Tony Huttenstine misses his big, beautiful, tricked-out Kenworth W900 - but he doesn't miss the fuel economy.

Tony Huttenstine takes advantage of technology by using a laptop and iPhone for routing and finding loads.
Tony Huttenstine takes advantage of technology by using a laptop and iPhone for routing and finding loads.

He still gets plenty of attention with his 2006 Peterbilt 387. It's a show truck he bought used from Minnesota-based Long Haul Trucking, where he's been among their top owner-operators for the past three years. Best of all, depending on the load, it gets as much as 8 mpg. His old rig never broke 6 mpg.

"That's driving conservative; 64 mph is a breakneck speed for me these days," he says. He put wide-base single tires and wheels on tractor and trailer and converted the traditional exhaust stack to a "weed-burner."

His 2007 Reitnour flatbed is a bit heavy for most of the freight he hauls, he says, "but I wanted to be ready for anything that was thrown my way." The QuickDraw tarp system, which essentially converts the flatbed to a dry van, is a big help in that respect, and time saved on tarping can go toward revenue-producing activities.

Huttenstine, who lives in Kirsksville, Mo., with his wife and two kids, grew up in a family of truckers. He started driving over-the-road nine years ago at the company where his father and brother worked, BTI out of Des Moines, Iowa. After a few years in a company truck, he was able to buy his own.

He applied more than once at Long Haul Trucking before he was accepted. He says the company, owned by John Daniels, has lived up to its reputation as a place that treats drivers and owner-operators right. The company's motto is "running on the power of promises kept," and that means being honest with drivers as well as with customers. In 2010, Huttenstine won Long Haul's highest driver honor, the Harry Slimmer Leadership Award.

Huttenstine's a stickler for personal appearance, wearing nice blue jeans and a Dickies button-up work shirt every day. He never goes more than two days without a shave, and he's frustrated by other drivers who shower infrequently and wear sweatpants, undershirts and open-toed shoes.

"I wish people would take a little more pride in themselves," he says. "If you're going to go to work, you go to work. You're not on vacation, you're out there to do a job. When you show up at a customer, your presentation sells."

He uses the Drivers Daily Log computer software program, which not only tracks his hours of service but also information such as revenue, expenses, deadhead and loaded miles, miles per gallon and fuel cost per mile. He also uses his laptop and iPhone for tasks such as routing and finding loads.

He reads trade magazines to keep up with the industry and says Long Haul has a great safety director who helps keep drivers up to speed. He also tries to surround himself with and learn from others who are smart and have a positive attitude.

"You've got to be willing to learn something every day," Huttenstine says. "As soon as you think you've got it figured out, it's over."

To read more about the new breed of owner-operator, click here.

From the April 2012 issue of HDT