Archive for December, 2014

What I want for the New Year…Drivers!

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The trucking industry faces a labor shortage, that is to say, everyone is short of good drivers.  Throughout 2014, we have had more freight that we can haul.  This is the best opportunity I have seen for our company in my career.  We expect this to continue through 2015.  But, sigh, we have also had some empty trucks.  What a lost opportunity!  ACT, along with everyone else in the trucking industry, is trying to figure out how to get enough good drivers, in a headwind of a shortage that promises to get worse.

Here at ACT, we believe we offer a much better deal than other companies.  Our pay and benefits are top drawer, our people, culture and core values are driver friendly and we run good, late model equipment.  Our shop is great, and our discounts on labor, parts and fuel are passed on to owner operators.

As the year has progressed, we have spent more and more money on recruiting to find the good drivers to be a part of the ACT team.  I would like to ask for your help.  I would sure like to see this money go to our drivers, rather than the recruiting magazines.

No one knows what it is like to be a driver at ACT better than…<drum roll>…you guessed it….you, our drivers!  For this reason you have an opportunity to make a lot more money working as a recruiter.  You are not on your own.  Driver recruiters for ACT have the solid support of our great Recruiting team.  We have found that almost every driver who comes to our orientation has talked with at least 3 ACT drivers before joining us.  You can help these folks find a great home and mentor them to the success we all know is happening at ACT.

Call us to learn how you can become a part of this team and boost your income while helping a good driver somewhere find a good home and a successful career…here at ACT, the best company in trucking.

Happy Trucking!  Tom

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

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24:00 Dec. 23.  Joseph pulled into the truck stop.  It was dark and he could hear the engines and generators humming as most of the truckers had bedded down for the night.  He had just delivered his load and had one more to pickup before he could go home to his family.  He would spend his required 10-hour break here, and pick up the load and stop home for Christmas en route.  His wife, Sharon, and the children were 500 miles away. He figured he could make it by 20:00 if the weather cooperated and the snowplows got their job done.   If he made it, he would be home in time for dinner with the family before the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve.  He put on his stocking hat, climbed down from the truck, and bracing against the cold, walked through the falling snow into the diner.

As he walked in, he heard, “Plowing the snow, Joseph?”  He looked around, and there was Frank, an old trucker he ran with years ago.  Frank was round with white hair and a beard.  He was sitting in a booth, wearing a Santa hat and looked just like Old Saint Nick. He was presiding over a fresh plate of sausage and biscuits.  “Why, you old trucker,” Joseph exclaimed. “What are you doing out on a night like this?”  “Delivering presents to the good little boys and girls,” Frank retorted.  “Have you been good this year?  Sit down and tell Santa.”  Joseph smiled and sat down at the other end of the booth. “What will you be having?” asked the waitress who seemed to appear from nowhere.  Joseph looked up with a twinkle in his eye.  “Two, looking up at me, with bacon,” he replied.  “What’s your desto?” Frank asked.  “This is my lucky year,” Joseph replied with a grin, “It looks like while you are out riding your sleigh, I get to spend Christmas at the casa.”  “Well, amigo, tomorrow, I’ll cover your back door on your magic mile so you don’t get any Christmas cards from Smokey Bear.”

8:00 Christmas Eve. Sharon put the finishing touches on a homemade ginger bread house.  She had finished cleaning and decorating the house, while little Sarah and Jimmy were putting the finishing touches on the tree.  They were hanging candy canes on the tree, using the utmost willpower not to sneak a couple into their pockets, under Sharon’s watchful eye.  “Will Daddy be home for Christmas this year?” asked Jimmy with a hopeful look on his face.  “Yes,” replied Sharon, “He’s supposed to be home at 8 o’clock tonight.  I hope this weather doesn’t hold him up.” “Why is it so hard for Daddy to make it home for Christmas?” Sarah asked.  “Well, dear,” Sharon replied, “Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year, so it is the busiest time for truckers.  Truckers, like your Daddy, have to bring all the stuff to the stores so people can buy them for Christmas.”  “I thought Santa brought the presents,” Sarah pouted.  “Well, dear, Santa does bring the presents, but people buy presents for each other, too.  It is the season of giving.”

18:00 Christmas Eve.  Joseph was peering through the driving snow focused on the vanishing painted lines on the side of the road.  He was tired, but thought he could make it home for dinner just in time at 20:00.  It would be hard to get the excited children to bed tonight.  He hadn’t made it back for Christmas in two years, so they normally had to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.  He hated how hard it was on the kids but trucker families find a way to adjust to the demanding lifestyle on the road.  Sharon normally let them open half their presents on Christmas and would send him pictures.  The other half would wait until he got home.  As he strained to see through the driving snow, it looked like there were some taillights up ahead in a place they shouldn’t be.

18:15 Christmas Eve.  Her airbags deployed suddenly.  After a few minutes, Mary shook off the shock and looked around.  She looked through her windshield and all she saw was white.  The only light in her car came from passing cars out the rear window.  The moisture between her legs worried her.  It seemed her water had broken.  The engine was still running so she put the car in reverse, but there was no movement.  All she heard was the sound of the tires spinning uselessly in the snow.  She tried to open both doors, but they were held in by the snow pack. As the gravity of her situation sank in, she felt helpless and all alone.  She started crying.

18:20 Christmas Eve.  “Breaker, breaker, Santa.  You got your ears on?” Joseph said to his CB as he started to slow the rig.  “Coming in loud and proud” replied Frank.  “Looks like a four wheeler is downed in a snow bank up ahead,” Joseph warned, “It dropped off the shoulder.”  “Flaps up,” Frank replied, “Got my eyeballs on it.”

18:30 Christmas Eve.  Mary’s sobbing was interrupted by the sound of loud engines and bright lights coming through the rear window.  Frank jumped down from his cab and grabbed his fire extinguisher, while Joseph grabbed a tool from his truck.  The snow came up to Joseph’s knees as they waded quickly down the embankment.  Mary was startled into reality by a loud crash as the rear window shattered.  She looked back, and to her surprise, the face she saw through her blurry tears looked just like Santa.

Joseph, being thin, crawled through the opening.  “Are you ok?” he asked as he tried to see her in the dark.  “Yes, I think I’m ok,’ Mary sobbed, “But I’m stuck and I think I’m having a baby!”  Joseph looked back at Frank.  “Let’s get her in the truck, now!” yelled Frank.  They worked her carefully out of the crippled car, up the snow bank and into the bunk in the back of Joseph’s truck.  Joseph took over.  “Breathe,” he said to Mary.  “Everything will be ok, “he said soothingly as Frank called 911.

20:00 Christmas Eve.  “Where’s Daddy?” Jimmy asked as Sarah stared at Sharon.  “He should be home soon,” Sharon replied.  “I imagine this snow storm is making him late.  Let’s go ahead and have dinner.  I’m sure he’ll be home soon.”  Sharon stared out the front window looking for lights down the road.

22:00 Christmas Eve.  “Well, well” said the ICU nurse.  I’ve heard that you truckers deliver, but I’ve never seen Santa and his sidekick deliver a beautiful baby boy on Christmas Eve!”  “I can’t thank you enough,” said Mary in a weak voice.  “You are my heroes!” “Would y’all like some coffee and a bed to rest in?” asked the nurse.  “No, thanks. But you are kind. We have to be movin’ on down the road,” Joseph replied.“Ho, ho, ho,” Frank said grinning at Joseph, “What a Christmas gift!  Well, guess there isn’t anything an old trucker can’t do!  We have to go now and deliver the other presents to the good little boys and girls! Merry Christmas, all!”  Quietly, Joseph was thinking about his family at home as he climbed back into his rig and fired it up.  Back in the ICU, Mary realized that she didn’t even know the names of the old truckers.

2:00 Christmas Day.  Sharon was awakened by the roar of the engine as the lights came through the windows and lit up the room.  Joseph opened the door and looked exhausted.  “How was the drive?” asked Sharon, “Did something go wrong?”  The children came running down the stairs yelling, “Daddy!” as they jumped into his arms.  “Sorry, I’m late,” said Joseph. As Frank appeared behind him, the children’s eyes grew wide.  “Santa?” little Sarah asked.  “Sharon, I asked a friend to spend the night.  I have a long Christmas story to tell you, but we’re too tired now.  We can talk about it in the morning.”  “Come on in and I’ll fix something for you two to eat.” Sharon said.  “Milk and cookies for me,” Frank replied with a laugh.  Later the kids could hardly sleep thinking that Santa was spending the night.  Sharon curled up next to Joseph, and in no time at all he was snoring.

8:00 Christmas Day.  The sleepy night dispatcher was watching his computer screen back at the terminal when the phone rang.  “Hello,” the voice said softly, “This is Mary.”  “Yes, how may I help you?”  asked the dispatcher.  “Can you tell me who drives truck number 4125?” she asked. “Sure, why?” he responded.  “I need to find out his name, so I know what to name my baby,” she responded.  After she told her story, she said, “Merry Christmas” and hung up.

In the background the radio played Christmas tunes in the otherwise solitary terminal.

Choirs will be singing
“Silent Night”
Christmas carols
By candlelight
Please come home for Christmas
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas
Then by New Year’s Night

The dispatcher sat back in his chair and to no one said out loud, “Well, what do you know?  A Christmas miracle!”

Copyright, Tom Kretsinger, Jr. 2011

Daddy’s Poem

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We are proud to support Wreaths Across America! Rocky Woodie, one of our drivers that hauled the wreaths, provided this poem (a special thanks to his friend, Diane Bajzel-Baker, for sending this poem to him):

Daddy’s Poem

Her hair was up in a pony tail,
Her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy’s Day at school,
And she couldn’t wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,
That she probably should stay home;
Why the kids might not understand,
If she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid;
She knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates
Of why he wasn’t there today.

But still her mother worried,
For her to face this day alone.
And that was why, once again,
She tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school,
Eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees, a dad
Who never calls.

There were daddies along the wall in
Back, for everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently,
Anxious in their seat.

One by one the teacher called
On a student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
As seconds slowly passed.

At last the teacher called her name,
Every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
A man who wasn’t there.

“Where’s her daddy at?”
She heard a boy call out.
“She probably doesn’t have one,”
Another student dared to shout.

And from somewhere near the back,
She heard a daddy say,
“Looks like another deadbeat dad,
Too busy to waste his day.”

The words did not offend her,
As she smiled up at her Mom.
And looked back at her teacher, who
Told her to go on..

And with hands behind her back,
Slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
Came words incredibly unique.

“My Daddy couldn’t be here,
Because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
Since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know
All about my daddy,
And how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories,
He taught me to ride my bike;
He surprised me with pink roses,
And taught me to fly a kite.

We used to share fudge sundaes,
And ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him.
I’m not standing here alone.

‘Cause my daddy’s always with me,
Even though we are apart;
I know because he told me,
He’ll forever be in my heart”

With that, her little hand reached up,
And lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
Beneath her favorite dress.

And from somewhere there in the crowd of dads, Her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
Who was wise beyond her years.

For she stood up for the love
Of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
Doing what was a right.

And when she dropped her hand back
Down, staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
But its message clear and loud.

“I love my daddy very much,
he’s my shining star.
And if he could, he’d be here,
But heaven’s just too far.

You see he is an American Soldier
And he died just this past year,,
When a roadside bomb hit his convoy
And taught Americans to fear.

But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it’s like he never went away.”
And then she closed her eyes,
And saw him there that day.

And to her mother’s amazement,
She witnessed with surprise,
A room full of daddies and children,
All starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them;
Who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
They saw him at her side.

“I know you’re with me Daddy,”
to the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
of those once filled with doubt.

Not one in that room could explain it,
for each of their eyes had been closed.
But there on the desk beside her,
was a fragrant long-stemmed pink rose.

And a child was blessed, if only for
a moment, by the love of her shining star.
And given the gift of believing,
that heaven is never too far.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.
Take the time….to live and love.

Until eternity

God Bless

There must be many children in the same boat as this little girl, thanks to our servicemen and their families for the sacrifice they are making to keep our country free.
The ULTIMATE sacrifice is being left behind. Don’t forget them.PRAY FOR OUR TROOPS!!!

A Trucker’s Christmas Story

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A movement stirred him from his dreams of her.  He heard ol’ Roger, his brown lab whining.  As he sat up in his bunk, he noticed that the world had turned white overnight at the rest stop.  “What is shaking my truck?” he wondered.  He looked outside his window and saw a big moose scratching his back on the fender of his truck.  After 45 years of trucking, he thought he’d seen it all.  Minutes later the moose ambled through the new snow, across the river and into the woods.  He started to say, “Jen, look at this,” but as the sleep lifted, he remembered sadly that he would never share anything with her again.

He thought often about Jen.  It was hard not to, even though he tried. They had been together so long.  He had driven team with his wife for 43 years.  His mind wandered back to that horrible morning. He remembered it as if it were yesterday.   He had been driving all night while Jen slept in the bunk in back.  As he approached the end of his eleven hours driving time, he had pulled over to a lonely rest area, much like this one.  As he rolled into the parking spot, he said, “Jen, wake up.  My eleven hours are over.  Your turn to drive now, honey.”  But there was no answer.  The love of his life and partner for years had died quietly of a stroke in the middle of the night.  That was Christmas Day, two years ago to the day.  After Jen left him, he didn’t know what to do.  So he sold the house and hit the road as a solo driver.  He was starting the last leg of his run today on Christmas.  Although Jen always had decorations and a celebration in the truck during a holiday, holidays didn’t mean much to him after Jen died.  It was just another day on the road.  A tear rolled through the crevices of his wrinkled face and disappeared into his white beard.  Roger looked up at him with his big brown eyes.  He rubbed Roger’s ears.  There was something about Roger that always helped when he felt this way.

Pushing back the memories, he prepared for his run.  His long white hair was blown by the snowflakes as he hopped down from his truck to do his pre trip inspection.  “I’m going to need chains today,” he realized.  He put on his wool coat and work gloves and opened the side door to get the chains.  As he pulled the chains out, he noticed a brown box he’d never seen before.  He pulled it out and recognized Jen’s writing on the outside.  OPEN IN CASE OF A CHRISTMAS EMERGENCY.

“What in the world?” he thought as he opened the box.  Inside was a wreath, a Santa hat, some lights to decorate the bunk and a small note.  He couldn’t bear to read the note, at least not now.  After he put the chains on, he looked again at the contents of the box.  He fastened the wreath to the grill of his rig and decorated his bunk with the lights.  As he fired up the rig he looked down at the Santa hat.  “Ok, Jen, this is how you wanted it,” he said as he picked up the hat and put it on.” Roger sat up excitedly in the passenger’s seat and looked out the front.  He was a true trucker’s dog.  He liked to run.   For the first time that morning he smiled as he shifted into gear and headed through the white snowy mountains.

He pulled off the interstate about thirty minutes after the sun went down.  The flurries of snow whirled in his headlights.  He had tried to call his dispatcher to let him know he was going to be late, but there was no answer.  “I suppose everyone is off for Christmas back at the terminal,” he thought, “How am I going to tell the receiver that the storm made me late?  I hope there is someone to unload me on the dock.”

He pulled into town, through the parking lot to the warehouse.  It was dark.  He backed into the dock.  He climbed out of his truck and felt the cold hit his face as he walked through the snow drifts to the office door.  There was a note of the door which said, “Merry Christmas!”  It gave a number to call for assistance.  He called the number and a lady answered the phone.  “I’m sorry I’m two hours late, but the snowstorm held me up and nobody answered back at the terminal,” he said.  He heard her talking to someone else in the background.  “Honey, we have a driver at the warehouse on Christmas evening,” he heard her yell.”  “Stay put, we’ll be right there,” she told him and hung up before he could tell her not to worry, he would just spend the night there until they arrived in the morning.

Ten minutes later, a van pulled into the lot.  Out came a young man, his wife and three children in tow all bundled up for the weather.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to pull you out of the house on Christmas evening.”  “Nonsense,” the lady replied.  “Burt, open up that warehouse and get some coffee brewing.  Kids, come with me.”  “This lady is a ball of fire,” he thought as he sat down at the old table in the office and put the coffee to his lips.  He was amazed as he watched the entire family go to work unloading his truck.  Even the kids found something to do to help.  She jumped on the forklift, and the truck was unloaded in thirty minutes.

As they sat down afterwards, the lady asked, “What are you doing out on a night like this at Christmas?”  “Just doing my job,” he replied.  “Are you Santa?” the little girl asked.  He had forgotten that he was wearing the Santa hat and that he had white hair and a white beard.  “Well, of course he is,” the lady replied, “and we get to have Santa over for Christmas dinner!”  How many children are that lucky?”  “I hate to impose,” he replied.  She looked at him with clear purpose and ordered, “Santa, get your ass in the van.  This is Christmas and tonight you are part of our family.”  Roger looked at her with his big brown eyes.  “You too!” she said and he bounded through the snow to the van.  “Hurry up, kids!  The turkey’s done and we need to put more logs on the fire!” she said as they loaded up and headed to their house in the woods.

This was the first Christmas dinner he had around a table in a long time.  After they finished the pumpkin pie he said, “Merry Christmas and thanks for everything.  But I need to get back on the road.”  As they walked to the van he noticed that the storm abated and a full moon lightened the new snow.   Back at the warehouse, he reached for the door, then stopped and looked at the family, “You gave me a wonderful Christmas.  I don’t know how to thank you.”  “But Santa,” the little girl said as she gave him a hug, “We should be thanking you!”  “Next time you are alone on Christmas, you come look us up,” the lady scolded with a sly smile.

He got in his rig and fired it up and watched the tail lights of the van move up the road.  Then he remembered the note in his pocket.  He slowly opened it up and read the note by the light of the Christmas lights.  “Merry Christmas, honey.  If for any reason we are ever apart, I want to celebrate Christmas as we always have.  Know that I am always with you.  I love you, Jen.

He felt her presence in a way he hadn’t in a long time.  He smiled, put it in gear, and pulled out for his next pickup.  Roger was sleeping on the seat.  He turned on the radio and heard Karen Carpenter’s sweet angelic voice as he drove down the highway.

“Merry Christmas darling

We’re apart that’s true

But I can dream

And in my dream

I’m Christmasing with you”

 

“Yes, we are, honey,” he said out loud, “I love you, too.”

Copyright 2010, Tom B. Kretsinger, Jr.

Finding the Right Balance

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“Get them miles, get them paid and get them home.”  This is the holy grail of good trucking companies like ACT.  The paying is a no brainer.  The miles and the “home” can be in conflict if not carefully thought out, budgeted, and communicated to find just the right balance.

What is the right balance?  The answer to that question is different for every family.  But if the family does not come to an understanding on what the right balance is for them, then conflict and stress can ensue.

Why is this something to balance?  The reality is that drivers make money and are paid by the mile.  Miles vary by day, week, month, time of the year, and downtime in the shop and other factors beyond everyone’s control.  How many miles does a driver get at home?  Obviously, none, and therefore no money is made during home time.  Do your bills continue when you are at home?  Of course they do.  But home time is important.  As the old saying goes, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”  And we all recognize that family is the most important thing.

So let’s look at the perspective of all involved:

From the perspective of the spouse at home, she may feel like a single parent because her husband is on the road all the time.  What does that look like?  Well, it means getting the kids up and ready for school, fixing dinner, supervising homework and after school activities, taking care of them when they are sick, getting them to the doctor and dentist and doing baseball and soccer games on the weekends.  Additionally, often the spouse at home pays the bills every Friday. The bills are the same but the Friday settlement is always different depending on such things as the amount of advances taken, the number of miles run, when the driver fueled and other such things.  So it’s not unreasonable to think that she would like her husband home as much as possible and have some help.  It’s also necessary that we provide enough income for her to pay the bills.

From the perspective of the driver, he is away from home, essentially camping out in a truck for days or weeks at a time.  Some of that time is driving, but a lot is waiting, waiting for a load, waiting to get out of the shop, waiting for his name to be called for a shower or driving around looking for a spot to park for the night.  He misses his family and worries when things go wrong and he’s not there.  He looks forward to being at home, seeing the family and resting in his own bed.  Stressful Friday conversations about the bills are not a good start to the weekend.

From our perspective, we are just trying to coach all this for a lot of drivers to help them be successful.  Gosh, how do you put all this together for a successful family and a successful driver?  I suggest that it doesn’t just happen.  Communication and planning from all involved is the only answer.

First, the family needs to talk seriously about the balance between family and miles.  Everyone has different bills and different situations at home.  They need to be on the same page.  Once an agreement is reached as to home time, this will determine how many miles you can budget.  Talk to us to determine if your goals are realistic.  We can also help you, especially new drivers, understand the times of the week, month and year which tend to be busier and which are slower.  Plan more home time when freight is slower, plan to be out on the road more when freight is strong to make more money to build up savings for the slower times.  Living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t work well in this business.  Take control of your budget.  Manage your money, or your money will manage you.

Once you and your family have determined the right balance and translated that into average weekly miles you are ready to do your budget.  If you are a contractor you must do two budgets, one for your business and one for your home.

Company employees have an easier task.  Figure your rate of pay and multiply it by your budgeted miles, take out for taxes and benefits.  This is the amount you have to run your home.  If your home expenses are more than what you make, you will have to look for ways to cut your budget at home or be out more to get more miles.  If you get behind, you can work harder for a temporary period of time to dig out.

For contractors, you must first do a budget for your business to determine your budgeted profit (this is different from your weekly settlement which only shows cash flow, not profit).  Take all your revenue, miles, and f.s.c., and subtract from that your expenses to learn your profit.  The largest expense by far is fuel, so any reasonable budget will set a goal for mpg.  That and your buying habits will determine your fuel cost.  Subtract all other expenses, including maintenance, truck payment, tires, insurance, income taxes, self-employment taxes and road expense to finish your profit or loss statement.  Your accountant should be able to help you.  Once you have determined profit, then use this number for your household budget, making sure again that your expenses are not more than your income.  If so, cut expenses.  You really are unlikely to run a successful business unless you are on top of your numbers.

How does one maximize their miles for the time they are away from home?

Do smart home time.  There is a way to be home and get good miles if you play it right.  When do you get out of the home?  This decision usually tees up your week for a good check or a bad one.  If you deliver a load on Monday, odds are you’ll have a decent week.  If your first load delivers on a Tuesday, you probably won’t. Getting a load to take home through the weekend to deliver on Monday is a win.

Get your paperwork scanned and into payroll on time.  I can’t tell you how many times a driver has called complaining about miles, but didn’t turn in the miles he ran.  This is just silly.  Talk to other drivers who are getting home and doing well on miles and learn what they do.

Plan your day before you turn on the truck in the morning.  How many times have you had the same driver pass you several times during a trip?  That driver will never make it.  They are stopping at every truck stop, wasting fuel and breathing and spewing all the negativity they can.  You have to work to get miles.

Last piece of advice, all high milers I have known take every load.  Heavy or light, long or short, into the sun, into the wind and mountains.  They take them all…and run.  They don’t sit around all day looking for that perfect load.  They know that they get more miles and all drivers have good and bad loads anyway.

The secret to success in family and trucking today is taking the time first for communication and planning.  Work as a team with your family and follow up regularly on your plan to make adjustments as needed.  As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  The investment you make in the time needed to plan, will more than pay off for you and your family.  Let us know if we can help.

Happy Trucking!  ~Tom