Five days a week, owner-operator Chris Riester is behind the wheel of his truck, hauling loads for J.B. Hunt Transport. And on most weekends, you’ll find him still behind the wheel — drag racing his 1969 Camaro.
Riester, 51, says leasing to J.B. Hunt is ideal, because it gives drivers the freedom to design their schedule to fit their lifestyles and individual goals. For him, that means starting his day at 6 a.m. and working five days a week, totaling between 50-60 hours on his1,000- to 1,200-mile local route. By nightfall, he’s back home in Oak Forest, Ill.
It’s a schedule that works for him, he says, especially since so many of the things he likes to do — like drag racing and riding his Harley-Davidson — are weekend activities.
Riester began his career working on the distribution side, operating a warehouse for many years at a private company. But when he was 32, he decided he needed a change. He was tired of being cooped up inside a building all day. He had always liked driving, so he decided to give it a try.
Nearly two decades later, he’s still going strong, enjoying the freedom of being on the road and being his own boss.
“They supply the work, I supply the truck,” Riester says of his partnership with J.B. Hunt. “A lot of expenses, I don’t have to worry about. They dispatch me as if I worked for them.”
Having the company handle expenses like license plates, permits, tolls and cargo unloaders is a big plus, many drivers say, because they get the benefit of having someone else handle the paperwork. Additionally, they receive discounts on maintenance costs, paid mileage and reduced-rate group health plans.
“J.B. Hunt as a company is probably one of the better companies to start your business with, because they take care of all the filing, licenses and insurances,” Riester says. “And they are so safety-oriented. I’ve never seen a company that dedicated to safety. It takes a lot of your worries off you.”
He says abiding by the Smith System, taught and enforced by J.B. Hunt, is one of the best ways to practice safe driving. The system, developed by Harold Smith in 1948, emphasizes safe, distraction-free driving through five key points: aiming high, or looking at least 15 seconds ahead of your current position; getting the big picture and staying aware of your surroundings to avoid potential hazards; keeping your eyes moving, changing the focal point every two to three seconds; leaving yourself an out, maintaining a safe following distance as well as space on either side to maneuver; and making sure others see you by using turn signals, headlights, eye contact and even hand motions to make your presence and intentions known.
When it comes to the business side of things, he is just as disciplined. He keeps his costs down by driving below 60 miles per hour, and he makes maintenance a top priority, setting aside a separate fund to keep his truck running in top shape.
“You need to have something put away in case that truck breaks down, because that is your livelihood,” Riester says. “Fix as many things on the truck as you can. If you’re not mechanically handy, find a mechanic you can trust. The biggest thing you can do is keep that truck in good working order.”
That, along with keeping good records and keeping receipts for deductions, has helped him remain successful throughout the years and passionate about his career.
“You never know where you’re going to go,” Riester says. “Every day could be a new adventure. (J.B. Hunt has) so many customers that you don’t get in a rut.”
Article Credit: Randall-Reilly