At 59, R.J. Young has 35-plus years in the trucking industry, but that’s just the beginning of his accomplishments. He’s also an inventor.
He joined the Navy in ‘61 and spent three years in Southeast Asia before going stateside to train in nuclear power. A year after his discharge in 1967, Young enlisted in the trucking industry for what would become a life-long career. Throughout more than three decades in trucking, he has been an owner-operator, fleet driver and driver trainer.
As a driver trainer, Young observed driver trainees dropping out because they couldn’t master shifting a semi transmission. He then began searching for a solution to get these newbies in the right gear, a way to join the tachometer and speedometer into one visual image, similar to that of a video game.
Although he graduated from Navy electronics and nuclear power schools, Young needed someone with the technical skills to craft the device he pictured in his mind, and someone with the business savvy to market it. In 1993, he hooked up with Kent Price, an old friend who was in the aerospace manufacturing business.
Together, Young and Price developed the Gearmaster, a device that displays a visual image of the engine speed (tachometer) and truck speed (speedometer) to indicate available gears.
In the beginning, Young says, he started testing the program in 1996 on a laptop computer strapped to his truck’s dashboard with a bungee cord. He explains that the program is basically a mathematical formula depicting the relationship of the engine speed and truck speed visually.
“R.J. was the real-world consultant,” Price said. “And I did technical work.”
Young and Price introduced the GearMaster in 1999 and the GearMaster II in 2002. One of their earliest fleet sales involved a challenge often used to sell the GearMaster.
“Kent’s always telling folks that I can take anybody … and have them shifting a truck in half an hour. One trucking company owner took us up on the offer,” Young said. “He said if I could teach his wife to shift a truck, he’d put GearMaster in every one of his training trucks.”
He taught her to shift the truck, and the company placed its order as promised. While fleets were their earlier customers, GearMaster’s best success has been in truck driving schools. The device is currently being used at 43 schools in 25 states.
Young thinks his invention could have a strong market among owner-operators because it takes some of the work out of driving.
“I was born with a gearshift in my hand, and I use my GearMaster all the time because it’s so darn much easier,” he said.
Despite the success of GearMaster, Young continues hauling freight as an owner-operator leased to Landstar Ranger. While his wife, Yvonne, has retired from team driving with him, Young has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I can’t see me not going down the highway in a truck,” said Young, a lifetime member of OOIDA. “I’ll be 60 years old the day before Christmas, but I’ll be trucking till I’m 70 or better.”
He and Yvonne have been married 25 years and have five grown children and 16 grandkids.
“The most pleasurable part of my career has been the times I’ve looked in the back doors of America … in all the factories and job shops that are making America work,” Young said. “In each of these places, somebody found a need and filled it.”
—by René Tankersley, feature editor René Tankersley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.