As Wayne Nagel pilots his buddy’s Cessna 172SP with his wife, Keri, by his side, he soaks in the Minneapolis countryside and all its beauty. Dotted with water, the area lives up to its “Land of 10,000 Lakes” billing, yet Wayne is able to spot many of the roads and interstates where he logs some 95,000 miles per year transporting fuel to various gas stations and convenience stores.
“You get a different perspective up here than you do from behind the wheel,” Wayne said. “It’s peaceful and relaxing. I love being an owner-operator – having my future in my own hands.”
Back on the ground, the 31-year-old OOIDA member pilots a Kenworth T660 with a 38-inch AeroCab sleeper. Leased to the petroleum division of Wayne Transports for the past four years, Wayne distributes gas, diesel and jet fuel in the greater Minneapolis area and throughout the upper Midwest.
Wayne got his first taste of trucking as a college student. One of his best friends bought a truck and offered Wayne the opportunity to drive it at night.
“I went out and got my CDL as I worked toward my college degree in criminal justice during the day and hauled gravel at night.”
After graduation, he took a job with the city of Elk Point in South Dakota, but after six months, he knew the life of a cop wasn’t for him.
“I knew I wanted to be my own boss,” Wayne said. “I liked to interact with people, have a flexible schedule, and be responsible for my own success. I thought trucking would offer that.”
With a game plan in place, he hired on at Wayne Transports as a company driver.
“I felt this was my stepping-stone to learn more about the industry and to help me become a successful owner-operator.”
When he felt the time was right and he had money saved, he bought a truck and leased on to Wayne Transports, which has a mix of company drivers and owner-operators. After paying off that used truck in just 22 months, he upgraded to a Kenworth T660, purchased through Rihm Kenworth in St. Paul.
“I wanted a new truck that was great looking, but also aerodynamic for better fuel economy,” says Wayne. “When I went into the dealership, I was there just to look, but when I walked out I was sold. I knew the T660 was what I wanted.”
Wayne says he got a good price on his trade-in, so in April 2009 he ordered a new KW. He spec’d the T660 with a 500-hp Cummins engine, with an Eaton UltraShift 13-speed transmission.
“Those specs give me enough power, plus they will help come trade-in time with higher resale value,” he said.
Wayne had Rihm’s body shop install a 10-inch drop chrome visor, stainless steel kick panels, custom toolboxes and WTI fenders. Inside, Wayne added aftermarket chrome instrument displays and a 30-inch flat screen TV in his bunk.
He entered the Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Contest at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show and enjoyed the competition, especially the compliments on his truck. Wayne placed second in the division for first time exhibitors, combo class.
“Everyone loved the look of the truck, and Wayne Transports asked me to represent the company by exhibiting at the Minnesota Petroleum Marketing Convention, which was held in April,” he said.
While short hauls get him home at night, Wayne will make the occasional long run to regional airports in the Midwest, hauling aviation fuel.
“Running full, I’ll average about 7 mpg at 65 miles-per-hour, running between 1450 and 1550 rpm. Running empty to Louisville when I went to MATS, I averaged 7.7 mpg.”
One key to better paychecks, he said, is a can-do attitude.
“As an owner-operator, I can pick and choose when and where I haul, but to be truly successful you need to be reliable and a can-do operator for your company. You want them to depend on you,” Wayne said.
“In some cases, that means taking a load you don’t want or working a day when you don’t want to. Over the long run, it’s paid off for me.”
Wayne also sticks to a strict plan on his cash flow and reserves.
“I pay my credit cards off every month, I don’t get overextended, and I keep a rainy day fund for the unexpected,” he says.
This strategy has allowed his wife to be a stay-at-home mom to their three children. It has also provided extra cash to put a down payment on a rental house, which generates additional income.
“We’re doing well,” says Wayne, as he lands the Cessna. “If you work hard and have the right business sense, good things can happen.” LL