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Back in Business
Dennis Lott • Columbus, Ohio • Driving for 35 years
As a kid growing up, I had an uncle who drove, and he just made it look so fun when he would take us riding in his truck. I was fascinated by the size of the truck, by the way he would shift the gears, and by the idea of going out and seeing the world.
So when I joined the Air Force in 1974, I became a driver. I drove just about anything on wheels, and when I came home I found a trucking job and hit the road. It was what I always wanted to do, but then in 1998, when I was going through survival school for the Air Force Reserves, I busted my back pretty good during parachute training. Two years later it went completely out on me. Doctors told me I had to get out of the truck because my back wouldn’t heal otherwise.
I started flying full time with the Air Force Reserves, and after a year was healed enough to get back in the truck. That’s when 9/11 happened, and I got activated, flying supplies for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Eventually my unit went into full activation as we built up for Operation Iraqi Freedom. After the war began we flew Med Evac from Iraq, bringing wounded troops to Andrews Air Force Base. In December 2007, I retired and returned to driving full time.
I was an owner-operator when I hurt my back and wanted to get back to that because you can choose your loads. I heard about this Arrow Truck Sales contest, “Back on the Road,” the first year they ran it and applied, but I was still on active duty. I applied again the next year. At the Louisville truck show, I walked in and saw the truck that they were giving away and thought, “Wow, if I could win this thing…” Then Dave Nemo called my name. I was just ecstatic that I won.
I spent the first year leased to Heartland Express based in Columbus, Ohio, and mainly ran regional from Columbus to Massachusetts, to Richmond, Va. My dispatcher was great, he kept me busy, and the program taught me a lot about how to be a successful owner-operator. I recently switched carriers, leasing to Landstar, so that I could go more places and pick my own loads.
Driving seems like it’s gotten easier than when I was younger. The trucks ride so much better, and all the technology has made it easier to find loads and get directions.
Trucking is what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s still a lot of fun for me. Knowing how to handle your truck, it’s a good challenge. Trucking keeps your mind going all the time. I think of it as playing a game of chess as you go down the road. You’re always looking for that next move.