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.
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.