How long driving: 9 months
Company driver for Watkins & Shepard
Hauls: Dry freight
Drives: 2007 Freightliner
Route: All over
Favorite place to drive: Jacksonville, Fla.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It’s not every day that you hear about someone who has given up a successful business to hit the road in a big rig, but that’s what happened The Trucker found out after meeting Jeff Linn of Denver.
Linn and his wife, Melissa, sold a printing business that they had owned for 23 years and where she’d also worked for seven years before they decided to sell it off beginning in April 2009. They sold it off in parts and it took about six months to complete, Linn said. (The Trucker didn’t meet Melissa, who was sleeping in the truck).
“The kids moved out and we decided to drive a truck,” Linn said, adding that they have two grown children. “We worked together for seven years, that’s why we knew we could do this thing in the truck together. We had been doing it for a long time and it was time for a change. [The business] put my kids through school, put my wife through school.”
Linn started his printing business soon after graduating from the University of Colorado with a business degree. He worked as a Teamster right out of college loading trucks, but never drove one. Then ran an internal printing department for a company before starting out on his own.
The Linns, who are company drivers, since Jan. 15 have run team for Watkins & Shepard Trucking Co., where they haul dry freight all over the U.S. Linn said they switch drivers at midnight and noon [or thereabout, neither exceeds 11 hours driving time]. He starts at midnight and gets some of the daylight hours of the morning, which is why they chose to break it up that way.
So how does a couple go from owning a successful printing business to starting from scratch as truckers, and why?
“[At the end of Dec. 2008] we were down in the Florida Keys for Christmas and New Year’s on an eight-week vacation,” Linn explained. “We were coming back in January  driving behind a semi which had a sign on the back that said, ‘See the Country.’”
The Linns decided to sell the business and they each took six months off work. He did things to their house. She worked on selling the business. Later they attended driving school at Sage, in Henderson, Colo.
“The research showed they were the most reputable, had higher job placement, less accidents, it’s nationally based,” Linn said, adding that Melissa is great at researching things for them.
They spent 26 days in school, 13 of which were spent in on-the-road training. After hiring on at Watkins & Shepard they also participated in a 10-day orientation program.
“At the end of 10 days, [Watkins & Shepard] hands you a set of keys and you’re on your own,” Linn said.
When queried on how they spend any time together when one is driving and the other is asleep, Linn said, “We spend all the time we need together.” And he added they’d worked together those seven years at the print business so they are used to working together.
During the first three months the Linns began trucking, he said they’d driven in 40 of the 48 states. His favorite place to drive is Jacksonville, Fla., where they unload freight by hand at a terminal. When the Linns unload there, they spend the day at the beach.
The Linns like Watkins & Shepard so much that people have said the company hired them to do public relations after they started a blog at hobotruckers.blogspot.com.
“It’s referred at least nine people to Watkins,” Linn said. “We started it when we were in school so that the people we used to have as clients could keep up with us. They thought we were crazy [to sell the company and become truck drivers].”
Linn doesn’t have his head stuck in the ground thinking that the trucking life is perfect and he voiced his opinion about a few things, but not all of it bad.
“I don’t think drivers get as much respect as they should,” Linn said. “I think it’s like everything else, it’s become a commodity — the skill and the craft have left and it’s down to the companies trying to squeeze out pennies. We used to make in two months what we have made this year.
“We’ve met more genuine, down-to-earth people since we’ve bee in this business. Where else on a Tuesday morning can you spend time in North Little Rock, Ark.?” [They were stopped at the Petro here to get a new tire.] I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more diverse group as there is in this industry.”
Linn said they had a plan to stay in trucking for 10 more years at which time he’ll be 58 and she’ll be 56.
“We may continue past the 10 years,” he said. “Probably buy our own truck but the wife just got out of the business and doesn’t want to jump into another.”
A problem in the industry other than not enough driver respect is parking, according to Linn. He said they talk about Hours of Service regulations and want drivers to be alert, but some places don’t have truck parking available. He suggested putting all the money used to make the new regulations into parking areas and rest areas which would then help drivers to be more rested.
The wait times that many drivers have problems with aren’t too bad for the Linns and he’s very happy to a driver at Watkins & Shepard.
“Driving as a team we mostly drop our trailer and go,” he said. “I’d say Watkins & Shepard is as fair as fair can be. If what they tell us doesn’t happen, they have a good reason. It’s a very good company, as good as you’ll find. We like them.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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