For Georgia-based James Hodge, trucking has been a life-long career. James is a second generation trucker who early on learned a lot about trucking from his father and on his own. In his long trucking career, James has done it all, including driving tanker, asphalt, emulsion, doubles, flatbed, reefers and dry van. These days, James drives trucks and other equipment for a Tennessee-based tri-state paving company and also operates a mobile ministry with his wife out of his big rig. We recently had the opportunity to speak to James about his trucking career and some of the changes he’s seen in the industry over the last four decades. In our conversation with James, we also asked him about his stint as an owner operator and the lessons he learned as an owner op.
Here are James’ four tips for new owner operators.
1. Maintain Good Standing with the IRS
When we asked James about the advice that he has for those of you who are new to running as owner ops, the first thing he said is that it’s extremely important to keep good financial records and maintain good standing with the IRS.
“You’ve got to keep all your T’s crossed and the I’s dotted with the IRS because it’s really easy to get in trouble with the IRS,” advised James. “Keep filing your taxes and pay your taxes on a quarterly basis and get yourself a truck that you can depend on. Keep it maintained and keep it up.”
2. If You Don’t Feel Appreciated, Go Elsewhere
“Get with a good company,” James also said. “All of them are offering a lot of stuff right now, like big bonuses. Get with somebody that treats you like a truck driver, not just a number. Get with a company that appreciates what you do. If you’re with somebody that doesn’t appreciate what you do, go somewhere else because there’s somebody out there that’s going to appreciate what you do for them. Be safe and be on time. Get with somebody that has benefits. I drove many years with no benefits, no retirement, no nothing. A lot of older drivers today have no benefits and no retirement, like my dad.”
3. Plan Ahead When It Comes to Parking
“Parking is a huge issue that needs to be addressed,” said James. “It’s unreal. They need to address the parking issue for these drivers out there. Once you’re tired and you’re running out of hours, you’ll go into a truck stop and there’s no parking and you’re right back on the highway. Then you go to the next truck stop and there’s no place to park there. Parking is unbelievable out there. I would say that if they made the getting on and getting off ramps wider, then that would be a safer place. They need to make some truck parking out there. Trucking has grown so much. It’s a big industry now, probably one of the biggest.”
4. Get Used to Being Away from Home
“People don’t realize what truckers do,” James shared. “When they leave their home, they miss baseball games. There are graduations that they are missing and parents’ day at school. Kids grow up fast, boom-boom-boom, and you missed a birthday. I woke up many times in a truck stop parking lot.”
James told us that OTR trucking is his favorite type of trucking, but that he ultimately took a local trucking job so that he could have more time at home with his family.
To learn more about James, follow him on Facebook. For more of our conversation with James, read Trucker James Hodge Reflects on His 40-Year Career in the Industry. To download Trucker Tools’ free driver app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/carriers/.