Doug Smith has been in the trucking industry over 50 years. He drives a 1998 Kenworth W900L hauling oversize and overweight loads.
Doug and his wife of 44 years, Linette, have six children: Sam, Dallas, Kara, Katie, Harrison and Liz.
His favorite and most memorable experience in trucking happened in the spring of 2019, when he was honored with hauling “The Wall That Heals” from Tulsa, Okla., to Lewisville, Texas.
The Wall that Heals is a mobile exhibit that is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. He hauled it to the hometown of Steve Davenport, an OOIDA board member who unexpectedly died in 2018. Davenport was a staunch advocate for Vietnam veterans. Doug says he was glad to haul the cargo in Davenport’s stead.
“It wasn’t just a trucking experience. It was a spiritual experience,” Doug says.
Doug says he finds satisfaction in doing a job well and making it look easy, which not everyone in the trucking industry can do.
Trucking has changed in the past 20 years, though, Doug says. It has become a more dog-eat-dog culture. Even so, when you’re driving on a two-lane highway in Wyoming everyone waves and there’s an attitude of “we’re all in this together,” he says.
Doug attributes several factors to his success as an owner-operator. Cutting costs is part of the key to success, he says.
“Do as much of your own maintenance as possible,” Doug advises. “You can save money faster than you can make it.”
He says the best career path to be an owner-operator is to start in the shop.
“Driving is the fun part – it comes easier,” Doug says.
It is equally important to remember personal standards of conduct:
- Don’t compromise your integrity and reliability.
- Always answer your phone (even if you know someone is unhappy).
- Never pay a bribe.
- Never pay a dispatcher for favored treatment.
“I was given that advice in my 20s, and it’s been good advice,” he says. “I’ve seen dispatchers and truckers fired for such things. Once you start down the road, it’s like a set of doubles on a dead-end street.”
The reason he’s a member of OOIDA is “the same reason Abraham Lincoln gave for replacing Civil War General McClellan with Ulysses S. Grant. He fights!”
Jim Johnston, the late longtime president of OOIDA, was a great example of never giving up but finding another way to fight back, Doug says. Present OOIDA leadership is cut from the same cloth, he adds.