopes to retire it in three years.

When that time comes, he may restore cars professionally part time, or try to instill his lust for classic cars in his grandchildren.

“I’ll do something,” he says. “I can’t sit still.” n

Trucker trivia

A 1964 FORD GALAXIE (above) is Hockaday’s favorite car. The restored vehicle is nearly identical to the one he drove as a teenager. His wife drives a matching 1964 Galaxie, though hers has air-conditioning.

FIVE HOCKADAYS have been leased to CRST Malone, starting with Frank’s father. Two of his brothers and stepson are leased to the company. “They all get along so well,” says Joyce Merriman, Frank Hockaday’s dispatcher.

Jerry Hockaday’s earliest memory of his stepfather, Frank Hockaday, is in this truck. “It was an ugly truck,” Jerry says . I remember him bringing it home for the first time and hopping up in there. I was probably 5.”Jerry Hockaday’s earliest memory of his stepfather, Frank Hockaday, is in this truck. “It was an ugly truck,” Jerry says . I remember him bringing it home for the first time and hopping up in there. I was probably 5.”

Frank Hockaday

1947 Born Nov. 12

1966 Graduates from Moline High School

1971 Daughter Kelli is born

1973 Daughter Danielle is born

1981 Moves home to Moline and became an owner-operator with the purchase of his first truck, a 1979 White cabover

1982 Marries Deborah McCoy, who had two children, Jerry and Mindy

1986 Buys 1981 Freightliner cabover with a double-bunk

2005 Buys current truck, 2000 Peterbilt 379

2002 CRST Malone awards Hockaday with a 2 million-mile safety award

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