Driver Profile: Matt and Katy Foscue
Matt and Katy Foscue feel that they have found a vocation and lifestyle that suits them so well that they no longer see the need to maintain a permanent residence. Their home is their truck and their vocation is expediting with FedEx Custom Critical's White Gloves division.
Still in their early thirties, the two have already accumulated a variety of experiences that have helped them in developing the professional attitude they bring to expediting. They enjoy maintaining their own business in this industry - so much so that, as Matt puts it, "If it weren't for expediting, I wouldn't be in trucking!"
Matt Foscue, 32, is originally from Washington State Univ. After high school, he attended a junior college in Walla Walla, WA where he competed in college rodeo as a bull rider. Injuries in that rough-and-tumble sport convinced him to try his hand with the college polo team, and he graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor's degree in Business Admin, specializing in real estate.
"I went into the residential real estate business for around three years," says Matt. "Katy and I met at a rodeo and we developed a relationship. When we moved to Arizona, I continued in real estate until I burned out on that business."
Katy's story begins at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, where she graduated with a Bachelor's in Occupational Therapy. "I took a job in Washington State where I met Matt. We've been together seven years, and have been married four months now."
Introduction to trucking
"After the real estate business, Matt got his CDL and worked as a beer truck driver for about six months, driving both a straight truck and tractor. He was interested in trying over-the-road driving, and we discussed the possibility of our running team. I was reluctant to leave my good paying job as an occupational therapist, but I eventually decided to give it a try."
"Katy said I should find another girl friend if I were to hit the road alone," claims Matt.
Katy continues, "Matt already had his license but needed the formal instruction to meet the carrier's requirements so we both enrolled in a truck driving school in Arizona. It was a series of 8 weekend classes, for a total of 160 hours."
Werner Enterprises provided the couple's introduction to the world of OTR trucking, driving two different "trainer" trucks for two months before being assigned to a brand new Freightliner Classic.
"We ran team for Werner for exactly 12 months," says Matt, "racking up 250,000 miles in that year. We felt that Werner had good equipment, an efficient dispatch system, and we thought that the paperless logs were great. That one year of running with that company however, wore us out. The pay was definitely not equal to the work."
"Because we were able to save quite a bit of money that year, we took five months off at the end of that first year, and decided to get out of long haul trucking. We felt that there was a better way to make a living driving, but without the extreme miles for low pay that we experienced at Werner."
Matt continues, "We considered some different areas of professional driving, and it was in the back of an RV magazine that I saw an ad from an expediting owner/operator who was looking for a team for his straight truck."
"We contacted Paul and Corky Brogard of Araby, GA and began operating their FL70 "D" unit, which was leased to FedEx Custom Critical. We found that to be a great learning experience. Paul and Corky are great folks to drive for and we learned a good deal from them. As a matter of fact, we feel that driving for someone else is the best way to learn this business and to discover if it's the kind of work you want to do."
"While we were operating Paul and Corky's truck, we met a couple in the FedEx Custom Critical White Gloves Services division who gave us some great advice about that segment of the business. When we attended the Mid-American Trucking Show in 2000, we met some fine people who helped us spec' out our own truck."
The Foscues were impressed with what they heard about White Gloves Services and began the application and approval process for FedEx Custom Critical's high-value freight division. To enter that area of expediting, they would have to become owner/operators. They began looking for their new truck and gave the Brogard's four months notice.
The new truck
"We ordered this truck from Jeff Jones at the Ft. Wayne Truck Center," says Matt. "It's a 2001 Kenworth T300 - white highlighted with blue and purple flames."
"It has a Cummins ISC 315hp motor running through an Eaton Super 10. It also has a 22 foot insulated cargo box with a Carrier refrigeration unit, 3000 lb. liftgate and a tag axle mounting single wheels. The tag axle gives us a cargo capability up to 15,000 lbs."
"We met fellow expediters Glen and Janice Rice at a contractor workshop. Glen is a friend and customer of Keith Bentz and he told us of the virtues of Bentz sleepers. We were impressed with the quality of the Bentz Transport Products sleeper line, so we went with one of their 84" sleepers. It has a TV/VCR, microwave, sink, refrigerator and an added feature that Katy and I insisted upon - big windows."
Matt adds, "Because we don't maintain a permanent residence, truck and sleeper comfort is important to us. For now, this is home."
As it turned out, the Foscues were accepted into the White Gloves division before their new truck was even delivered.
The expediting experience
Matt and Katy have been in the just-in-time freight business for three years now, all with FedEx Custom Critical. They say the biggest difference between White Gloves Services and FedEx Custom Critical "Express" type of work is, "More responsibility and more deadhead miles, but the pay compensates for that."
"It also requires a lot of extra equipment and a lot more labor and waiting time. We have all the equipment that's required, such as pads, straps, special handling, etc. We're also qualified to transport radioactive and explosives loads, so we can handle almost anything White Gloves transports, with a few exceptions. The job can be stressful, but we enjoy the challenges!"
Katy and Matt agree that, if not for expediting, they would not still be in trucking: "We're happy that we went with White Gloves Services. We're fortunate that we got into this special area, and we try to operate at the highest level possible."
Some thoughts about this business
"As expediters know," Katy states, "this job is as much a lifestyle as it is a profession. One of the best things about this line of work is the opportunity to travel. Matt and I are able, on a regular basis, to see friends and family who are scattered across the country."
"We like the freedom of being owner/operators and being in control, to an extent, of our time. Our free time is very important to us, and because this is our own business, we're able to schedule our vacations when and where we want. We look at weekend layovers as an opportunity to see the country."
"The "D"- sized truck is just the right size for us; it's a lot easier to get around in than when we were pulling trailers. We enjoy the variety of loads and scenery that are part of this business, and we enjoy meeting other expediters and making friends."
Of course, it's not always roses out there on the road and Matt and Katy list some of the negatives:Winter driving Variable business levels Occasional bad loads Automotive loads and the shippers/receivers who offer the driver and the truck itself no respect Dead freight areas Extreme dead heads Leisure time
In addition to visiting the family and friends, the couple insists upon taking time away from the stress of expediting. "We like to read, go for walks, etc. We make it a point to never eat at the truck stops, so we do a lot of cooking in the truck."
"We also go shopping, visit zoo's in various cities and play golf. We've even rented motorcycles and done the typical touristy stuff."
"And, we've discovered that the best way to get a run offer is to go to a theater for a movie!"
"We have adopted (or have they adopted us?) a kindergarten class of "Trucker Pals" in Cloudcroft, NM. We write letters to them and visit them once a year. We've been doing this for three years now and it has been lots of fun."
Q: What advice would you give to prospective expediters?
A: "This business is totally different from anything you might have done. We feel you need to drive for someone else for 6-12 months, before committing to a truck."
"We feel that running single is way too lonely, and the money for teams is better. If you're married, it goes into one pot. If you decide to give expediting a try, give it plenty of time; you might have started in a bad business cycle."
"Talk to other drivers and ask questions. We don't think you begin to get a handle on this for a year or so. Some of the keys to getting along in this business include financial responsibility money management and maintaining good relations with the company. And keeping a positive attitude."
Q: What techniques do you use in dealing with your company?
A: "Don't bite the hand that feeds. Understand that the dispatchers don't really know what it's like out here. Treat them with respect. When stress hits, take a deep breath, and try not to take it out on the dispatcher."
"We try to use good phone manners when we're talking to the dispatchers or others at the company. We try to get up to headquarters occasionally. We've attempted to maintain a friendly but professional relationship with the folks in Akron."
"At Werner, we only dealt with one assigned dispatcher who understood our needs, but at FedEx Custom Critical, we deal with a number of people, and it's more difficult for them to get to know us."
"We believe that our refusal level is fairly low in comparison with other contractors, and we're reluctant to turn down loads. We need a very good reason before we will refuse an offer, but we won't pay to haul freight. There have been times when we took questionable loads, but figured that something better would be waiting."
Q: What are your standards regarding truck maintenance?
A: "The truck is your money maker so maintain it the best you can. Some rules we live by include:
"A key to maintenance is to find some shops or mechanics you can trust. If we're out on the road and we discover that the truck needs work, we try to stall it off until we can make it back to our usual mechanics."
"We keep the truck as clean as we can for the obvious reasons, one of them being that while cleaning, we can spot problem areas."
"Stay with written maintenance schedules. When we replace components, we use OEM or better quality parts. Presently, we use all synthetic fluids with a 15,000-mile interval, but we're experimenting with extended drains of 20,000 miles. We carry our own filters just in case the oil change facility doesn't them."
"At first, we had a problem with steer tires that showed inside shoulder wear, but after the recent alignment, the problem seems to be lessened."
"A good thing about expediting is that we accumulate fewer miles than the typical class 8 truck. We hope to have 800,000 miles on this truck by the time we're done with it."
Q: What tips can you share about running your own business?
A: "Use self-discipline. Be prepared for both the expected and the unexpected. Pay all bills ahead of time, and put the money aside for tax time that comes around on a regular basis."
"We don't want to be slaves to our truck, or in other words, we don't want to have to work all the time to support the truck. We are planning to have the truck paid off two and a half years early and that requires self-discipline. For example, to help achieve this goal, we've decided to forego next summer's vacation and put the money towards the truck."
"We pay cash for everything and if we can't, we don't need it. We took 6 weeks off this past summer, but we were fortunate to be ahead of all of the bills."
"In trucking, things can go bad in a heartbeat, so you have to have a reserve. Uncertainty in this business keeps us vigilant."
Q: How do you make a relationship work in the close confines of a truck?
A: "We're lucky, because it just seems to work out for us. It can get stressful in that enclosed area, but we give each other space."
Matt says, "Katy is more immediately goal-oriented, she's the taskmaster. I'm more "relaxed"; I'll watch TV, read a book and not get it done. I tell her that I'm the idea man and she actually makes sure that they get done. We're compatible though, we balance each other out."
"One way to relieve the stress is that if we feel a little dirty or a little tired, we'll spend the money on a motel room and we try to keep fresh."
"We have kept in touch with our old driving school instructor, Bruce Greengrass, and we occasionally send postcards and pictures and visit when possible. We have even visited our truck driving school and instructed the students about hauling HazMat."
"Our underlying goal with these activities is to generate a positive image of the trucking industry and to try to set an example for new drivers entering the business."
"The key to any business is customer satisfaction. It's easy to forget that the customer is the real boss. The impression you make on the customer is very important. Cleanliness of the truck - including the inside of the box - and personal neatness (and uniforms!), go a long ways towards presenting a positive image to the customer."