Owner-operator Lee Strebel answered a few questions about his career on the road in a recent interview with The Trucker.
Q: Where do you call home?
A: I live in Gulf Breeze, Florida, near Pensacola. I used to live near the Truck Stop Ministries office in Jackson, Georgia, so I leave a personal vehicle there and when I go home, I park my truck there.
Q: How long have you been a truck driver?
A: I just started my 46th year. I started with cabovers. There were a few Petes and Kenworths, but mostly cabovers.
Q: Why did you seek a career as a truck driver?
A: I read a book when I was really young (6 or 7) about trucking. I thought it was a cool job, and I always wanted to be a truck driver. I was totally fascinated by the book.
Q: What do you like most about your career as a truck driver?
A: I like seeing different places, meeting new people and hauling fascinating loads. In the past 12 years I have hauled some really cool stuff. We moved the Roy Rogers museum to Branson, Missouri. I hauled the set for the “Hello Dolly” musical. I picked it up at Riverwood Studios in Chicago and delivered it to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Yes, THAT Ford’s Theatre.
Q: Will you tell us a bit about being an owner-operator?
A: I don’t play well with children. I like the freedom of running my own business, running when I want. As an owner-operator I have a lot more freedom in what I do.
Q: What did you look for in a trucking company to lease to?
A: I looked for one with a very low turnover rate. M&M American has hardly had any turnover. They never advertise for drivers; you have to be invited; then you’re heavily scrutinized. Really, really nice people. The business was really hurt by COVID.
Q: How long do you spend on the road at a time?
A: Usually, I spend two or three months at a time. I just don’t go home that often. When I go home, it’s for a week or week-and-a-half until I get antsy and have to go back to work.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone looking to become a truck driver?
A: Be quiet and listen to your trainers. Coming out of truck-driving school, you are NOT educated in trucking. Take it slow and easy, and don’t overdo your skills. If you’re making a maneuver and it looks like you’re not going to make it, don’t become a YouTube sensation. Stop and figure it out, and do it over the right way.
Q: More specifically, what is your advice for anyone looking to become an owner-operator?
A: Pay attention. Keep track of expenses on the truck. You may not know all the expenses, but you can find out a lot. Tires are wearing out every mile you run, so you have to plan for replacement. You have to be more attuned to maintenance than you do as a company driver. Carriers know they’re going to trade that truck at a certain interval, but you have to plan for much longer. Watch your tire pressure. It makes a huge difference in wear and in fuel mileage.