BROOKLET, Ga. — For some drivers, success in trucking is a dream they pursue. For others, trucking helps them realize other dreams. For Jill and Dean Coulter, it’s a little bit of both.
The couple lives in the tiny Southeast Georgia hamlet of Brooklet — home of Uncle Shug’s Bar-B-Que Place — located about 35 miles from Savannah.
The dream the two shared was sending their daughter to Bible college. “We needed more income to make it happen,” Jill explained.
Around that time, Schneider National held a recruiting event in Savannah, and the Coulters checked it out. The job offered the kind of income they were seeking.
“We learned about their CDL school and ended up going there to train,” Dean said. “We ran A-Team expedited freight to start.”
The Coulters took to trucking right away, eventually pulling doubles terminal-to-terminal for a Schneider account.
“We consistently ran 7,000 miles per week,” Dean noted. “We ran on the account for three years.”
Along the way, the Coulters stayed in touch with another Schneider team that included Laura Duryea, a friendship that eventually led to the Coulters’ current job at Boyle Transportation. Duryea became the recruiting manager for Boyle and soon made a call to the Coulters. Four years later, Jill and Dean are still glad they made the change.
“At Boyle, 3,000 miles a week is a good week,” Jill explained. “There are a lot of ‘truck watch’ and security duties, since we haul for the military.”
According to its website, Boyle Transportation serves “select clients in the life sciences and government/defense sectors.” Hauling products that can range from military goods to pharmaceuticals shifts the driver’s priority from racking up miles to ensuring the security and safety of the cargo.
Even getting hired at Boyle is a little different. The process does take time, but in the end, it is worth it, according to the Coulters.
“They monitor the loads and know exactly where you are,” Jill explained. “My first time, I was so nervous that I missed my exit. I got a call right away, asking why I deviated from the planned route.
“We have special regulations we must take into consideration for all of our loads. Routes are typically assigned but must be filed before the load is moved. Loads are routed away from population centers when possible, and there are restrictions about traveling through tunnels or across certain bridges.”
Parking can be an issue as well. The couple can’t simply pull into a truck stop for a break. They can park on Boyle property, at the shipper or receiver, or at designated “safe havens.”
Because of the extra work involved, teams like the Coulters don’t need to run as many miles to earn a good living at Boyle. The company has a $3,300 weekly guarantee per team, so slow freight isn’t a problem. The Coulters said they think very highly of the company and its owners.
“Marc and Andrew (Boyle), the co-owners, put off their personal salaries for six months and divided that income among the drivers as an incentive during COVID,” Jill said.
Like many teams that are also couples, the Coulters divide the non-driving duties. “She handles everything inside of the truck, including cooking and supply inventory,” Dean noted. “I handle everything outside, except we each handle fueling if it’s our turn to drive.”
“I have little cooking machines and a microwave,” Jill said. “You eat better when you do your own cooking. I get tired of Wendy’s,” she added.
Food and other supplies are picked up as loads permit. “Usually there are several places to shop near our customers, like Kroger or Walmart, never under a load, of course,” Jill explained. “If you’re shopping, they’ve always been very good about parking.”
Depending on freight availability, the couple typically runs two- to three-week tours, followed by some time off. Being on the road, however, doesn’t always mean working for the Coulters. “We’re explorers. We take off and find museums or zoos,” Jill said. “One of my favorites is the Memphis Zoo.”
“We try to find motels that have truck parking,” Dean said. “If we have a Saturday and Sunday, we’ll try to find a rental car and tour the area while we’re down.”
“Once we toured Cape Cod, Gloucester, Lexington and Concord. We like getting local food, like lobster rolls in Maine,” Jill added.
COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions closed down many of the attractions the Coulters tried to visit, and they’re looking forward to many of them reopening. In the meantime, Jill’s reading habit also keeps them busy.
“We finished up a little early at a customer in upstate New York and found several archaic bookstores nearby,” she said. “At one, we talked for hours.”
When they get home, the couple is like most others.
“We spend a lot of time puttering around the yard and with family,” Jill said. The couple has a son that works in Brooklet and five grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 20. “I don’t care how old they get,” Jill said, “they’re still our grandbabies.”
The Coulters also try to remain active in their local church, as their schedule permits.
Although they didn’t start with a dream of teaming up on the road, the Coulters have found a career and a lifestyle that suits them well.
“We’re each other’s best friends,” Jill noted. “That’s important, because this job gives us a lot more time with each other.”
Whether transporting war munitions down the highway or eating lobster rolls in Maine, Jill and Dean Coulter intend to keep doing it 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.