Trucker Chronicles
OOIDA members Julia and Steve Dixon learned that when hard times hit, you can get by with a little help from your friends...

By Donna Carlson, staff writer

Julia and Steve have been OOIDA members for more than two years, married for eight and on the road for 12. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis left Steve with limited mobility of all of his joints and in 1995, he had a total hip replacement. Steve also has Crohn's Disease, which is a gastrointestinal disease of the colon. His small intestine has been removed and he wears a drainable pouch. But Steve's health could never diminish his passion for trucking. Even when he required more surgery in 1996 that took him off the road.

Reluctantly, he found himself on Social Security Disability (SSD) living paycheck to paycheck. His wife knew he had to get back behind the wheel.

"It was time to become an owner-operator," said Julia. "Steve never believed that he could finance his own truck due to the medical bills on our credit report." But, Julia believed where there's a will, there's a way.

She saw an advertisement for a used truck in the classified section of Land Line. As new members of OOIDA, they consulted the association's Business Services department on the purchase of the 1992 Freightliner.

"Business Services was very informative and answered all of my questions, and gave us tremendous support," says Julia. "Here we were, didn't have a penny to our name, Steve was on SSD, and it had been two years since Steve had even driven a truck. But, thanks to the sound advice of OOIDA, we got Mercedes-Benz Credit Corp. to finance the Freightliner with no money down. We ended up with a reasonable payment of $722.55 per month. We have our truck insurance through OOIDA. We have been very happy with that decision too"

Steve and Julia picked up the Freightliner in Kansas City on July 3, 1998. "I knew that Steve could work as hard as any other owner-operator, and from August 1998 to December 1998 we made $48,000," she reports.

In March of 1999, the Dixons hit another bump in the road. "Once again OOIDA was right there to assist us and share their knowledge of the laws related with purchasing new and used commercial vehicles," she says.

"We found out that we had been misinformed by the advertiser in respect to the true mileage of the truck," says Julia. "We were told that the 1992 Freightliner had 280,000 miles on a rebuilt engine. However, we found ourselves at the Freightliner dealer in Troy, IL, at the end of March 1999, needing a complete overhaul."

According to the Dixons, the odometer read 340,000, the computer reading showed 50,000 miles, and Freightliner showed on their computer that the truck had 394,000 miles on it. The mechanic estimated the engine had seen than 750,000 miles and advised them it was worn out.

"Obviously something was not right," says Julia. "The first thing I did was call Business Services. They advised me who to call, what to say, how long I should wait for replies, and referred us to an attorney who offered to write a letter on our behalf."

As a result, Freightliner Corporation, SelecTrucks of Kansas City, and Mercedes-Benz, paid one-third each of the repair costs and took back the 1992 Freightliner. Mercedes-Benz refinanced the Dixons, with no money down, on a 1996 Freightliner FLD Condo with 300,000 original miles. They took the equity in the 1992 and applied it towards the 1996, gave them the two-year/200,000 mile warranty, plus a six-month extended warranty, a computer printout and all maintenance records.

"They set 10 brand new tires on all aluminum wheels, and ordered a lower-end overhaul on the engine," Julia says. "We left Kansas City with a $65 to $70,000 truck for $43,500, and a payment of $1,100 per month. And when I called OOIDA to tell them how everything turned out, they were as overjoyed as we were. I believe that if I hadn't listened to Business Services carefully, we would've been out of trucking."