By David Tanner
The motivating factor that keeps Larry Edgins behind the wheel is pride.
There have been times in his 21 years of trucking, the OOIDA member said, where his pride was the only thing he had left.
The second-generation over-the-road trucker and owner-operator from Spartanville, SC, doesn’t sugarcoat anything when he talks about his career. Like so many in his industry, he calls it as he sees it.
“I’ve been lied to, cheated on, ripped off and stole from,” he said. “About anything you can imagine.”
But he never gave up his driver’s seat.
Larry has survived a number of undesirable leases with large motor carriers that were based on lofty promises of “more miles equal more money.” He has seen the bottom of the barrel a few times.
In and out of debt and a couple of failed marriages – and down to his last dime on more than one occasion – Larry grew paranoid of anyone giving him advice.
“I’m a proud fella,” he said.
Even the services offered by OOIDA did not appeal to him for a time. He was sure it was just another company looking to make a buck off of truck drivers. But that perception has changed dramatically, he said.
Part of his epiphany was meeting a business-savvy CDL holder named Shirley Kumferman of Wisconsin.
“She has taught me to slow down and see things,” Larry said.
Shirley adds that Larry could have driven through the Grand Canyon and not taken time to enjoy the scenery.
“The canyon would be an obstruction to his destination,” she said good-naturedly.
As part of their business plan to slow down, regroup and get out from under bad leases, the pair made a conscious choice to obtain their own operating authority.
They plan to get married, buy a truck and form their own business with Larry as the driver and Shirley keeping the books.
Passing up a couple of loads in October, Larry and Shirley convinced each other to enroll in an OOIDA business seminar after hearing about it on “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio.
It took only the first day of the three-day seminar for Larry and Shirley to be convinced that their new business plan was a good one for them.
The affirmation that “this is possible” made the trip worth it, they said.
“We want to keep as many people’s hands off our money as possible,” Shirley said. “Our business plan is to be more profitable than ever by working smarter, not harder.”
The subjects covered by instructor Tom Weakley of the OOIDA Foundation and several guest instructors from OOIDA included the topics of operating authority, taxes, spec’ing a truck, financing, cost of operation, broker-carrier agreements, leasing, insurance, drug testing, safety audits, inspections and keeping good records.
“The whole goal of it is to help you evaluate where you are, where you want to go with it, and what it takes to get there,” Weakley said.
Most of the people in the class of 14 had driven trucks or been part of the trucking industry somehow, but no one had his or her own operating authority going in.
“We don’t pull any punches and we don’t try to make a big show out of it,” Weakley said of the subject matter. “It is what it is and you’ve got to know the good and the bad. There’s a lot of paperwork and there’s a lot of things you need to know.”
Weakley said he remembers Larry and Shirley for their real-world questions and genuine interest in the program.
“I think they had a little bit of a business plan in place going in,” Weakley said. “They felt like they had started and had made some good progress, and they were just hoping to tweak it a little bit.
“Once they got there, they realized that there was so much more that they had not considered yet and I think it opened their eyes.”
The OOIDA business seminar may eventually be offered online, Weakley said, so truckers would be able to study the subject matter without having to book time off the road or travel to a physical location.
After completing the October class, each student received a certificate in addition to some valuable one-on-one time with the instructor and guest speakers.
A belief in the future was enough for a proud trucker like Larry to sum up what he called an eye-opening experience.
“The information they give you, you can’t put a price on it,” he said.
Larry and Shirley admit they are not out of the woods just yet in their business lives. They are still hooked into what they call a bad lease, but believe they are turning an important corner in their careers.
“We have made some bad business decisions,” Shirley said, “but we know that this is the way it has to work.”
“They made a believer out of me,” Larry added. “We don’t have unrealistic expectations. We don’t want to be millionaires in five years. We also don’t want to haul any more cheap freight because that hurts the whole industry.”
The pride to keep trucking is motivation enough for the pair, who admit that too much pride has been part of their downfall in the past. Now, instead of driving more miles to earn a few more pennies, they intend to structure their business to find better pay under their own authority.
“I’m a fighter, not a quitter,” Larry said. LL