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Anthony Pruitt – Owner Operator Interview

Having traveled over a million miles Anthony shares his tips on safety as well as keeping his wheels turning. Here is Anthony’s interview and his experience on how to make the most of your Owner Operator career.

ST: What made you decide to come to the trucking industry?

Anthony: I’ve been an Owner Operator in the trucking industry ever since 2006. I came to the industry to start a trucking career because there was an opportunity and it was advantageous for me. What initially enticed me was enjoying the flexibility of time and being able to enjoy the scenery while out on the road. And of course, I enjoy driving trucks!

ST: What did you do before that?

Anthony: Before becoming an Owner Operator I used to work as an overseas coordinator for AT&T. I returned to the States looking for a new job opportunity related to my field. I was looking for something feasible for me to not only enjoy but to have time to relax and make money. I heard through friends how to make money in trucking. They said there was good money to be made and plus you were able to act as your own boss.

ST: What has kept you in the trucking industry all this time?

Anthony: What has kept me here as an Owner Operator in the trucking industry is being able to have the flexibility to enjoy the scenery, meet new people, and visit different places along my routes.

ST: What tips can you give a new driver when working with their dispatcher?

Anthony: The tips I can give another Owner Operator working with their dispatcher at a reputable trucking company are – be honest, open-minded, and take your job seriously. The dispatcher is there to help you. The dispatcher is going to try to help you make as much money as you can out here in the trucking industry. So I think it’s wise to have a good rapport with your dispatcher.

ST: What is the most important thing that leads to success in this industry?

Anthony: You have to be symbiotic with your truck. It takes a lot of patience to be an Owner Operator and work out on the road. Driving a truck is different from driving a regular car of course. I trained using the Smith system. The Smith system helps you watch out for dangerous drivers and get the broader picture while working. What I like about it is that I get to see everything while making myself safer. It just makes me feel good as an Owner Operator that I’m in control.

ST: How long did it take for you to be comfortable on the road when you first started?

Anthony: I’ve always had a strong vision of looking out for others while driving but it took me quite a while to get comfortable. When starting a trucking career as a professional Owner Operator I was in a training program and I got used to it eventually. I got into the seat and it was pretty easy once I got the hang of it.

ST: How did you decide to buy your own truck and become an Owner Operator?

Anthony: I experienced a situation with a company I was working for in the past. They allowed me to work with them and buy into a truck. I would have had two trucks, but I didn’t want to grow my business in that way. I was doubtful at first about becoming an Owner Operator but once I got into it and saw the money it changed. I saw the opportunity for steady growth and to be able to relax when I needed to. From there I knew how I wanted to grow my business.

ST: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an Owner Operator for the first time?

Anthony: The advice I would give to someone who is starting a trucking career is to make sure that when you go and purchase a truck, that you look for something feasible for you to pay off. Also, make sure that the truck is in good shape before you get with a company because time is not on your side if your truck is in the shop.

So it’s best to make sure that the truck is already in good condition to put out on the road, make sure that you do your regular maintenance, it’s critical you keep up with your vehicle. Make sure you keep the truck in good operating status, and that’s how you make money in trucking!

ST: Any tips or tricks that new drivers should know?

Anthony: I always say tricks are for kids haha! As for tips, I can give you some. When starting a trucking career it’s important to make sure that you keep up with your equipment as I mentioned prior, make sure that you go by the rules of the company that you work with.

DOT is also out there to help us so it’s important to stay safe for yourself and others. As a driver, I think that you need to get the broader picture. If you want to become an Owner Operator or any kind of professional driver, you need to get the broader picture. See if you can get into some kind of course that teaches you the Smith system because it will save your life. It keeps you not just focused on driving, but to be able to save your life and the lives around you.

ST: What was the most memorable experience on the road that you remember?

Anthony: I had an incident one time when I was driving and this is the reason I’ve said so much about the Smith system. It was a good experience, but it was also a bad experience.

If I didn’t take the Smith system course, my trucking career would be very different. There was a time that traffic stopped way ahead of me and a car I was driving next to on a three-lane highway. It looked like the woman next to me didn’t have any indication of slowing down in time. I’m in my truck and I’m watching the whole picture and I can see the situation that’s about to unfold.

I used what I learned from the Smith system. I used my distance to my advantage and I blew my horn to get the attention of the other driver. The other woman saw me and I faked moving toward her lane. They slowed down, to ensure everybody had enough cushion between their vehicles. I was able to slow down enough to save a lot of lives that day. Any reputable trucking company will always prioritize safety.

ST: How long do you stay out on the road at a time?

Anthony: I feel that I stay out long enough to be able to make the money I need before going home. So I sometimes stay out two to three weeks at a time. That’s my goal.

ST: What regions do you run and why?

Anthony: So each Owner Operator is different, you know? They all have their own way how to make money in trucking. They pick and choose how they want to run. I mostly do everything except California, New York, and New Jersey. New Jersey and New York are not feasible for me and California is its own thing. But I can go all the way over to Las Vegas and mostly run the entire East Coast to Midwest. There I know I’ll find the absolute best loads.

ST: What is the average of miles under your belt at this point?

Anthony: Close to a million miles or so now!

ST: Are you planning to buy additional trucks and become a fleet owner in the near future?

Anthony: I have a friend at the company that I’ve worked with before at Status, Steven Thomas. He’s been an Owner Operator with Status for quite a few years now. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s the type of guy who likes running a whole fleet. I want to keep my business plain and simple, just one truck. I had a couple of trucks at one point, but I like to keep it plain and watch my growth that way.

ST: What do you think are the most important things for an Owner Operator to consider when accepting the load?

Anthony: When you accept the load, you want to make sure that you’re on the same page with your dispatcher. The one thing you need to make sure that you do to make money in trucking is to take the load and be a person who is on time. Make sure when you accept the load that you can complete the delivery from the shipper to the receiver. So if you keep a good rapport with your dispatchers and the brokers it’ll make it easier for your dispatcher and make it better for the customer. When you work as one the customer will look at you as being number one on time.

ST: How do you handle breakdowns out on the road?

Anthony: I don’t handle breakdowns well on the road. Since starting a trucking career I have learned that you have to maintain your truck regularly to avoid breakdowns. If I do have a breakdown, I usually call my dispatcher and she’s great. I get with her and I’ll let her know what the situation is, and depending on the situation I’ll see if I can complete the delivery or not.

We’ll try to work it out of course. She would get in touch with the right people and make sure we’re on the same page and find out if they’re flexible on the delivery. It depends on how badly they need the product. If you’re with a reputable trucking company, they will be there for you no matter what.

ST: Any situations while being in the trucking industry that has made you wiser or better as an owner-operator?

Anthony: The longer you have been a trucker, the wiser you get about the role and how the trucking business runs on safety. I can’t get myself in a situation while on the road, I’ve seen a pile-up and say, “how did these guys get themselves into this?” And I use it as a tool to keep myself out of harm’s way. The number one thing to me as an Owner Operator is safety. Money can be made in any kind of way, you can go out and cut grass or do whatever. But when it comes to being an Owner Operator, the key thing is safety . Period.