Someone told Chip Lawrence that he needed to figure out what he liked to do and then do it. So he bought a 1-ton truck and a hot shot trailer and began a trucking career about three years ago in Tulsa, Okla., where he still lives.
Lawrence pulled that trailer for about a year and now owns a 1999 Kenworth T2000. He has his own authority under the name, Chip’s Custom Carriers, and hauls dry van freight for J.B. Hunt.
“I like to drive,” he said, “it’s that simple.” But when he had the 1-ton he started having trouble finding loads because of the weight limits, so he bought an 18-wheeler.
“I paid it off in a year,” Lawrence added. “I still have the SBA [Small Business Administration] loan, but the truck is paid for. I was doing step deck and flatbed stuff for the first few months, but when the economy tanked nobody was making anything or shipping bulk. It was drying up. I was getting discouraged with the drama of having to broker my own freight.”
And that’s when J.B. Hunt came to him and wanted him to join their Power Only program. So now, Lawrence has his own authority and insurance and he hauls their freight, their trailer, and uses their dispatcher.
Typically, his loads take him to upstate New York and down to Florida. When he wanted to see his mother for Mother’s Day, they routed him near her home in Greenville, Texas.
“They’re really good about getting me where I want to go,” Lawrence said. “For the most part you’ve just got to let them know what you need. Communication is the key.”
Lawrence is married to Joann, a high school English teacher, and has a son who turns 16 in July and a daughter who turns 12 in June. When he goes home he likes to ride his BMW Sport Touring motorcycle and spend time with his family. Currently he stays out about three weeks and then is home for three to four days. He can get home more often, but is trying to pay some things off.
When he’s not at home, Lawrence keeps in touch with his family via cell phone.
“We talk several times a day,” he said. “My daughter called me yesterday to make sure there were no storms where I was” (on that day there were tornadoes that killed several people in Oklahoma).
Before he got into trucking, Lawrence was in corporate America and worked as a cost analyst for Perot Systems. There were cutbacks and layoffs, so he moved on. He’s got an associate’s degree in liberal arts.
“I never got a high school diploma or a GED,” he said, adding that “I liked to party when I was a teenager. I still like to, but I don’t do it anymore.” He was in his early 30s when he got the degree.
Lawrence likes trucking for the independence and flexibility.
He said the rules bother him, but “it’s their world; I’m just living in it.” He said many of the scale houses are closed and officers can just pull a driver over whenever they want.
“I get frustrated by the jurisdiction regulating us into ‘not welcome.’” In other words, he’s gotten the impression there are certain places DOT officers don’t want truckers to be.
“My dispatcher knows not to send me to Long Island again,” he added.
But even with some irritations in trucking, Lawrence doesn’t plan to leave the job he’s in with a couple of exceptions.
“I plan to stay in it for the foreseeable future unless they do mandatory electronic logs,” he said. “As long as I can do paper logs and the insurance stays reasonable, I will continue to do it.”
The problem he has with EOBRs is that they “eliminate the flexibility; it’s a version of Big Brother and censorship that I don’t like.”
After having a “less-than-fabulous dispatcher” when he started trucking, he’s happy with the one he has currently.
“Dustin Wilson is a good dispatcher,” Lawrence said. “He’s real good about answering the phone.” And when they don’t communicate by phone, they use Yahoo Messenger to send e-mails and load details. “Nine times out of 10 there’s no sitting around before I get where I’m going there’s already another load.
“I will stay with [J.B. Hunt] as long as it works out the way it is — that’s one of the benefits to having my own authority — I can go back to flatbed or anything I want.” He owns a 51-foot step deck trailer that he isn’t using.
In trucking and life, Lawrence wanted to offer some advice:
“Acceptance is the key. Whenever I find myself upset with a person, place, thing or situation, I have to figure out what’s wrong with me because there are no mistakes and there are no accidents.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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