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Driver Lifestyles

Driver Profile – Experiences in a Cube Van

By Jeff Jensen
Posted Oct 8th 2002 10:53AM
Driver Profile – Experiences in a Cube Van
"With our little truck we can go places most of the bigger trucks are not allowed, and most ofthe truck stops will allow us to park in the car parking

Jeff Jensen
Senior Field Editor

Senior Field Editor Jeff Jensen

“Expediting as a career; well, we finally feel that after all these years, we have both found the ideal career for us.” Our Driver Profile this time around takes a slightly different approach.

It's the story of a husband/wife expediting team and their experience in this business with a vehicle that's a little out of the mainstream of the "traditional" expediting truck, a cube van. Their story is yet another example of the varied and diverse backgrounds of the people that discover the career of expediting.

Wanda and Roger Sanders are owner/operators leased to Panther II Transportation since May of 1998. They go by the screen names and CB handles of Sierra and Warlock, respectively. For the purposes of this article, Wanda is the spokesperson for this couple.

"Roger is 50, born in Moline, IL and spent the first 21 years of his life there. He started off at 14 working for his stepdad in the family business, a full service gas station.

Over the next few decades, Roger worked in a variety of fields including the scrap business, hauling steel and driving a variety of sizes and types of trucks, including seven years with Schneider. He got out of trucking while our kids were in high school and became a weighmaster for a scrap yard. Just before getting into expediting he drove passenger vans as ground transportation for rail road crews."

Wanda tells of her background: "I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA, spent the first 30 years of my life there. I am now 41. I graduated from California State University at Sacramento with a Bachelors of Business Administration, with a minor in accounting. Roger and I met when I was 16 and he was instrumental in seeing that I went to college. We were married in 1979 and have 2 children, Goldie (20) and Roger Jr. (19)."

"I began my working life with a petroleum tanker manufacturer while I was still in school. I have worked as an office manager for an insurance company, worked for a local parcel service driving vans and straight trucks and then became the office manager."

"I've also been an agency manager for a leasing company, office manager for a scrap yard, and have also worked in packaging and distributing radioactive drugs used in nuclear medicine."

"Roger and I presently live in Hammond, IN. We found expediting from a flier posted in a truck stop. I made the initial call and at first decided I wanted nothing to do with it, not wanting to make the initial investment in a truck. But Roger took the notes from my call to the recruiter and said if half of what the recruiter said was true, this would be really good. We began investigating this business."

"I stopped in truck stops and rest areas, any where we could find expediters. We talked to as many people as we could in the business, we also consulted our attorney and we found an accountant that specialized in the trucking industry."

"We purchased our truck in May 1998 and signed on with Panther II soon after taking delivery of the truck and have been with them every since. When we signed on with them they had 200 trucks and vans, and we have watched them grow to over 600 trucks and vans."

"We are pleased with the company and have developed very good relationships with management, dispatch and safety. We have been chosen for team of the month in 1998 and have served on the Drivers Round Table. A group of drivers that meet quarterly with management to improve the working relationship between drivers and company."

Wanda continues, "We run one of the few cube vans for Panther II Transportation. Panther classes their vehicles a little differently than most companies. An "A" size unit is a cargo van(what most companies call a B) and for Panther II, a "B" size unit is a small straight truck, 12' to 14' box with a payload of 5,000 lbs."

"Our truck is a 1998 Chevy 3500 Van Cutaway (cube van). We have a 15 foot box with a GVW of 12,000 lbs. The empty weight is just under 7,000 lbs. It has a 5.7 lt. gas motor and gets about 10 miles to the gallon."

"The truck listed for just over $30,000, and I negotiated a purchase price of $26,000. Our credit wasn't the best and we were new to expediting, so we have a high interest rate (14.9%) from GMAC. We put $10,000 down and our payments are just under $360 per month."

Wanda tells us that the couple has just under 300,000 miles on the truck and have only one ongoing mechanical problem: the charging system. Wanda tells us, "We have had to replace the alternator 3 times and the battery about every 8 months. We run CB, thermoelectric cooler, TV, Qualcomm, charger for cell phones and our lap top."

"Our dealer has checked out the truck each time we have had the battery replaced and they can find nothing wrong with the truck. We have been completely honest about what we run off the system and they have even done a draw test with the thermoelectric cooler and the laptop hooked up (those are the appliances with the greatest draw) and they tell us that the draw is within proper limits."

"Our dealer has even checked with GM in Detroit and they say we should be OK, so the dealership keeps replacing batteries at their cost because of the 6 year warranty on the battery."

Wanda and Roger have also replaced the fuel pump twice. The only major repair they have had to do was a rear end rebuild. A mechanic who was recommended to them by family worked on the rear brakes and bearings.

When questioned about his knowledge of the floating axles on this truck, he assured the couple that he was familiar with them. Wanda picks up the story from there, "When he installed the bearings he did it improperly and in less than 1,000 miles after he did the work, the bearings disintegrated and the race fused to the axle. We had bearing particles all through the rear end and it had to be rebuilt."

"We had two different mechanics check out the truck and both came to the same conclusion on the damage and sad to say, the shop would not stand behind their error. We've have had to turn the matter over to our attorney, which is still not settled."

Wanda and Roger operate their cube van as a Panther B unit - a small straight truck - however, it is Wanda's understanding that Panther will no longer lease on cube vans as a B units, they are now classified as cargo vans.

Wanda continues, "We are not dock-high so some of the shippers and consignees complain about loading or unloading us. We come prepared with a pallet puller and straps. Unfortunately we are only 90" wide and have a roll up door with a height of 75" and we just can't take some loads."

"There are some racks used in auto plants that are listed as 45" wide but they always forget they have a 1/2 inch overhang on each end making the actual space that the racks take up 46", so they just won't fit two side by side. Because of this we can't haul over 3, depending on the length."

"We do have to run a log book and stop at the scales (GVW over 10,000 lbs). We don't find that as a problem for us as we do run the truck as a team. We do not have a regular sleeper, but we have created a space for us that can be compacted into one foot or expanded out to the full 15 foot of the box or any variation in between."

Wanda continues, "We rarely have so much freight on that we have to compact down to only 1 foot;we usually have at least 3 or more feet that we can utilize for our personal space."

When the couple first wanted to get into expediting they went to Alumibunk and tried to purchase a "D" unit but couldn't secure financing due to weak credit.

They then decided to start off with a cargo van and paid a trip to their local Chevy dealer. The dealer had this truck in stock and after a few calls to the recruiter, decided to go with it.

"My understanding is that we were the first cube van to sign on with Panther back in '98," Wanda relates. "They did sign on a few others but due to the fact that they are not dock high, and because most of them usually don't have a regulation sleeper, they will only sign them on as cargo vans."

"Now that we have spent some time in the business we want to step up to a "C" unit ( to stay under GVW of 24,000 to avoid IFTA) with a nice sleeper. We are debating trading in our little truck but the resale value of the truck is horrible."

The couple is thinking about bringing their family into this business. "We have a daughter and son-in-law who may drive for us starting later this year," says Wanda. "Our daughter doesn't turn 21 until July. We are thinking if we do an overhaul on the motor we should be able to get many more miles out of the truck. We have been religious about maintenance and the truck still looks very nice."

"For the kids we would do some minor modifications to drop the GVW down to 10,000 and put up a bulkhead leaving 8 foot of cargo space and building a regulation sleeper in the 7 foot remaining, adding extra batteries and maybe a generator."

"Then downgrade it to a cargo van so the kids don't have to log or stop at scales. This way we could get the kids into the business and wouldn't take a beating on the resale value. We will have to see what this year brings."

"With our little truck we can go places most of the bigger trucks are not allowed, and most ofthe truck stops will allow us to park in the car parking. Another plus to this truck is that we have extended family all over the country and when we are in their area,we can easily take this truck into residential areas and go visit them."

"We get to see family members much more frequently now."

Wanda and Roger share some thoughts on this business: "Expediting as a career, well, we finally feel that after all these years we have both found the ideal career for us. We work well as a team, I handle all the business end of our operation, and Roger handles the maintenance and mechanical things. We share equally in driving."

"We have reached a point in our lives where our home responsibilities have been satisfied and we are free to travel and see the country and expediting gives us the opportunity to do this together. I don't feel this is a career for people with small children as there is too much time spent away from home. But for the older, more secure couples or individuals, this is the way to go."

Wanda says that last year was a very trying time. "My Mom had 2 strokes, we lost a granddaughter and Roger had a cancer scare and had to have surgery, she relates. "No cancer, but it was definitely a scare! We had to make some cutbacks in our operation, but we are once again on the fast track to recovery!"

"The future of Expediting we believe is very good, more and more companies are using just in time inventory systems and when a manufacturing inventory becomes depleted or there is a glitch in the system that is where we come in and pick up the slack."

"Even though the automotive industry is slowing down right now I think that enough other industry has found the expediter to be a valuable resource. I see business growing, not at the staggering pace of the recent past but at a more comfortable pace that it will make it easier for companies to keep up with demand."

"My best advice to anyone to anyone considering expediting as a career is do your homework, talk to as many people as possible in the industry, not just drivers, but dispatchers, management, shippers and consignees. You have to do your homework and learn. Like most professions this is not for everyone, but those who are cut out for this will find it both profitable and the most fun you could ever have!"

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