Industry veteran Juan Garcia — who goes by JG — got his CDL in 2003 and went into business with his brother. Today, JG is the owner operator of Pacific Star Nursery Transportation Inc, based near Fresno in California’s Central Valley.
JG took my call on a Thursday morning. When I called, the temperature had already reached 80 degrees and would climb to triple digits by mid-afternoon. JG had a busy day ahead, but he took some time to share lessons learned over the years — and what keeps him going in trucking.
JG and his wife agreed that she would stay home with their two daughters and one son (ages 12, 8, and 6), and JG would run the trucking business. He focuses on keeping his business successful — but family always comes first.
JG sometimes drives all the way to L.A., but he prefers local loads. “I try to get home at least every other night,” he says. JG has one other driver who goes back to Mexico every few months to see his family, and JG holds down the fort in Fresno.
This kind of flexibility makes trucking a great fit for JG. “I can control my schedule and stay with my family,” he says. With Convoy, he’s able to book loads a week in advance. “If you want to work, you can book loads. If you want to stay home, you can do that too.”
Market highs and lows
JG has weathered market fluctuations before and says he’s focused on staying in business while rates remain low. I asked him if he’s ever seen a market this soft before. “We saw something similar to this in 2008, when fuel costs went up to $5 a gallon,” he says. He then said as long as fuel costs hover around $4 a gallon, he should be okay.
He says at times like this, finding loads and knowing you’re being treated fairly and with respect is of utmost importance.
“I’ve been using Convoy for two years,” he says. “Convoy’s service and the pay is the best. If something happens, I can get someone on the phone right away.” He even told me to ask Eric — a former Convoy broker who moved to another role at the company — to come back. (I told him I’d see what I could do.)
“I prefer to work with Convoy,” he says. “I do 100% of my loads with you, all local, all dry van.”
While we talked, JG didn’t sugarcoat the realities of the business, including the fluctuating rates, nights away from home, and the high overhead costs. But he also showed a determination that feels unique to trucking. “Prices are low, but we’re focusing on being the best,” he says.
And focusing on being the best is a long-term strategy that pays off, even when the market dips. JG is a top carrier for Convoy, and he’s been recognized for his dedication to safe service and timeliness.
Advice for new drivers
When I asked JG what advice he would give to drivers who want to become owner operators, he said, “A lot of people, including me, didn’t have enough to start a business.” He only had $5,000 in the bank when he got started. “I thought I had enough to start a business, and I was wrong,” he continued. On top of insurance, he had to fill up every couple of days, set aside money for maintenance, and make truck and trailer payments every month.
Obviously, it worked out for him, but his recommendation: “Have $10,000-$15,000 in the bank,” he says. “At least.”
After 16 years, JG has found something that lets him provide for his family and keep his truck running full. “Trucking is something I can do where I make good money,” he says. For him, that’s priceless.
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