Name: Ryan Robinson
Tractor: 1995 Freightliner FLD 120 converted to day cab; 2000 Peterbilt Model 379, 120-in. sleeper; Detroit Diesel 500-hp. Series 60; Eaton Super 13-speed transmission
Getting more time at home
Ryan Robinson had a clear choice: stay out on the road as a successful owner-operator or stay home as the active father of two young children. He figured out how to do both.
Growing up on a farm in Sugar City, ID, Robinson started driving farm equipment almost as soon as his feet could reach the pedals. In 1994 when he turned 21, he began driving over-the-road during winters when he wasn't needed on the farm.
Enjoying life on the road as a driver, Robinson decided in 1998 to strike out on his own, buying a three-year-old Freightliner FLD 120 with a “condo” walk-in sleeper. Not so coincidently, Robinson also got married around that time, and his wife Valerie began joining him on trips.
Initially, Robinson leased on with a fleet in Minnesota, but soon decided to try the independent route. “Securing loads turned out to be a real hassle,” he says. “I spent too much time just trying to find loads.”
Eventually Robinson developed a good relationship with a local brokerage that provided a steady stream of work, although he also continued finding other loads himself to keep his truck moving. But Valerie wasn't traveling with him anymore, now staying home in Sugar City with a new daughter, Kenadee.
While his business was on a good footing, spending seven to ten days at a time away from his new family put over-the-road driving in a new perspective. And with plans for a larger family, Robinson began thinking about a way to continue as an owner-operator, but still get home at night.
Today, Robinson owns two tractors: a Peterbilt 379 bought new last summer and his original FLD. The Pete, spec'd with a 500-hp. Detroit Diesel Series 60, 13-speed Eaton Fuller transmission and 120-in. walk-in sleeper, has already accumulated 140,000 mi., while the Freightliner, in a somewhat modified form, gets home every night.
“The broker I worked for also owns Associated Trucking, a small truckload operation,” says Robinson. “I've leased the Pete to them and hired a driver who'd recently graduated from a driving school.”
The arrangement is working well. “There have been a couple of slow times, but they keep us pretty busy,” he says. Almost all of the hauls are potatoes out of Idaho and car parts back to nearby Salt Lake City, which allows Robinson to get his driver and truck home on a regular basis.
Associated also takes care of all the paperwork and filing except for workers' compensation insurance, and Peterbilt's TruckCare Maintenance Manager takes care of routine maintenance work and record keeping. With Associated and his local Pete dealer watching over his new truck, Robinson can concentrate on his other trucking operation. “My grandfather owns two warehouses here [in Sugar City], and I'm hauling potatoes for him locally,” says Robinson.
With used truck prices down sharply, Robinson couldn't afford to trade in his longhaul-spec'd FLD, so he turned it into a day cab himself, removing the condo sleeper. He also repainted it a bright yellow and brought it back to a like-new appearance. “Now I run it locally,” he says. “The days are long, but I'm home every night.”
And with a new son Dallin born in March, Robinson has three good reasons to like an arrangement that lets him continue as both an active father and successful independent trucker.
This new monthly column presents the independent contractor's perspective on working relationships with fleets and fleet managers.