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Driver Lifestyles

Driver Profile: Tony Gossard

By Jeff Jensen, Editor
Posted Aug 22nd 2003 8:56AM

tony_gossard.jpgTony Gossard is an independent contractor leased to Try Hours from Findlay, OH. Although he's a relative newcomer to expediting, Tony has years of experience in owning and managing his own businesses, and he has some deep-rooted concepts about how to manage a business.

After high school Tony spent three years in the US Army, stationed part of that time in Germany. After leaving the service in 1983, he migrated to Austin, TX, where he says that it was, "an awesome time for a young man in a college town."

Tony tells us that he operated a jackhammer as part of a telephone cable installation team for Ma Bell, in addition to supplementing that income by driving a truck for another company.

After becoming an apprentice, Tony continued in that field for around 5 years until he secured his electrical journeyman's license. He then worked for an electrical contractor until 1987 until the oil boom died. In a very short time period he says, the company went from being too busy to no work at all.

"At that time, my first wife indicated she wanted to head "back home." I didn't want to move back to the north with the cold and snow (I had suffered frostbite on my legs while in Germany), but we came back to the Findlay area."

Business history
After returning to northern Ohio, Tony worked at several small companies before starting his own company around 90-91 that built houses, installed roofing and siding and performed electrical work among other specialties.

Tony says there were a variety of reasons that forced the closure of that business. He says that competition in the construction trades around his area was fierce and that insurance costs were becoming exorbitant. Manpower was a continuing problem due to the difficulty in finding reliable help.

"I think I stayed in that business for so long because I had a son, stepson and other relatives working for me. Thankfully, they had a strong work ethic."

"My father taught me, do whatever you like the night before, but you've got to go to work in the morning. In construction, the workers tended to party; a guy would get a pocket full of money and I wouldn't see him for two or three days. You can't run a business that way."

Tony tells us, "This past winter (2002) was really slow and the insurance companies wanted to raise my rates equal to that of larger companies. A friend of mine had an expediting truck and needed someone to run it for him. After discussing it with my wife, (his second wife of 14 years), we decided to try it. Three months later, I bought the truck from him."

"I've only driven for Try Hours and I really like them," states Tony.

"A lot of people don't understand the company's side of the picture. I've been in business for myself before and if your rates are so much higher than the competition, you won't get the business."

"I don't turn down any loads because I still make a profit on those short runs. I know from having my own construction company that if I go into someone's home and tell them - 'I'll do your roof, but I won't replace that electrical outlet, it doesn't pay enough money' - they'll get someone else to do both of them."

"Business was slow for awhile, but things have picked up and I think most of us are getting enough miles. I checked around with other expediting companies, but most of them told me that they had a hold on recruiting. I wasn't planning on leaving Try Hours, but just wanted to see what was going on around the industry."

Tony continues, "You can't have good all the time; it would be wonderful if it worked that way, but... I used to tell my workers that same thing; 'you're making $1,500 a week with me, so you'd better hold on to it. In November and December, nobody is building, so you better have some money saved.'"

In expediting, Tony says, if there is a customer that uses a company on a regular basis, but the drivers of that company only want the long mileage loads, the customer can see that. He says that the customer has every right to say 'we want an expediting company that will handle all the loads.'

"I think that's why Try Hours and I get along so well," Tony relates. "I haven't seen any freight or loads that I would call unreasonable. I talk to drivers from other companies and I'm always amazed when they tell me how little they care about getting their freight delivered on time. What kind of expediters are they?"

"At Try Hours, we seem to have older, more experienced drivers who take the job seriously. I think there's a lot of drivers here that have been around 7, 8 and 9 years or so, and in the expediting business, that's a long time to be with a company. Try Hours must be doing something right."

"I don't see that many trucks my size on the road; I see the 24 foot straight trucks and I see a lot of vans, but as far as 12-16 foot trucks, it seems as though there aren't that many out there."

His truck
Tony operates a 1998 Ford E-350 cube van with a 16-foot box and dual rears. He purchased the truck from Ryder; he feels that they maintain their trucks well. The purchase price was $7,000, and with the extras he has installed, Tony says that he has around $9,000 in the truck now.

He tells us, "I believe that I've got the only truck of this size leased to Try Hours and the reason I went with this truck is that I wanted to put a sleeper in it.

"I get around 11-12 miles to the gallon, whether it's loaded or not," Tony says. "I've got the Triton 5.4 liter engine in the truck, and that motor is amazing. I've got 204,000 miles on it and my mechanic says that it's a 'million mile' motor. I change the oil every week and it doesn't leak or use any oil. I know guys that have 750,000 miles on these engines."

He continues, "I can carry 5,000 - 5500 pounds in this truck, but I don't get loads that heavy on a regular basis. This past winter, I took a lot of 3800 - 4700 pound loads down to Tennessee. I think that you've just got to be good to your engine and know that when you get in those hills to kick it out of overdrive."

Thoughts about the business and family
"I carry a small refrigerator with me and take food along to save some money. At the end of the weekend, I'll raid the refrigerator and take the leftovers. I don't know how those guys in the big trucks make it when they pay truck stop restaurant prices and they're making 80 cents a mile. I hear those guys out there that say they haven't been home in two months."

"That's another reason I like expediting," Tony continues. "I run my heart out all week long, but the weekends are usually mine. Now, I've done plenty of weekend runs and there have been times that I've run upwards of 3000 miles in a week, but when I say that I've got to go home, the company doesn't have a problem with that."

"I only 'sign off' (take the truck out of service) about four times a year on holidays."

Tony and his family are enthusiastic NASCAR and sprint car fans, making at least an annual trip to Michigan International Speedway.

"My son and I are motor heads," he tells us. "From May to October, we would race go-karts until he got too big, and I couldn't afford it. My whole family loves racing; I take my little girl to sprint car races. I also have family members who race at tracks like Eldora, Fremont and Lima."

"When we don't go to the races, the family and I spend our weekends in our camper. My aunt owns a campground around Bluffton, OH and that's where we spend a lot of time in the summer. I'm family oriented; I think that's what it's all about. We play horseshoes, have barbeques, etc."

"For me, that's the only downside with this business - much of the time, I'm gone four days a week. I've got a little girl at home and I miss seeing her through the week. I've explained it to her though, that this is Daddy's job and he has to leave and go to work."

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