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Fleet Owner Conversations: Tom and Tina Evans

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Mar 12th 2018 12:39PM

Meet Tom and Tina Evans who bought their first truck to become expedite owner-operators in early 2002. At the time, the retail industry was experiencing a steep market downturn, and the couple saw the writing on the wall when it came to their job security. So they decided to make a career change together. Tina stepped down from her management position at a shoe retailer; Tom left his job at a family-owned furniture store.

For the next 11 years, Tom and Tina built their expedite business as owner-operators. Then in 2013 they took the next step to become fleet owners, eventually coming off the road altogether by mid 2016. Today, they own and manage seven trucks in their fleet—six expediter straight trucks and one tractor—all leased to Load One.

So, what led Tom and Tina to take the leap from owner-operator to fleet owner? What challenges have they encountered? And what advice do they have for other owner-operators who may be considering to take that next step to becoming an expedite fleet owner?

EO recently spoke with the couple to dig deeper into their story. Here are edited highlights from our conversation.

EO: By 2013, you had been owner-operators for over a decade. What led you to step out of your comfort zone to take on the added risk of being a fleet owner

Tom and Tina Evans: Well, we got asked to buy some trucks.

Asked by who?

John Elliott (chief executive officer for Load One LLC, an expedited trucking carrier headquartered in Taylor, Mich.). I think we were at Expedite Expo at the time, and we were just sitting around talking. John asked us, “Have you guys ever considered becoming fleet owners?”

We told him that we had considered it when we were with a previous carrier a few years back but decided not to do it.

He said, “I think you guys would be great fleet owners. You have been in the business long enough and seem to know what's going on. You know your numbers and how to make money.”

So, we mulled over that conversation for about a month and decided to go for it. We started looking for trucks and bought one in September 2013.

How quickly did you expand after buying that initial truck to become fleet owners?

We bought a truck a few months later in February 2014 and another one in March. Then we bought two more trucks in 2015 and another in 2016. We just bought the tractor in January of 2018.

Do you have someone on staff who helps you manage the business or is that what you both do full time?

It’s what we do full time. [Tom] manages the fleet and takes care of the repairs and any load issues. [Tina] keeps the books and make sure there's money in the bank.

What have been your biggest challenges as fleet owners?

It’s not so much of a challenge for us anymore because we're blessed, but the biggest challenge we’ve faced is finding good drivers. And I’m referring to the drivers who stay. I don't mean finding good drivers for a year, or year and a half. I mean good drivers who will stay two, three, four years, and so on.

What have you learned about keeping good drivers?

A few things.

For one, our drivers have been here at our house. And they know we're not living like millionaires off of them driving our trucks. They can see that we are everyday folks, just like them, trying to make a living. And that goes a long way.

Also, we don't promise our drivers anything as far as a certain number of miles or how much they’re going to make or anything like that. The only thing we do promise them is that we guarantee you that we will pay you every Friday, and it will be right, and it will be on time. That's something that we have always prided ourselves on. Their pay is always there when we say it's going to be there—and they can depend on that.

We are kind of a big family here. We don't we don't just look at them as our drivers. They really are a part of a bigger picture, and we truly like each and every one of our drivers.

What advice do you have to give to other expediters who are considering becoming fleet owners?

There are still good drivers out there. You can even “make” a good driver. The easiest ones to turn into a good drivers are those who really don't know too much about it. As long as they are willing to put forth the effort and learn, you can teach them.

But one of the biggest things to think about is this: being a fleet owner is not an eight-to-five job. You have to be available to your drivers at all hours of the day or night. They could call you at five o'clock in the morning, at three o'clock in the morning, or even two o'clock in the morning. And when they do, you’ve got to answer the phone.


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