The Marine View Driver: Hauling Containers with the Freightliner

In which the author learns about big-rig hillbillies and the fun of ownership.

by Mike Smith

This week we go a bit off road.

One of the vehicles I used to own was a truck. I don’t mean an F150 or Silverado or something silly like that; but a Freightliner. Yes, I owned a Freightliner for about 3 years.

I’ve alluded in the past to my owning a business. I did! I did own a business! It kind of happened by accident. I got laid off from my sales job around 1998.

I was doing pretty well personally and I made a lot of money for my boss. (Which by the way is as it should be. After all, he hired me and put up a lot of money to set up shop.) When he brought me, I read through the budget and sales from the previous year and found that had I simply been a still life portrait I would have been a huge improvement over the human inertia I’d replaced. But I felt successful.

Capture2My Freightliner was the result of what I thought was great business sense, lucky timing, and being too impatient to rely on dead-beat contractors.

When I lost my job, my customers started calling me at home and on my cell phone. The day I was laid off, I got a phone call from a customer asking if I would be willing to continue providing equipment for them. I thought about it for a nanosecond and said, “Uh sure.” (Pretty good business sense, huh?)

So by the time I got home I had a sale for $20,000.00. I thought to myself, wow, maybe I should go into business. That same scenario played out for several straight days. I think it was good for my wounded psyche after losing a job. I think it would be good for anyone’s wounded psyche after losing a job.

Anyway, things moved along until about a year into the thing when I decided I needed a delivery vehicle, since all the other delivery guys were busy or such poor service providers that I was nervous about the future of my business.

One day I sat thinking that since the other guys are so busy, there must be a market for me. Since I was in an industry I knew well, I calculated there was enough work going undone that I could get into the container delivery game. I visited several of my largest customers and showed them how ridiculous it would be to buy their own rig and deliver their own equipment. I got enough contracts to justify purchasing my own truck—the Freightliner of earlier paragraphs—and my own specialty delivery trailer.

CaptureSo off we went. I hired my old driver from the prior company, since he was the best, and we started doing our thing.

Our thing was pretty exciting. We delivered storage containers all over Washington and a few in Oregon. We delivered storage containers to schools, businesses, Microsoft executives who needed something no one else had, and eccentrics with lots of money on mountains. I remember getting a call from my driver in White Pass one day where he told me he was going to stay right where he was because he’d never seen a prettier view.

My driver also called one time from the side of a mountain in Granite Falls where I’d sold some containers to an architect who was building a mountainside home out of containers on top of a mountain he’d bought.

I know; who buys an entire mountain?

Well, this guy did. He ran for office a few elections ago. I don’t think he won. It might have been voter discrimination. He was a mountain man, which some might think makes him a hillbilly. But I don’t think many hillbillies own their mountain.

Oh, well, it wasn’t in my county. The house did appear on the cover of DWELL Magazine a few months later and I was invited to the open house and general celebration.

During the delivery to Hillbilly Mountain my truck was stalled on one of the mountain’s innumerable switchback roads with one wheel hanging off the edge of a cliff and a sharp turn ahead for which the driver was certain led to certain death. I patiently told him “You can do it.” “You are the best there is.”

Of course in this type of situation there was not a lot of hard evidence on which to draw, but he bought my story and made the delivery. He called after he got the delivery done and was talking a mile a minute with nervous excitement and mutual admiration for himself, me, the customer, those crazy little switchbacks and all little mountain creatures that live on this planet.

Once we had a delivery in Yakima. Between Seattle and Yakima is a training range for the U.S. Army. My driver pulled off the road along the way to eat his lunch and check his load. When he looked up he noticed several armed G.I. types lining the hills around him with high powered rifles aimed in his general direction. All of whom appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Someone drove up in an official looking vehicle and asked for I.D. and an explanation as to his stopping there. He called when he was enroute again and told me that apparently top secret training goes on there and they prefer that civilian motorists drive by on the freeway rather than stop and look around. Home working the phones, I missed all the fun deliveries.

One time we delivered two containers to a property owner who was renting a home to a woman who was an exotic dancer. I actually had a couple of guys offer to do the delivery for me. I don’t know why. I also don’t know how they knew this was the home of an exotic dancer or why they thought that she would be exotically dancing while at home. It was weird. I guess CB radio was good for something.

You know what, though? Despite all the death-defying deliveries Alan made for me, he never managed to do any damage to the exterior of the truck… except on the last day.

The very last day I owned the truck—the lease term had come up—we were doing one final delivery and someone parked their service vehicle in front of our truck while we had the trailer up to drop a container on the ground. There is no explanation as to why that place looked like a good place to park but to this particular service guy, it did. The weight of the container pushed the truck forward a couple of inches and into the service guy’s van. I had to pay for a fender—all in all, though, a pretty good record.

Yes, I owned a big rig. Ironically I never actually drove it. I had to hire that out. But, it was fun to see it driving down the road and point and say. “Hey, that’s my truck and trailer over there.”

Go ahead try and say it: ___, _____  __  _____  ___  _________  ____  ____!

See? Fun isn’t it?!

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