Years driving: 11
Leased to Landstar
Truck: 2006 Freightliner Century
Birthday: Sept. 1, 1963
Favorite place to drive: Midwest
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Larry Bell, from Corpus Christie, Texas, used to do construction work and finds that although trucking is hard work it’s not as backbreaking as what he did before.
Bell mostly drives Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Texas and points in between. He hauls dry freight and the day The Trucker talked to him he had a load of watermelons. He is leased to Landstar and gets loads on its board.
Bell said he gets home pretty regularly, about every five to seven days.
“That’s what I like about Landstar,” he said. “More freedom and you make decent money where you can take time off.”
Bell has only been an owner-operator for a few months, but already loves it. Before that his last trucking job was at CFI where he worked for two years (he’s been a trucker for 11 years) but needed to be home for some family issues and worked some local jobs in Corpus Christie for two years.
“When I came back [to trucking], I wanted to be an owner-operator,” Bell said. “I wanted to have more freedom.”
In comparing trucking to construction, Bell said with trucking you get better money and benefits.
“You still have long hours but it’s not as hard, backbreaking” he said. “Mostly it’s about the money and benefits. Being an owner-operator with Landstar you can make the income to go out and get your own health insurance.
“When I said I was going to go out and buy a truck everybody said I was nuts. If you have a business mind you can do it. It’s been the best three months since I started driving. I’m not just trying to pitch for Landstar, but they help you learn the ins and outs, the do’s and don’ts.
“I never was the kind of guy — I don’t like the boss breathing over my shoulder — you always have a boss, but it’s more freedom. With trucking you have dispatchers but not as an owner-operator. When you’re driving you don’t have that. Driving is stressful, too. Go to New York City or Chicago or even I-40 out here. It’s not just trucks it’s cars too. Everyone is in a hurry.”
Bell said that it’s hard to leave trucking once “you get it in your blood.” When he went back to the city to be with his family he hated the work, but said he really needed to stick around the house more.
“The people [trucking] is the worst on is your family, especially your wife because she has to take care of everything when you’re gone,” he said. “I told my wife it takes a special kind of woman to be a trucker’s wife.”
Bell has three sons and one daughter. When he’s home he enjoys barbequing, fishing, golf and laying out by the pool, although lately he’s spent most of his time with his wife doing work on their home.
All of their children are on their own except the youngest, the 18-year-old daughter who lives with them. His wife used to work in the medical field, but once he started making enough money driving he told her she could stay home and not work.
“I’ve got some great boys that help my wife out,” he said. Although currently only one son is living in the same city, he does help her a lot.
Bell and his wife have four grandchildren who all live out of state.
“I see them more being a driver than my wife does,” he said. “I can go through there and have supper.”
When The Trucker asked about all the rules that seem to be coming at them lately, Bell first mentioned Hours of Service.
“It all seems a shock at first,” he said. “The 34 hours [restart] is a good thing. The taking away of the split sleeper-berth was bad. I split logged and took naps. A lot of people can’t sleep 10 hours or even eight hours. I think when they took the split log away they made it more stressful and then, say we get too fatigued but we can’t stop and take a nap for two to three hours.”
But even with all the rules he understands that trucking is under the microscope.
“When something does happen, it’s so massive,” Bell said. “It’s magnified 10 times. Most are caused by four-wheelers. They see money. When involved with a truck they sue.”
When it comes to truck drivers, he offered a few thoughts.
“Their appearance, it gives the industry a bad rap,” Bell said. “Appearance and bickering — there needs to be more teamwork. Even 11 years ago when I started you’d see drivers pull over for a broken down truck. [Those outside of trucking] think everybody is like that one [not so great] trucker. It all reflects on us. We’ve got it bad enough out here.”
Bell said back when he was still a smoker he had a cold and coughed so hard he passed out. His truck ended up in the woods totaled. He lost his job.
“We make a mistake and we’re automatically fired,” he said. “I cost them $225,000 or better. I learned from it. I’m not smoking now.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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