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Driver Lifestyles

More Than a Driver - He's an Expediter!

By Jeff Jensen
Posted Oct 7th 2002 3:24PM

This driver profile spotlights Ron Chiles of Lakeview, OH. Ron is the Owner Operator of a B unit leased originally with Roberts Express and now with FedEx Custom Critical.

One might not recognize Ron by name, but many expediters know of him for another reason revealed later in this profile.

Ron is originally from the Indian Lake area of West Central Ohio, and has had a varied career history before entering expediting a few years back. "I started out as an apprentice tool and die maker and stayed with that for four years," Ron tells us. "I found that to be a little boring, so I then went into police work in the small city of Sidney, OH, and was on the force for ten years."

Ron then took advantage of an opportunity to work as a tool and gauge inspector at General Dynamics in Lima, OH, the plant where the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank is built. Ron says, "After seven years at that facility I was hit with a layoff, so after a forced vacation, I worked in quality control in the automotive industry until I found expediting about 1993."

Ron started with a D unit with Roberts and eventually his fleet grew to include the D and two B units. He says he had a real problem, common among fleet owners, of keeping good teams in the D, so he disposed of that unit. He had worked out an arrangement with the driver of his other B unit to purchase that truck, so Ron is currently running only his other van.

After almost seven years in this business, all with basically one company, Ron still enjoys expediting:

"I like the freedom of this kind of work. There's no nine-to-five grind, I'm not trapped in some factory or on some shop floor and I see new places. I've traveled more in the last six years than ever before in my life. You know, I'd never seen a mountain before I started in expediting. I feel that I work best without supervision and could never work again in a production line environment."

Ron continues, "In the last three years however, some of the original freedom of this business has been lost due to some of the restrictive policies of some of the companies.

Also, in just the last six or seven years that I've been hauling just-in-time freight, we've seen massive growth in the industry and the market that we had when I started has diminished due to the level of competition that's out there.

It appears to me that revenue has decreased substantially over the last few years as well. At times I feel like what once was a lucrative business is now just a job."

Ron tells us that when he first began in expediting, he would stay on the road for two to three weeks at a time, but now finds himself deadheading home long distances every weekend because of the difficulties of living on the road.

However, he does have some positive comments about his company of choice, "As a side note, I'd like to say that even though I have my own complaints about my company from time to time just like we all do, I tell people right upfront that FedEx Custom Critical is still the best game in town!"

If by now you haven't recognized Ron Chiles by name, it's a good bet that you've met or know of his traveling companion, a Jack Russell Terrier known as JR. "He's a circus on four legs," says Ron. "The Jack Russell's are an extremely intelligent breed of canine, totally fearless.

Their average size is only 12-14 inches tall, and maybe 12-14 pounds in weight, but they think they're three feet taller and weigh three hundred pounds more!" This writer can attest to JR's personality, he's one of the most even-tempered animals I've had the pleasure to meet, and a constant bundle of energy, almost jumping out of his skin in his happiness at seeing an old friend.

Ron says that it's not unusual that when he and JR are driving through the parking lot of the Detroiter truck stop, expediting acquaintances of the two will call out, "Hey, JR" and Hi, JR", but when they approach Ron, they tell him, "Sorry, but I forget YOUR name."

Ron also relates, "One of my expediting buddies, Carroll Turner, likes to call my house and ask for JR. I call the dog to the phone and hold it up to his ear. When Carroll talks to him, JR makes all kinds of weird grunts and growls into the phone.

It's the strangest thing you've ever seen!" Ron adds, "JR's been riding with me for about five years now. He loves the road and now two of his grandchildren, Hooligan and Kipper, are out here with other FedEx CC drivers. I would highly recommend this breed of dog to anyone looking for a canine friend for the road."

Ron's non-driving pastimes and passions include hunting, fishing, and a lifelong interest in shooting competition. A serious handgun competitor for the last 30 years, Ron says, "My biggest thrill in the sport was winning a National-level match with revolver in 1974 in Central Lake Michigan. I'm also active in trap shooting and sporting clays. On any weekend, I can run through a thousand rounds."

Expediters Online would like to thank Ron and JR for sharing their time and thoughts with us in this Driver Profile. The next time any of you see the pair out there on the road, give them a holler, only this time, try to remember Ron's name, too!


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