PARAGOULD, Ark. — How do an assistant instructor at a regional college and a phlebotomist at a local medical center spend their lives once the kids are grown?
If they’re Kevin and Candice Rawls of Paragould, Arkansas, they go to school together to get their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs); then hit the road as team truck drivers.
“Once the kids were grown, we thought trucking would give us a way to travel together and put away some money,” Candice said.
“Back home, she always drove small cars,” Kevin said. “But since she started driving a big truck, we had to buy a Suburban.”
When they’re at work as owner-operators, the couple drives a 2019 Freightliner Cascadia 126 with an automatic-shift transmission and a Detroit engine that pulls 505 horsepower. Buying the Cascadia was an easy choice, since the team began their trucking career driving a Freightliner for MC Express in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
“We’ve been teaming together for three years and decided it’s time to go into business for ourselves,” Kevin explained.
“While we were company drivers, we saved up for the down payment on this truck,” Candice added.
“We paid off everything we could so we would have minimal expenses,” Kevin said. “We’re even paying extra on the house.”
The Rawls’ Cascadia is a “golden amber” color, “sort of a metallic orange,” according to Candice. The longer wheelbase improves the ride, Kevin said, adding that it also allowed the couple to mount a storage box on the catwalk behind the sleeper. They chose Florida-based Landstar Systems to lease their equipment to, and both say they have been satisfied so far.
Being together on the road comes naturally to the Rawls, who have been a couple since their youth.
“We’ve been together since we were 16 at Greene County Tech High School,” Candice shared. “We were married at 20, and we’ve been married 31 years now.”
“We like to stay out for about a month at a time, and then we’ll go home for a week or so,” Kevin said. “It seems like when you go home, it’s hard to get back into the routine once you leave.”
The company lets the pair choose their loads from a load board available to other Landstar Business Capacity Owners (BCOs). Some loads are from Landstar customers while others may be brokered by Landstar agents, but the loads must be selected from Landstar offerings.
Because the couple runs hard and stays out so many days at a time, available driving hours can become a problem. Kevin and Candice often choose to manage their hours and keep rolling rather than stop for a 34-hour restart.
“Landstar lets us pick from both team and solo loads, so we can keep the truck rolling — but we can take a solo load if we need a break or we’re getting close on hours,” Kevin said.
While the timing could have been better for the Rawls to become owner-operators (they took delivery of their truck just as freight rates began dropping in early April), by watching their spending and being selective of the loads they accept, they’ve been able to make a go of it.
“Some rates were unbelievable, around 90 cents a mile, and even one in the 70s, but we’ve been able to find enough decent loads to keep going,” Candice said.
Kevin added, “At this point, the rates are doing it for us.”
The couple said they prefer running to the West and Northwest parts of the U.S. because of the good roads, longer trips and better traffic. The East Coast presents some challenges they prefer to avoid.
“It’s hard to find a parking place if you want to use the bathroom,” Candice said. “That’s important for women. I’d rather drive in LA than up the East Coast.”
The couple works in 12-hour shifts: Kevin starts at 3 a.m. and Candice takes over at 3 p.m.
“I drive at night and he drives during the day,” Candice explained. “We each see some day and some night.”
Kevin noted that Landstar is “big on safety.” Candice added that taking your time as a driver can help to prevent accidents.
“Take your time maneuvering and get out and look when you need to,” Candice said. “When you don’t take time, you increase the chance of something happening.”
The couple saves money by eating most of their meals in the truck.
“We don’t do any big-time cooking in the truck,” said Candice, who makes use of their freezer. “We buy a lot of Healthy Choice prepared meals. We have a toaster oven and a microwave, of course.”
When the couple is home, they relish visiting their grandson and reuniting with their dog, which they leave in the care of a daughter when they go on the road, due to the dog’s age.
Kevin likes to hunt deer when he gets the chance, as he did during a dream trip last year.
“Me and my son and my dad went to Colorado to hunt mule deer,” he said. “We hunt whitetail back home.”
When home time is over, however, the Rawls are back to business.
At home or on the road, Candice and Kevin approach life and work as a team — together.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.