Happy In Their Work: The Stories Of Three Con-Way NOW Teams
This article is a departure for Expediters Online.com. Our Driver Profiles usually highlight a single owner/operator or often, a team operation. This time around, we're featuring three husband/wife teams in expediting; all of them signed to Con-Way NOW and two of the teams are related!
Another common bond they all share is that they entered expediting after successful careers in other endeavors. They all know what it takes to make a business operate, but they chose expediting, not only for the income potential, but also because of the freedom it offers them.
Let's meet these good folks:
James & Claudia Jagelski
Claudia begins, "We were both born in Minnesota. We lived just outside of Minneapolis for a number of years About the time our daughter was in junior high school, we moved to an 80 acre farm outside a small town in northern Minnesota called Hill City. The county we live in has the second lowest population in the state; in fact our town has a population of 400 people."
"Jim and I both attended the University of Minnesota, but we married before graduating. Jim has tried a few different vocations, such as driving a truck for the county, running a tractor-trailer in the city for a manufacturing company, etc."
Jim says, "Both of us have been self-employed for most of our working life. My family has a tradition of being entrepreneurs - they owned a variety of different businesses - so I guess I've followed in their footsteps. Claudia owned a restaurant for thirteen years and I owned a cleaning service."
Jim and Claudia both say that they have met many owner/operators in expediting with a similar background of being small business owners. Jim says, "There is something in the expediting business that attracts the self-motivated person, maybe the idea of being in control of your own time."
The couple both agree that having a stable personal relationship is important to surviving in the business and have been together 29 years, a noteworthy achievement for a couple working together in close contact of a family business.
Claudia says that she wanted out of the restaurant business and Jim was looking for a change as well when they came upon the expediting opportunity. "Jim started with Con-Way NOW back in 1997 and he ran single in our first truck, an FL70, for about a year until I got my CDL and joined him in 1998."
"We're on our second truck now," Jim relates, "a 2000 FL106 with a Detroit 330 hp, 9-speed with an 84" Alumibunk sleeper and 22' cargo box."
"I like the expediting business and this is about as close to working for someone else that I care to get," he continues. "There's less money in the industry than a few years ago, but the rates are subject to competition among the carriers."
"But, I think the shippers should be willing to pay the rates for the premium service we provide. We're still making a decent living, but not saving like we used to."
"I don't think our comments are that unusual, most drivers have the same complaints about the companies."
"Con-Way NOW is a very professional operation, the settlements are correct virtually all the time and any issues we might have are settled quickly. The company never gives us any trouble if we need to take some time off and go out of service. We're most concerned with keeping freight on the back of the truck and Con-Way NOW is very good at that."
"With Con-Way NOW, there seems to be strong customer loyalty and satisfaction. We service the same accounts on a regular basis."
Jim adds, "Expediting is a tough business to leave, considering the investment in equipment. I don't think expediting has really tapped the potential market yet. I think that a lot of smaller companies are left out of the expediting equation and the business needs to expand into new areas by broadening it's customer base."
When Jim and Claudia hit the road, it's for a minimum of three weeks. To fill the non-driving or layover hours they enjoy their digital TV, visit state and federal parks, but when on the road, Claudia says she enjoys audiobooks - "I do my driving with them."
Jim enjoys the digital technology that's available and has carried a laptop in the truck for two years now. Internet access on the road is an iffy proposition, so he usually waits to go online in a truckstop or motel. He utilizes three mapping progams - Rand-McNally, AAA and Microsoft Street and he says he has a GPS device that "works poorly."
Claudia shares her thoughts on the expediting lifestyle: "I like getting paid to see the country and meeting the people out there. I like the freedom this vocation offers. We can spend time with the family when we take time off.- that's a big plus for our lifestyle."
Spence & Nancy Kennedy
"We like expediting; we feel that the company has positioned itself to do great things and we've been treated very well with Con-Way NOW," says Spence Kennedy of Cohocton, NY.
Spence and his wife of 34 years, Nancy, operate a 2001 Western Star straight truck leased to Con-Way NOW. Spence retired from the Brighton, NY police department in 1990 after 21 years of service and after trying his hand at a few different vocations, settled on expediting because, "I wanted something that Nancy and I could do together."
"We had worked together before that in a faith-based home for young women who were pregnant and unmarried; we did that for three and a half years and we enjoy working together." Spence says that being together is important to the couple because of all the years that work and other duties kept them apart.
"During my time as a police officer, I worked as a supervisor on a road patrol and was also a volunteer fireman, while Nancy (his high school sweetheart),after leaving her career as a hairdresser, had been a full-time mom to our two sons."
"I enjoyed police work, but can't say that I miss it. I also worked as a private detective and put in many miles on the road in a motor coach while helping a friend in the tour business."
When Spence suggested expediting to Nancy, she says, "I had no reservations about expediting, but I was a little intimidated about driving a big truck. I practiced in a few parking lots, then got my CDL. I've since become very comfortable with it, especially with our new truck with the automatic transmission."
Nancy says that the couple's first truck, an FL 70 with manual transmission, was more of a handful, but around seven months ago they replaced that unit with their 2001 Class 8-sized Western Star with an Eaton 10-speed Autoshift. "That transmission really takes the fatigue factor out of city driving," says Spence.
Nancy says that she doesn't mind driving in any cities, "except New York." "I was born with a traveling bug; I've always enjoyed the travel and seeing new things."
When shopping for a carrier with whom to lease, Spence states that, "Con-Way NOW was the only company who really seemed interested in us. The recruiter was a young man named Brian Van Amberg who treated us as though we were something special. He was very patient and answered all of our questions."
"When we first started (summer of 1999), there were some slow times and sitting, but for the last couple of years, we've kept moving. Con-Way NOW has kept us running very well and they have been extremely understanding about a medical situation that kept Nancy out of the truck for a long period."
"Nancy is a breast cancer survivor and she was unable to run with me for 10 months, so I ran solo during that time. Thankfully, she is doing fine now, but recurring treatments require her to get back home at certain times through the month. Con-Way NOW has been great about these medical issues, even calling on occasion to check on Nancy's condition and we're grateful for their sincere concern."
Spence says that they have such positive feelings towards their company that they recommended Con-Way NOW to his sister and her husband who have now been with Con-Way NOW for over a year.
"I still enjoy doing it, we're on track to do very well this year. I'm a strong believer in preventative maintenance and I'm always trying to catch problems before they arise. We had a series of front end problems with our FL 70 and ran through a lot of steer tires."
"Last year was rather rough at times due to the economy and problems with the truck, but I think we've weathered the slowdown."
Reflecting on the expediting business, Spence tells us, "I think the customers know that the expedited carriers who lowball prices won't be around for long or provide the service of the bigger companies. The customer is paying a premium price for the service."
"The complaints you hear about the expediting companies are all pretty much the same. Sometimes I have to question the peoples' business experience when I hear of the problems they have."
Nancy has thoughts about the expediting lifestyle: "I like the fact that we don't have to wait for freight, we pick it up and we go! I've also noticed that if one travels the roads enough, one day you'll get to see the sights in the daylight."
"Occasionally, we make it up to the Detroit area and get to make it over to Ann Arbor to see the folks at Con-Way NOW."
"We don't hit the truck stops too often, but we enjoy meeting the other expediters and talking to lthem. Truck drivers and expediters are very nice people and unappreciated."
Nancy continues, "I enjoy the social aspects of being out there, and I like being with my husband - that's what you get married for. We communicate very well and we've always been comfortable with each other's company."
"I'm a dedicated quilter and an avid reader; I can't stand idle time. During and downtime, Spence is always busy with the truck and is a confirmed newspaper reader. We also watch TV and and movies on the VCR and also enjoy people watching."
Linda and Larry Steinfeld
Larry and Linda Steinfeld of Albany, NY are relative newcomers to the field of just-in-time freight hauling, but have a long career in their own business behind them. They also have a family connection to expediting; it was Linda's brother, Spence Kennedy, who suggested they take a look at this business and Con-Way NOW.
Linda begins, "After high school, I went to nursing school for two years. I spent close to twenty years in that profession; ten years in coronary care, then the last ten in a visiting nurse association."
Linda and Larry had relocated from Rochester to Albany, NY because of Larry's business, an automotive chemical concern. "I left nursing in 1990," Linda says, "and began working in the chemical business. We had, at one time, five employees and delivery trucks on the road. The chemical field is a very competitive one and with the regulations, controls and occasional slow cash flow, it got to be too much."
"After 26 years of operation, Larry closed the business in 2001, although he still sees a couple of our customers."
Larry says, "After talking to my brother-in-law, Spence, expediting sounded like a good opportunity. Linda and I had a history of being in the same business and wanted to continue to work together."
"We were impressed with the Con-Way NOW recruiter, Brian Van Amberg. He paid us a visit and was very honest with us about this business, both the good and the bad. Larry and I liked what we heard and Spence seemed very happy with the company, so that helped us decide."
Having decided to enter the business, it was time for the CDL. Linda took a more comprehensive course, 16 hours, and Larry took a shorter version because he had some experience in trucks and driving a manual shift.
Confident in their abilities, Larry says that, "Actually, we ordered our truck before we got the CDL's! Linda had a little trouble with the road test, but passed it on the second try."
"We went for the company's 2 1/2 day orientation," Linda says, "and we felt that it was very comprehensive and that they covered all the details very well. After orientation, we were on the road first week of May, 2001."
"At first, like many couples, I did most of the driving," Larry says laughingly, "but now, it's just about 50-50. Linda likes to drive on the highway sections of the trip."
Regarding the truck; Larry and Linda are running the highways in a 2001 Peterbilt 378 with a recently upfitted tag axle which takes their GVW up to 46,000 lbs. The truck also has a 74" integral sleeper with a 22' cargo box.
According to Larry, the Pete was not originally at the top of his list: "When I approached a Freightliner dealer in Albany, he didn't seem to provide much service and didn't seem to care about my business. I checked out a Kenworth dealer and they didn't do any follow up to my request for information."
"I was impressed with the Peterbilt dealer when he gave me information I needed; he seemed to want my business. In addition, the warranty was better on the heavier duty truck.
"When the truck came in, it was actually larger than I expected. Of course, you get used to driving that size truck and it's true that the cab and sleeper in the Pete are a little small. Next time, I'll look into a larger cab and sleeper, but this one gets us by just fine."
"I usually hit Petro for the oil changes. I use Mobil synthetic oil at a change interval of 60,000 miles. I've been changing fuel filters every 25-30,000 miles with a lube every 10,000."
"We've been very pleased with Con-Way NOW," Linda says, "they are very fair to us. In comparison with what we hear from other drivers from other companies, Con-Way NOW would seem to be more like family."
"They try to get us home when we request it, and they've even come up with runs taking us to home to Albany. The settlements are virtually always on time, and any issues we've ever had have always been resolved to our satisfaction."
Larry adds, "Con-Way NOW has kept us running, especially this year. We don't mind working and keeping the wheels rolling. We're still new to expediting, but not new to the business world and we're able to pay the bills in this enterprise."
"I think the expediting business is on the upswing. Just-in-time inventory control is key and here to stay. I think the smaller trucks like the straight trucks definitely have a role. For us, our freight has run from a 5 pound box to almost 13,000 pounds. I think expediting will continue to grow and I see it expanding."
"I've never had a chance to see the country because of my previous business; now I get to see the countryside and meet lots of great people - and some not so nice."
Linda says that life on the road is not always a "rose garden." "Sometimes it does get a little tense, especially when we're tired. A stable relationship is essential, especially when you're confined to that little space and you haven't slept that well for a day or so. We've been married 26 years now, so we've taken off most of the rough edges."
"Larry and I stay out 4-6 weeks at a time. Usually, when on a layover I read, go walking, watch movies, etc. We didn't get to sightsee much last year, we'll change that this coming year. I carry a laptop, but don't have Internet access on the road."
"This an interesting job and it lets us work together."
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