Great Job!

By on December 30, 2011
RoadKing Mag

Driving for a baseball team. Transporting stage sets for a country music star. Hauling priceless paintings and sculptures. What are these glamour jobs really like, and how do you get one?

Major League Team Equipment Transporting

Jomod McNally and Jason Pulsifer, with JK Moving Services of Sterling, Va., transport equipment and uniforms for the Washington Nationals baseball team.

How does hauling for a sports team differ from being a company driver or owner-operator?

McNally: You actually work hand-in-hand with team management, trainers and players, with the occasional special project for the owner. It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere, but everything has deadlines.

Pulsifer: You’re in the spotlight. There’s more pressure to deliver.

What are your duties besides driving?

McNally: Details range from packing and unpacking uniforms, exercise equipment, video and medical equipment and especially the athletes’ pro gear —balls, bats, etc.

What’s the biggest challenge?

McNally: Being on time picking up and delivering items. Weather, accidents, road construction are all issues that can interfere with that. If you’re late picking up the team’s items from the airport, you make the players late getting rest and preparing for a big game!

What traits are necessary for the job?

Pulsifer: Reliability, respect, promptness and the ability to work hard. When you get opportunities such as these, you have to work under pressure and not blow it.

What’s the worst part of your job?

McNally: The worst part of the job is dealing with emotions. The majority of the time, everything is very organized, but you get a few people who just can’t handle the stress. The other headache is when you’re told the area is tractor-trailer accessible, and you get there and it’s not.

Pulsifer: Staying awake all the odd hours of the morning, and working ’round the clock at times.

The best part?

McNally: The expressions of gratitude and happiness you receive when you arrive and complete the job with no issues or problems. You have people’s whole lives in your hands, so tension is very high!

Advice for a trucker who’d like to get into this?

McNally: Start young. This line of work is very physical; there’s the possibility of getting hurt. Experience brings not only the correct way of doing your job, but the smart and efficient way as well.

Pulsifer: Find a good, quality company. Be punctual. Work hard; show respect. Enjoy it and live it up; it’ll be hard work but it’s fun.

Describe an interesting experience.

McNally: Being in the clubhouse opening day of the new stadium when President Bush threw the first pitch and Zimmerman hit the walk off home run to win the game.

Pulsifer: The Washington Nationals were playing the Mets at the old Shea stadium in New York City; Nats were up by one; two on base. Willie Harris catches a line drive on the best diving catch I’ve ever seen to end the 8 p.m. game. The clubhouse was a party!

Concert Tour Transporting

When a friend who drove for Brooks & Dunn asked Karla Bradshaw to join him at  Xtreme Transportation in Antioch, Tenn., she jumped at the job. Now she is lead driver for Country Music Association Award winner  Jason Aldean.

How does hauling for an entertainer differ from OTR?

Bradshaw: When we go on tour, we book. No stopping. No grabbing a cup of coffee and taking a break on the way. Some weeks there are three or four shows. But I feel like a paid vacationer, traveling from coast-to-coast and through Canada. When I was driving for the post office, I had set routes and couldn’t deviate from them.

What are your duties besides driving?

Bradshaw: As lead driver, I have to make sure that all six of the trucks are in ahead of concert time. I set the route for everyone and make sure that the trucks get in and out. I carry the instruments and the stage set. Other trucks carry lighting or sound equipment. Sometimes the venue we go to has only two loading docks, and then I have to make sure the trucks carrying what is needed first get in, unloaded and out of the way for the next to unload.

What’s the biggest challenge doing your job?

Bradshaw: You have to be there on time, period. And you have to be there an hour ahead of time to be on time. I take off first with one or two other trucks. If there’s a road delay, we’ll tell the others, “Go a different way.”

What’s the biggest misconception about the job?

Bradshaw: Other drivers think we have nothing but wine and glory; we mingle with the stars all day. That doesn’t happen. During the show, if we have another venue to get to the next day we shower and rest so we can make it to the next show. Do we get to enjoy the shows some nights? Yes, but we also work hard.

What makes the job special?

Bradshaw: Without doubt, the artists and people who come by. I was right next to Terry Bradshaw one time. I didn’t go up to him, but I was this close to him. I love the Steelers. And as big as Jason Aldean is, he’ll give you a hug and a thank you. That means everything in the world to a driver.

Advice for a trucker who’d like to get into this?

Bradshaw: You’ve got to have at least five years’ clean driving record. You have to be able to drive in Canada. And you have to be clean-cut and presentable — this isn’t a job for someone who goes without showering for a few days. I work for a great company that specializes in this kind of work. There are others. You can go online and fill out an application if this is the kind of work you’re interested in. And it always helps to know somebody who does this kind of work.

Fine Art Transporting

Art galleries and museums are adamant — those who transport priceless artwork are “black ops” truckers, driving unmarked trucks, not revealing what’s hauled or frequenting truckstops. We interviewed an anonymous art hauler associated with MidWest Fine Art Service and Transportation Co., LLC of Cleveland, Ohio.

How does hauling artwork differ from being a company driver or owner-operator?

Driver: Transporting irreplaceable cargo requires state-of-the-art equipment: climate units, E-track, air-ride vans with liftgates. Global tracking and, most often, team transport or constant surveillance are the norm. OTR companies maximize van freight, often stacking cargo to the ceiling, whereas fine art haulers strictly floor-load or use the deck occasionally. Often artwork is accompanied by a courier requiring special accommodations.

What are your duties besides driving?

Driver: Art haulers pride themselves on working closely with clients: museums, galleries or artists. With many, the driver is like an adjunct employee. Drivers often soft-pack or crate onsite. It involves a lot more than bumping docks.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Driver: Many institutions are historic landmarks built long before docks or service entrances were the norm. Galleries in metropolitan areas are likely street loads, which pose great challenges (parking tickets, long carries, steps, elevators, etc.). Universities and campuses can be maze-like, without street addresses, relying on building names. It can be daunting. At some institutions, we use a single-axle day tractor or yard dog just to get into the facility. Although we always inquire if the shipper is tractor-trailer accessible, you’d be surprised how often they say, “Wow, that’s a big truck,” and you’re stuck with no approach and a long carry.

What prepares a trucker to haul fine art?

Driver: Familiarize yourself with the art you’re moving. Visit collections and galleries. Read up on art-in-transit. There’s an abundance of material on the care and handling of artwork and antiques. Each painting, drawing, textile, photograph, sculpture or antique has its own unique risks and requirements.

Shipper communication is paramount. Ask about concerns, the proper orientation, and any reservations he might have about a specific work. Reassure the shipper you’ll communicate expectations and handling requirements at the destination as well. Your interest in the artwork and understanding the responsibility instills confidence in the shipper.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Driver: Weather — the greatest threat — can complicate safe handling and deliverance, not to mention driving risks. Mechanical problems with climate equipment or liftgates or breakdowns test you as well as your client. The shipper’s expecting you on time, regardless. Keeping your customer informed can diffuse the tension delays can cause. “Safety first” reassures the client.

What is the best part?

Driver: Developing relationships with art shippers and artists who request you personally is rewarding. Visiting a blockbuster exhibition that you moved can be very satisfying. Assisting great cultural institutions in this country is a huge privilege and responsibility.

Advice for a trucker who’d like to get into this?

Driver: Get involved with the local art scene. Volunteer at a gallery or museum. Talk to professional art handlers, preparers and conservators. Get your TWIC card and your Security Threat Assessment (STA) training and certification through TSA. Art shippers expect white-glove service; uniforms and professionalism in conduct and manner from the driver and impeccably maintained equipment are musts.

Describe an interesting experience.

Driver: Recently, we transported a custom A-frame supporting an 18-foot-long painting. At destination, the painting was too large for the receiving dock, requiring the institution to remove a gallery window. A long carry from the street and up a series of steps ensued. Although the weather was cooperative that day, occasional gusts of wind were a big concern. A canvas that large can behave like a sail and risk damage and/or injury. These types of projects attract many onlookers, adding extra challenge to complex jobs. When they come off without a hitch as this one did, they’re most satisfying.

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