This episode Troy and Connor take a look at what it takes to become an owner-operator and how these unique drivers fit into the trucking industry. We’ll hear from the OOIDA’s PR Director, Norita Taylor on their involvement in the owner-operator community. Additionally, listen to learn about the Make-A-Wish Trucking Convoy with the organization’s regional director, Ben Lee… It’s an event you won’t want to miss!
Big Rig Banter – Episode 15 Transcript – Everything Owner Operators- Full Transcript
Music – Whether you’re hitting the road or kicking back in the cab, it’s time to take a load off with Big Rig Banter, powered by AllTruckJobs.com, your source for finding the trucking jobs drivers really want. Get ready to shift into gear and let the conversations roll.
Connor: Hello, and welcome to the 15th episode of Big Rig Banter, a show about all things trucking and transportation related. I’m your co-host, Connor Smith.
Troy: And I’m your co-host, Troy Diffenderfer.
Connor: Today’s date is May 2nd, 2018, and today we’re talking all about owner operators, what it takes to become one, some of the challenges involved, the distinct benefits, and how you can get the most out of your owner operator career. We have a lot of great interviews this episode: The OOIDA’s PR director, and we’ll also hear from Ben Lee, the Regional Director for the Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation about their upcoming Mother’s Day Trucking Convoy. But first, we’re gonna bring you some of the latest news in the trucking world.
Connor: Alright, so Troy, what do you have for us today for our first news topic?
Troy: Yeah you know, Connor, it wouldn’t be a proper Big Rig Banter episode if we didn’t talk about ELDs. They’re always in the news, and this is a news article from Trucks.com, and it basically talks about the issues that many small-business truckers are having with the new ELD implementation. As you know, strict enforcement of the ELD rule kicked in on April 1st, following a three and a half month grace period that allowed truckers to implement the ELDs and get used to them. So now, commercial vehicle inspectors can place truckers without an ELD out of service for ten hours, which can definitely cause some problems. But, this article details some of the issues that many small-business truckers are having. One trucker’s ELD device actually caught on fire and he had to throw it out the window while he was driving down the highway, and then he eventually had to incur a $1,900 bill just to repair his rig and replace the ELD. Another trucker had an issue where the ELD was telling him that his check engine light was coming on and a bunch of other default codes were flashing, and he reached out to the manufacturer and they were unable to get back to him for at least four or five days which, again, is also another issue, and I think these types of issues are gonna become more common as we adjust to the new ELD implementations. It’s gonna be a lot of growing pains, so it’ll be interesting to see how these laws are still enforced. Many small business owners are citing monetary issues when it comes to just financing their rig with an ELD.
Connor: Right and so, you know, you’ll hear Norita Taylor, the PR director of the OOIDA, talk about this issue a little later in the show, but you know just to reiterate, she mentions how ELDs are being almost forced on owner operators/small business owners as a way of driving out competition from bigger trucking companies, you know? So really, because we’re talking about owner operators today, this is especially relevant. I just think because highlighting these kind of dangers and the costs and bills incurred from ELDS, that’s just another aspect of why they are not welcome in the owner operator community.
Troy: Yeah that’s right. That’s definitely a common feeling among truckers, but what do you have next for us on news topics?
Connor: Well, today I’ve got the latest on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Board of Directors approved organizations priorities for 2018…that’s a mouthful. Basically, what we’re talking about here is the priorities for the trucking industry in terms of the research topics that this institute’s going to be looking into for the year. Among the topics and subjects included in this report we have inconsistencies and CDL testing, they will look to review the range of requirements for CDL testing across states and identify best practices to develop an effective set of testing requirements, and that makes sense in light of the lowered age for CDLs in some places, so I think that’s probably all lining up to be a little more regulated, or at least we’re seeing some shifts there in terms of getting actual CDLs.
Troy: Yeah, and that’s something we talked about in our previous episode. I believe it’s the one covering trucking school, so that’s definitely something to take a look at if you’re just getting into the industry as well.
Connor: Absolutely. And the next priority is dealing with autonomous impacts on truckers. Essentially, they’re gonna be providing a detailed analysis of how autonomous truck technologies will change the operational environment and driving requirements for commercial drivers and, of course, this is everything from Uber Freight, to Tesla’s self-driving vehicles, to just apps in the industry for different types of freight models, and I wrote a blog covering the sort of approach that Uber is taking with their trucks and their apps being able to sync. You can read that over on our AllTruckJobs blog.
Troy: And again, luckily for you, folks we have an entire episode dedicated to autonomous trucks, so feel free to check that out as well.
Connor: Of course we do. And we also have in our last episode from April is covering marijuana in the trucking industry, and that is also on the list of priorities. They’re going to be looking into the best practices for cannabis intoxication testing. So, essentially, that means exploring the best approaches in the US and abroad in terms of being able to measure intoxication while under the influence of cannabis, and how that can be applied to the trucking industry because, as we know, it’s extremely strict being a trucker. You’re regulated by the FMCSA, which is a federal organization, and marijuana is still federally illegal, so there’s that discrepancy. So, we may see some change there, at least we’ll see some research in that area of nothing else. Other items on this list of priorities include assessing the consistency and accuracy of CMV crash data, the role and impact of government regulations on autonomous vehicles, and urban planning and smart city design for trucks. So, it definitely seems like those three go together in terms of being able to plan out these new technologies, how they’re going to be interacting with autonomous roadways, and how cities can be designed to be safer for both pedestrians and truckers. So, a lot of research to be done this year, but all on issues that we’ve covered, and I think a lot of you listeners are curious about as well. So, that’s a whole bunch of stuff. We’ll have a link below; you can check those out in a little bit more detail. And so, now, I think we’re ready to go on to our main topic section for the day, and that’s going to be covering all things owner-operators as we said. And while we’re at it, head over to AllTruckJobs if you’re looking for owner operator jobs. You can search by whatever criteria you need to, to find the perfect job for you and your career. So again, that’s AllTruckJobs.com.
Troy: Yeah, and AllTruckJobs isn’t just about jobs. We actually provide some other great resources including an awesome blog that yours truly and Connor as well have provided content for, as well as other things like truck stop directories or school directories in case you’re still looking to get into the driving industry, so be sure to check that out.
Connor: That’s right. Tons of great stuff on there, including this podcast, which you’re listening to now. So let’s get down to business then. Talk about owner-operators: who they are, what they do, how to become one, all that good stuff. So, Troy, why don’t you just start off by telling us a little bit about the general profile of who owner-operators are as a group, and just how they fit into the trucking industry?
Troy: Yeah that’s right, Connor. Currently, there are approximately 350,000 owner-operators registered in the United States. While most lease on larger carriers and operate under that carrier’s DOT numbers, there’s still a lot of true owner operators that own their own rig and basically are their own boss. While most owner operators are in their 40s and 50s, there’s still a new generation of younger truckers who are starting to pursue a career as an owner-operator. Luckily, later in the show we’ll speak with one millennial who is about to pursue a career as an owner-operator, and he’ll be able to give some of his perspective on what the job entails and what the process was like becoming an owner operator. Just to throw some more stats at you, the average age of an owner operator is 55 years old, about 95 percent of them run solo, and they usually average around a hundred thousand miles driving per year. So it definitely takes a unique type of person to become an owner operator, but if you think it’s the right career path for you, again, feel free to check out our jobs page. But Connor, what do you got for us?
Connor: So, when you’re thinking about becoming an owner operator, thinking about the steps involved, a lot of that comes down to operating under your own authority. Becoming an owner operator essentially gives you the freedom to be your own boss, and while the freedom of being on the open road is nice, the freedom of being able to dictate your travel and schedule is pretty much priceless, especially in an industry that is increasing its regulations, hours of service laws, and things that are really just kind of, you know, removing that autonomy from the business. If that’s a gripe that you have, definitely consider becoming an owner operator if you can afford it, which we’ll talk about a little later in the show here. And, while it might seem like a huge commitment for many people, it’s the perfect solution to fixing your work-life balance, so you can ensure you’re spending the most time with people you care about and still driving the type of jobs that you want to drive, going where you want to go, and, like I said, dictating your own schedule. So you know, when you’re doing that, when you’re starting out, the most basic equipment you need is your rig, even though there’s a lot that goes into that. So first off, you’re gonna be thinking about either purchasing or leasing a rig. That’s the most basic way to start becoming an owner operator is to buy or lease your own rig, and with these two options, the first being a flat-out purchase. That usually comes with previous financial stability, experience in the industry, knowing that this is definitely the approach you want to take, and for many people, this is the best sort of decision if they don’t want to be renting a rig, dealing with those extra costs, or having to make payments on a lease. If they’re just ready to go, ready to become an owner operator it, can’t afford it, buying is usually a good method to take. But you know, if you want to ease into it a little bit more or your finances aren’t exactly lined up to buy a rig because they’re very expensive, leasing is another great option, and this allows you to work while you make payments on your rig. So again, if you’re committed to the profession, if being an owner operator is something you want to do and you’re definitely going to be able to follow through with your payments on the rig, then this is a good way to really break into this section of the industry. And so, after you’ve got your rig, after you’ve got that figured out, the next huge area of becoming an owner operator is you have to find your own freight. So, Troy, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the process involved with that?
Troy: Yeah, if you’re not working under a specific company, you’re gonna be tasked with finding your own loads to haul, and one way to find freight is to simply find a job with a company. That’s definitely possible, you can sign on basically as a contractor where you’ll still be taking care of your own rig, but the company will provide you with the freight to haul. While you’ll technically be working with them, you’ll still have the freedom of driving yourself, and you’ll also have some say when it comes to creating your own schedule. And then another option that these truly independent owner operators use is to use a freight broker, and that is a site, for example 123LoadBoard. It’s basically an eBay for freight types where you’ll essentially bid on a load and then go pick it up and drop it off. That’ll give you the ability to find loads that you want to transport, and it gives you the freedom to make your own schedule and pick and choose where you want to go.
Connor: Right, and I’m sure there are multiple different freight brokering websites, right?
Troy: For sure.
Connor: That’s just one example that we have. So you know, always browse around, try to feel out the one that serves your needs best as a driver. And so, we’re gonna go more into the specific benefits and drawbacks that are available to owner-operators, the first of which is the earning potential. An owner/operator can make around a hundred thousand dollars per year, which is a great salary in terms of other driving jobs, and even just general professions in the US economy. So you know, when you’re making your own schedule, when you’re choosing your own loads, when you want to work, where you want to work, it gives you a lot more flexibility, but it also allows you to pick ideal loads for your situation, and that really adds up over time, especially if you already own your own rig and you have all those finances kind of taken care of, you’re not paying anything to another company, to dispatchers, or anyone else involved with managing your jobs. It’s all you, so you make all that income. I mean, of course you’re gonna have your own specific payments to make and your own equipment costs and repair costs, but it’s the way to go if that’s something that is manageable for you.
Troy: Yeah, and another great owner/operator benefit is the tax breaks that you can get. There are actually a variety of different tax deductions that an owner operator can take advantage of. Business-related loan means you can get some tax relief if you end up taking a loan to pay for your rig. I know the overhead cost can be pretty steep, but if you do take a loan to kind of help you out, that’s a great tax break to take advantage of. Another tax break that you can take advantage of is maintenance and accident repairs. If your rig gets in an accident or you have to make any extraneous repairs, you can actually get some tax deductions for that, which is definitely nice. If you want to know some of the other tax breaks you’re eligible for, check out one of our recent blogs. I took a deep dive into tax deductions for truckers, and we will leave that link in the show notes.
Connor: Absolutely. So now, we’re gonna hear from the OOIDA’s PR director, Norita Taylor. I was able to sit down with her and talk and ask some really key questions in terms of what’s involved with becoming an owner/operator, the state of this sector of the driving industry today, and we also touched on some of the OOIDA’s positions on upcoming regulations and the ELD mandate, so let’s take a listen to that right now.
Connor: Alright, we’re here with Norita Taylor, Public Relations Director for the OOID, that’s the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. Norita, thanks so much for coming on the show and talking to us today.
Norita: You bet.
Connor: So, this episode is all about owner operators, the distinct challenges they face, and some of the unique aspects of the job, and so first off, I just wanted to ask you how an owner operator is different from other drivers?
Norita: Well you know, first let me point out that sometimes truck drivers go back and forth between the different types of roles. You know, they may start out as a company driver and then later on become an owner operator, or it’s not unheard of for someone to end a career as an owner operator and maybe in their later years go back to being a company driver. But to answer your question, one of the main differences is that with an owner operator, it’s beyond a job, it’s a business. It’s a small business, it’s something that there’s maybe a little higher level of commitment. Maybe they all have a niche market that they operate for or regular customers. They might even have their own authority, so it’s just a little bit more involved.
Connor: Absolutely, and kind of going off that, what are some of the specific challenges that owner-operators face across the industry?
Norita: Sure. Well, when you’re an owner operator, you are a small business and you’re responsible for all the finances related to operating your business hauling goods, whereas a company driver is provided a truck and pretty much told where to go. With an owner/operator, you are responsible for finding loads and responsible for maintaining your equipment, making all the purchases related to it, permits if it’s applicable, so there’s a higher-level of responsibility, which is also a good reason to be a member of our association
Connor: Perfect. Yeah so I mean, of course there are unique challenges, but then what are the specific benefits to being an owner operator? Why would someone choose that as opposed to being a company driver or something like that?
Norita: Well when you’re an owner operator, you can decide what kind of business you want to run, what kind of loads you want to haul, what kind of a business model, you can pick your own equipment, pick your own truck, maybe even pick the type of trailer you want to have, if you’re gonna be a flatbed or dry van or an auto hauler…all these different kind of options that you have for the type of business that you want to run. And also, when freight rates are good, that’s good for you. That’s an advantage for you, whereas a company driver, while there may be some raises involved, it’s not likely that you’re gonna reap as many benefits from it.
Connor: Right. So, another huge issue I know just across the trucking industry in general is that there’s a major driver shortage right now, so what role do you think owner operators can play in helping solve that driver shortage?
Norita: Well the role that they can help play in addressing the driver shortage is pointing out that there is no driver shortage; it’s basically a myth. What you do have is a major retention issue in trucking, a lot of high turnover, and a lot of that is because of low pay, working conditions, and oppressive regulations. And so, what needs to happen is that some of the regulations need to change, companies need to pay more, and they need to offer more home time.
Connor: Absolutely. And so, that kind of leads me to my next point. You know, the trucking industry in general is always trying to recruit younger drivers as the veterans retire and everything, so do you think becoming an owner operator is particularly attractive to young drivers, like Millennials?
Norita: Probably not. Any person who’s starting any kind of business should spend some years getting to know that business working as an employee, and so it’s probably not something that a person, I mean, depending on what age frame you’re talking about, my recommendation to anyone wanting to become an owner operator is to spend a few years as a company driver first.
Connor: Absolutely. That does sound like a probably a better tactic for most younger people, especially with the startup cost and all of that associated, right?
Connor: And so, something else that has been in the headlines recently, and is still in headlines and people are always talking about it, is the recent ELD mandate. Could you tell us a little bit about the OOIDA’s position on ELDs and this mandate?
Norita: Sure. Well first, we do need to make a distinction between the use of electronic logging devices and the mandate. We have been challenging the mandate for several years. It is our convinced contention that it is not a safety measure, but rather something that big trucking has pushed for in order to drive out their small business competitors. Now we don’t have a problem with anybody who wants to use some sort of electronic device for logging their hours. For years and years there were companies that have used what are called fleet management systems that incorporate what’s called an AOBRD, and those are still being used today, but what we have an objection to is mandating that everyone use them.
Connor: Absolutely. And so, what are some ways that your organization and your drivers are pushing back on this issue?
Norita: Well, you know, for a number of years we have pushed back by way of lawsuits. There’s been two lawsuits: the first lawsuit we won and the second lawsuit we did not win. We’ve also filed for an exemption for small-business truckers, and that exemption request along with several other exemption requests from other organizations is still pending with the FMCSA. We have also been pushing for a bill that was introduced by representative Brian Babbitt out of Texas that would delay the mandate for a period of time. So, those are some of the things that we’ve been doing.
Connor: Well, perfect. Thanks so much, Norita, for taking the time to talk to us. That was a lot of great information, and I’m sure all of our readers and listeners are gonna gain a lot of value out of just this whole conversation in general, so thank you for coming on.
Norita: You bet.
Connor: Alright again, a very special thanks to Norita Taylor for taking the time to talk to us there. A lot of great information, and be sure to check out the OOIDA’s website. They have a lot of great resources on there for owner-operators, and if you join their organization, you have their support working as an independent driver. So that never hurts, right? But this is a good segue into some of the issues faced by owner operators. We touched on it a little bit, and the OOIDA is a pretty prominent voice in opposing some of these regulations and these changes that affect independent drivers. The first of those issues is the ELD mandate issue, and Norita did talk about this a bit, how larger trucking companies aren’t hurt by this as much as small businesses because they can kind of make the proper adjustments to their finances in order to get all of these ELDs in their trucks, whereas independent business owners have to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars just to use something that they don’t necessarily want or need. It’s just, you know, to meet those hours of service regulation requirements, and you know, it makes sense, I guess, from a federal standpoint to try and want to put something like that in place, but it doesn’t really fit into the model of most owner/operators. So if that’s something that is really resonating with you as well, you can go and read more about this issue on the OOIDA’s website. They have their full reasoning laid out there, their points to make, and as she was mentioning as well, you know they’ve taken several lawsuits up just to fight this mandate, so they’re definitely pushing against things that they don’t agree with and that’s admirable. And so, the next issue we’ll talk about is the turnpike tolls becoming more expensive, and I do believe we have a blog written on this as well on AllTruckJobs.
Troy: Yeah, that’s right. The turnpike tolls continue to increase, and this might be an issue that many truckers don’t really think about. If you’re working for a company, usually they will cover those via an EZ Pass or some sort of reimbursement, but as an owner-operator you might be footing that bill, so it’s important to kind of keep an eye out on those tolls and really decide what routes you’d like to take when traveling because they might seem small, but they can certainly stack up.
Connor: Absolutely, yeah, and our next issue we’ll talk about here is sleep apnea and how it applies to owner-operators. Of course, we have a blog on our AllTruckJobs website, which is detailing these laws and recently, there’s been a bit of confusion as to whether or not there are any new laws for the DOT’s recommendations for sleep apnea, and that’s what this blog actually covers. For starters, there is actually no new law on the DOT’s physical sleep apnea regulations. As it stands today, the US Department of Transportation, the DOT, does not require sleep apnea testing for truck drivers. However, they do require that truck drivers get a medical examination in order to hold a CDL license. The medical examiner is actually the one who decides if the driver needs sleep apnea testing from that point on. The DOT says that it’s up to your medical examiner whether or not your medical condition will interfere with your driving, and if diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea, you’re considered unsafe to drive and will lose your CDL until you’re treated for sleep apnea and deemed safe to drive again by your medical examiner. Essentially, whoever examines you during your CDL physical will determine your sleep apnea status and therefore your ability to safely drive. That seems pretty straightforward, but why is there all this confusion? Really, it stems from the fact that government officials can’t make up their minds, because last year the DOT did plan to pass a new law on physical sleep apnea that would require sleep apnea testing for drivers for all drivers, even owner-operators. Medical examiners, carrier employees and drivers, lots of different industry professionals, all hope that this law would actually give the industry more direction in terms of how to deal with this issue. However, that law never actually passed, and upon President Donald Trump’s election, he did reduce regulations across many different industries and trucking was one of them. As a result, government officials ended up scrapping this proposed law. And so, some feel that the government should regulate truck drivers with sleep apnea. Others feel it’s unnecessary and invasive, so we’re not exactly sure how to deal with this just yet. So that’s definitely something that affects owner operators in terms of their ability to keep their career on the right path. It’s just unnecessary, you know, if you have this condition. I mean, it’s a serious condition, don’t get me wrong, you can have massive heart problems because of it, and getting the right amount of sleep is incredibly important in staying healthy while you’re on the road and staying focused, but at the same time, for the government to be that nitpicky about whether or not you sleep well or your sleeping habits…if you feel great and you can function well and you can drive efficiently, that’s really what should matter, but many people have different opinions on this. It’s just something to consider.
Troy: Yeah and as always, we’ll keep you guys updated if any new laws get passed or any other chatter surfaces, but I think it’s time we wrap up this segment. We hope you have a good handle on becoming an owner/operator and if it’s something that you would enjoy, feel free to reach out to us. AllTruckJobs.com has plenty of owner/operator positions, and we’d be happy to find you guys the ideal assignment. But Connor, before we get into the fun topics, we have a new segment that we’re unveiling today.
Connor: Yeah, that’s right. We’re gonna be starting some industry spotlights. We normally do a main topic section and kind of really dig into that there, but you know, before we head to the fun section, we’re gonna be including smaller, almost mini subtopics here.
Troy: Yeah, you know, that could be a current event that’s going on, it could be a charity organization like we’re gonna talk about on this episode, or it could just be someone that we think you would like to hear from that’s involved in the trucking industry.
Connor: That’s right, and this episode we’re gonna hear from Ben Lee the Regional Director for the Make-a-Wish foundation chapter of Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & the Susquehanna Valley about their upcoming event this Mother’s Day, so let’s hear that interview now.
Connor: Okay, so we’re here with Ben Lee, the Regional Director for the Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the Make-a-Wish foundation here today to talk about the trucking convoy on Mother’s Day. Ben, thanks so much for coming on the show and talking to us.
Ben: My absolute pleasure to be here! There’s nothing I love doing more this time of year than talking about our signature event.
Connor: Perfect! So why don’t you start by giving us a little bit of background on the Make-a-Wish convoy and how it all got started?
Ben: Well it’s really a fascinating question and the answer is remarkable. There’s really no way that a convoy of this size could ever start today in 2018, there’s just too many moving parts, it’s too complicated. The convoy began very organically. People ask me, “Does Make-a-Wish across the country host similar convoy events?” and my answer is, “by no means.” This event started with a singular child’s wish. Young Matt was a Make-a-Wish kid in 1990, and his wish was elegantly simple. Matt wished to be able to ride in a big rig truck and talk to his sister Heather on a CB radio. So, a call went out to the local truck driving community, and about 40 truckers came out to the grocery store parking lot that day on Mother’s Day in 1990, and Matt sat in the front truck and his sister Heather was somewhere near the back, and they drove all over Lancaster County, and Matt got to fulfill his wish of riding in a truck and talking to his sister on a CB radio. And the guys had such a great time doing that that they wanted to come back next year, and they barbecued some chicken, invited some other past Wish kids to come out and ride in a truck, and boy, I’ll tell you, fast forward 29 years and seven plus million dollars later, the convoy has come into its own.
Troy: And Ben, the theme this year is “26 miles 50 wishes.” Can you tell us some more about that?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. 26 miles is the length of the convoy. it begins at the Burle Business Park right in Lancaster, and then it heads north right through scenic Amish country. It’s a beautiful 26-mile loop from start to finish. By our best estimates, some 25,000 people line the convoy route to cheer on the close to 600 truck drivers and about 125 Wish kids who participate in the convoy, and you know it’s interesting, a good percentage of those viewers on the roadside are the Amish community here in Lancaster County. It’s really interesting, isn’t it? A lot of people are shocked to see it, but they line the roadways. They come out after church on Sunday and they cheer on the trucks, and one of the reasons for that is we grant a lot of Amish themed wishes out here in Lancaster County. There’s kids in those communities who have the identical critical illnesses, life-threatening medical conditions, that the rest of our kids have in the community, and we grant their wishes, and this is one of the ways they give back. They save up money and they donate it to the convoy, and they come out to cheer everybody on. So the theme of 26 miles 50 wishes…the convoy rolls 26 miles through scenic, beautiful Lancaster County, and the 50 wishes is our goal this year for the number of wishes that we want this year’s fundraising event to be able to grant. So we’ve got a lot of money ahead of us we need to track down.
Connor: Absolutely, and we’re sure you’ll do great. So what can we expect, what can the patrons and participants expect, from the convoy carnival this year?
Ben: Yeah, well I’m really glad you asked. This is oftentimes the most mysterious or least recognized part of the event. So, of course the convoy itself is a huge draw. I mentioned the 25,000 people who watch it, but the convoy departs at 1:30 and prior to that, we host an all-day long family fun carnival here at the Burle Business Park, the largest parking lot in the county. About five to seven thousand people come out, and they enjoy the carnival food, the live entertainment, the games for kids, and the live auction. Probably 50 to 70 costume characters are walking around interacting with families; it’s a great day. We have fun vendors, the convoy carnival itself will raise about a hundred thousand dollars. When the public comes out and participates and all that we have to do together so we love hosting many thousands of our closest friends at the carnival.
Troy: What can truckers expect if they decide to participate in the convoy? How do you guys kind of pitch truckers to get them to participate?
Ben: Well I know your guys’s work, you interact with the truck driving community a good bit and so do we this time of year, and I’ve learned so much about truck drivers since coming to this position with Make-a-Wish. I don’t come from a specific truck driving background, but pretty much from December until June the truck driving world becomes my world, and I sometimes travel down to some of the big truck shows like Matt’s down there in Louisville and get a chance to really know this this particular, peculiar community known as the truck driving community. So guys always ask, they want to know, does it cost to participate in the convoy? We don’t talk about it as a cost; we refer to it as one hundred dollars begins your fundraising. The average truck driver raises about 400 dollars creatively through all different means to be able to participate, but a hundred dollars is what we ask any guy or gal to be able to contribute to the event fundraising totals that day. And you can certainly pre-register online, but you know, as you as you do as well, a lot of truck drivers don’t know their schedule ahead of time. They wake up on a Monday and really don’t know what that week is going to hold, so we always invite drivers to register the day of the event. They can show up to Lancaster that morning, Sunday May 13th, and registration opens at 6:00 a.m. if they want to join us.
Connor: Fantastic, and we’ll have this out in time, so hopefully that message gets heard by even more truckers, they can join in. So what have been some of the past responses that you’ve gotten from participants, some of the feedback, and maybe their favorite things about the event?
Ben: Well, I think what we hear again and again is what I have come to refer to this event as the world’s most positive expression of the truck driving community. I sometimes will joke with our truck drivers that they get told throughout the year sometimes that they’re number one as somebody holds up a loan middle finger on the highway, not really appreciating truck drivers for what they do. You and I know that if you got it, somebody brought it, and we have a trucker to thank for that, but in Lancaster County, especially around the time of the Mother’s Day Truck Convoy, truck drivers are held in very high esteem around here. People when they see a truck, when they see a driver, they see somebody who has chosen to share their Mother’s Day with this event in support of granting the one true wish of a local child with a critical illness, and so what I think drivers have come to really enjoy about the day is it’s a moment in time when their industry, their profession, is applauded and given the gratitude that they deserve. Of course, practically speaking, drivers they love coming out. We’re anticipating about 600 professional truck drivers to bring their truck and trailers to the event this year, and so they’ll get a chance to hang out and interact with truck drivers. They’ll park their truck, they’ll enjoy some complimentary beverages in the driver hospitality tent, they’ll go buy a chicken barbecue or a burger for lunch, they’ll hang out, enjoy the live entertainment, and it’s just a great bit of camaraderie. You know, these guys spend a lot of their life alone in a cab on the road, and it’s just a great chance to hang out with other truck drivers, and about 125 of them will have a Wish kid and a Wish family riding with them, honking the horn and having a good time.
Troy: And you know, Ben, how else can people participate or contribute to Make-a-Wish if maybe they can’t make it out to the convoy?
Ben: Yeah. I know that a lot of people want to be involved in contributing to the goal of granting 50 wishes from this year’s effort. Anybody can go to the convoy website, which is http://www.WishConvoy.org. They can make a donation to the event that way. If they know a truck driver that is participating in the event, they can give directly to a truck driver’s fundraising totals by searching for their name. There’s a number of ways that somebody can make a difference, and I would certainly just invite your audience, if they had any questions about the best way to watch the convoy, how to get involved, or maybe even want to ride in the convoy, to pick up the phone or shoot me an email, and we’d love to talk to them because we’re not far away. We’re about two and a half weeks away from this year’s 29th annual event, and we’re hopping. It’s going to be a great year.
Connor: Well fantastic. Ben, we wish you all the best, and we’re sure the event is going to go off without a hitch. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up for the bit?
Ben: We do appreciate all of the sponsors that we have that make the convoy possible, certainly financially, but using their platform just like you guys are doing. We appreciate you both, Troy and Connor, for helping us spread the good word and letting drivers out there who would love to be a part and haven’t yet heard about the convoy get a chance to be involved this year.
Connor: We’ve been speaking to Ben Lee, the Regional Director for the Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the Make-a-Wish foundation about the Make-a-Wish trucking convoy this Mother’s Day. Ben, thank you so much for coming on the show and giving us a rundown of this great event.
Ben: My pleasure, guys. Thank you so much.
Connor: Alright and so again, a special thanks to Ben Lee for coming on the show and telling us a little bit more about the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the trucker convoy event. Again, that’s on Mother’s Day this month, so check it out if you’re in the area. Next, we’re gonna hear an interview between our team member Lenay Ruhl and Greg Bremer, a driver in the trucking convoy, to get his perspective on the event. Let’s take a listen.
Lenay: Hi, this is Lenay Ruhl, and I’m here today with Greg Bremer, a driver for A&S Kinard in York. Greg is joining us to share his experience driving in the 2018 Mother’s Day Truck Convoy here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Greg, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, like how long you’ve been driving, and what kind of rig you have?
Greg: I’ve been driving for just about seven years, and for A&S Kinard I drive a 2018 Volvo.
Lenay: Alright, very cool, and have you participated in the convoy before?
Greg: Yes, this is actually my second year participating. Last year I was part of the Lancaster Convoy as well.
Lenay: Alright, and can you describe what the convoy is like for those who have never been there?
Greg: It’s kind of like a carnival atmosphere. Before the trucks roll out there’s carnival games and food vendors and people walking around, and then once the trucks roll out, the entire town from Lancaster City all the way up to Ephrata, there are just people parked watching along the side of 222 and 322, just people as far as you can see; everybody cheering everybody on. It’s truly a moving experience.
Lenay: Yeah it sounds really exciting. What do you look forward to the most about the convoy?
Greg: It’s a great fundraiser, but the best part of it for me is seeing the smile on the Wish children’s face when they get to hop up in your truck and go for the ride.
Lenay: And what do you think their favorite part of the convoy is?
Greg: It’s definitely the ride. They love it. I’ve had friends that have done multiple convoys years in a row with the same Wish child, and it’s the highlight of their year.
Lenay: Alright, so does each trucker get a child in their car? How does that work?
Greg: You can sign up for one. Last year my mother actually rode with me as a Mother’s Day gift for her because the convoy had been something I had always wanted to do since I got my commercial license. You can sign up to have a Wish child. You don’t have to have one, but a lot of guys do.
Lenay: Alright, very cool. Do you think you’ll have one this year?
Greg: I will probably have one for the Lancaster Convoy. I’m not sure about the Gettysburg Convoy. I’m running in both this year.
Lenay: Okay, I didn’t realize there were a bunch of them.
Greg: Oh yes.
Lenay: I guess they’re on different days then?
Greg: Yeah, they’re one week apart. The Gettysburg convoy’s May 6 and then the Mother’s Day convoy is obviously Mother’s Day, May 13th.
Lenay: Right, and I guess A&S is a sponsor, so I’m assuming you have a bunch of drivers from the company that are participating then?
Greg: Yeah, there’s a few of us doing the Gettysburg convoy, and there’ll be a few of us at the Lancaster convoy as well.
Lenay: Alright, cool, well you’ll have to send us some pictures when you get back. Do you have any from last year?
Greg: I probably do somewhere. I’ll find them and then send them to you guys.
Lenay: Alright, awesome. Well, have a good time at the convoy, and thanks for sharing!
Connor: And now it’s time for our fun topic section. So let’s get started, shall we? As you know, in two days it’s May the Fourth be with you, and so it got us thinking, who would make the best trucker in the Star Wars universe?
Troy: Yeah, we hope you truckers out there are Star Wars fans so it gives you something to think about. I, personally, am not a huge Star Wars fan, but it definitely got me thinking. What about you, Connor?
Connor: Yeah, I’m all about Star Wars. You know, it was the first movie I saw in theaters.
Connor: Episode 1, and that’s a similar experience that many lifelong fans have had from the 70s on, so I’m into it, you know what I mean? I know some lore, I know some facts and statistics and all that good stuff. Extended universe, get at me.
Troy: Alright, I’ve actually only ever seen the most recent one and to be fully honest, I had to point and say, “who’s that?” and then my friend leaned over and was like “that’s Princess Leia,” so I was not aware of many of the characters. I know what Yoda looks like. He’s the little green goblin, and I know R2D2 is the robot, and then you got the bronze chrome guy that also is a robot, C3PO, right?
Connor: They’re called droids, Troy.
Troy: So I got them, and then I know Han Solo drives the ship, and that’s about it, but uh, let’s go. Connor, who’s your ideal Star Wars trucker?
Connor: Well I don’t even know if I should even tell you cause you’re just gonna be like “well who’s that?”
Troy: No I got it, I’ve got a handle on them.
Connor: Hmm, well you know what? Then I’m gonna go straight for a fan favorite. I’m gonna say Boba Fett would be the best trucker. Do you know who that is?
Troy: Yeah, I know him. He has the helmet on, and that’s all I know. I know he wears the helmet that looks like a big industrial kind of welding helmet, but that’s all I know, so why don’t you tell us some more about Boba Fett?
Connor: That’s pretty good, that’s pretty close. Yeah, well first of all, he’s a bounty hunter, so he’s used to long hauls in distant portions of the universe where, you know, the conditions might not be known. He might be picking up a shipment from some smugglers on Raxus Prime, acidic sludge everywhere, and he has to really plan his routes out ahead of time because if he gets into the wrong situation, it’s gonna be the last shipment that he makes. So, my vote for the best trucker is Boba Fett. Plus, you know, he’s got a cool ship, Slave One, there’s a lot of storage space in that thing, and it’s one of the speediest ships in the in the galaxy, rivaled only perhaps by the Millennium Falcon.
Troy: Alright, I’m gonna go with Han Solo. Isn’t he really like the OG owner/operator? He drives his own Millennium Falcon and I mean, I think he’d be a great trucker. He knows the galaxy well, he travels it all the time, and so he would really know where he’s going. So I feel like Han Solo, he’s reliable, I mean, he’s spoiler alert, he’s dead now.
Troy: But if he was alive, I feel like he’d be the great trucker and he’d be the ideal owner/operator as well. But if you guys have an opinion on who would make the best trucker in the Star Wars universe, feel free to drop us a comment below, send us a message on Facebook or Twitter, we really want to know. And of course, May the Fourth be with you this Friday.
Connor: And also with you. Now we pray.
Troy: Alright Connor, I think it’s time to wrap things up for us.
Connor: Yep, that’s right. Thanks again, everybody, for listening to our episode on owner-operators. Next episode, in June, we’re gonna be talking about women and trucking, some of the challenges they face, and some of the positions that are available and companies looking for women drivers, so be sure to give that a listen when we publish it, but again, thanks for tuning in. I’m your co-host, Connor Smith.
Troy: And I’m your co-host Troy Diffenderfer.
Connor: And this has been Big Rig Banter.
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