170: From Farming to End Dumps and Everything In Between

This week on the Oakley Podcast, host Jeremy Kellett chats with Leonard Freels, an End Dump Owner-Operator at Oakley. During the episode, Leonard discusses his background in trucking, including growing up on a farm and starting his own authority trucking company. He also talks about the transition from being a single truck owner-operator to owning multiple trucks. During the conversation, Jeremy and Leonard discuss the importance of money management in the trucking industry, the benefits of working with Oakley Trucking, advice for those looking to make the move, and more.

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • Oakley Update: Driver Appreciation Week (3:08)
  • Leonard’s background and journey in trucking (5:18)
  • From farming to owning a trucking authority (10:32)
  • Working 100 hour weeks managing multiple trucks (12:03)
  • Transitioning to Oakley (17:26)
  • The importance of money management (20:49)
  • Finding financial stability and a good work-life balance (23:46)
  • Advice for owner-operators looking to make a move (25:34)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Leonard Freels  00:12

The problem when people go out and learn how to drive a truck and get and get your own truck they think you know that’s nothing but big bucks being made there and that varies sometimes, but you got to hang on to it. You can’t just go on a spending spree and not worry about tomorrow because it’ll bite you.

Jeremy Kellett  00:27

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business, and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley Trucking, headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner-operators and their families by giving them up-to-date information concerning Oakley Trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an inside to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family. Hi, I’m Jeremy kellett director recruiting here at Oakley trucking and I’m your host for this podcast. This is the Oakley podcast, trucking, business and family. And we bring you a new episode every Wednesday and we try to bring you some good information to help you be a successful owner operator. This podcast was created to help communicate with our owner operators and their families to kind of give an insight on what’s happening in Oakley trucking on a weekly basis. And it’s come a long way. You know, we really have been able to have some awesome episodes and awesome guests on and it’s turned into something that I never thought it would be. But it’s also a great recruiting tool retention tool. And just informative for all our owner operators and we appreciate it but appreciate everybody listening or watching. Be sure and subscribe if you’re watching on YouTube. Be sure to share it with somebody that really helps you know, the algorithms in the Internet to help get us out there so we can get in front of more truck drivers to help get to give them information to help them be successful too. So that’s what we’re after here to make a more successful trucking company and owner operator. So on today’s episode, I’ve got Mr. Leonard Freels from Sacramento, Kentucky, he sat down with me and we’re going to talk about his story. He’s got a great story. I actually have only heard really none of it. Just a very small part of it, of how he used to have his own authority on trucking companies and a bunch of trucks. And now he’s been at Oakley for four and a half years so we’re gonna visit with him on his story here in just a minute but first let’s do it Oakley update sponsored by Arrow Truck Sales.

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Jeremy Kellett  03:08

Okay on the update this week, it’s all about driver appreciation week September the 10th through the 16th course as always, we appreciate all all truck drivers all over the country and what they do for us. You are the bloodline of this country and we appreciate everything you do. And by doing that, you know we have a driver appreciation week so everybody if you’re not aware that September the 10th through the 16th is driver appreciation week. You need to be and you need to thank a truck driver for the job he does. Day in and day out year in year out. Please recognize them as you do what we’re doing here at Oakley. We’re giving all of our owner operators a free truck wash at either Oakley facility. We also have free lunch. We got a taco truck on the yard here at North Little Rock September 11 12th and 13th from 11 to two. So eat all you want there. If you’re here on the yard we also the big thing I think is lab drawings for prizes. We’re doing three prizes a day for a total of 15 on Facebook Live. So that’s driver appreciation week. Some of the prizes I saw that were given out are pretty neat. We’ve got a custom Oakley backhoe board. You know the Oh, cornhole that they call it now I guess got those we got Oakley cooler. Nice fancy, big Oakley cooler, Oakley duffel bags, custom pictures, Carhartt jackets, all kinds of stuff that was given away on Facebook Live, so be sure and check that out. I appreciate all you truck drivers out there. And the job that you do. Let’s talk to Mr. Leonard Freels. Leonard, How are you today? Doing well. Pretty much arm wrestle to get you up here because I just caught you out on the yard and it was tough. Talking to you and you had an interesting story. So I thought it’d be nice and appreciate you doing it. I know you didn’t have to, you got stuff to do, but it won’t take long. We’ll knock this out. I just think, you know, your story is interesting. And I think it could resonate with a lot of truck drivers out there in this world and not just here at Oakley, but everywhere. So if you would introduce yourself, and let our listeners know who you are.

Leonard Freels  05:22

Yeah, Leonard Freels. As he said, Sacramento, Kentucky. I know. No one probably knows where that says it is 35 miles south of Owensboro. On the western side, where that is, yeah, Country Boy, I grew up on a 100 acre farm. I grew up with us. I just kind of got into trucking by accident. I wanted to be when I graduated high school, I wanted to buy a piece of ground. My granddad said $1,000 An acre you crazy. You can never pay for that. Was it now? 15,000. So yeah, right. That’s kind of way it went. So getting into trucking. Hopefully it turns out a little better to

Jeremy Kellett  05:56

Do you have a family?

Leonard Freels  05:58

I do. Got a wife of. But we have a long, long time. For Kids five grandkids. So Oh, congratulations. That’s one good thing about Oakley. I get home every weekend to enjoy them that I went to for several years didn’t get to.

Jeremy Kellett  06:15

Yeah, that’s um, I want to touch on here in a little bit about some of your home time and family time when you were doing your other deal. What do y’all do when you’re not working?

Leonard Freels  06:25

Well, I collect antique tractors. I really am. Believe it or not. I have a granddaughter that loves it. And the wife goes, does that and just and just enjoys the family.

Jeremy Kellett  06:36

You go looking for him. You go to auctions.

Leonard Freels  06:39

Actually, mom and my dad restored them. I try to take credit for it and I put a little cash in on it. And then they have just an antique tractor and add four or five of them a year they run going about a 25 mile ride and just all classics. It’s a lot of fun. Yeah, so how many antique tractors did you get? Oh, in between that now we have at least 10 Oh, man.

Jeremy Kellett  07:01

Yeah. And you still have this big farm?

Leonard Freels  07:05

No, no, I don’t. It I’d actually got purchased by Peabody Coal Company A blown Lashley brought to my granddad. Gotcha. And then he sold out and retired and I said I was gonna go home and he gave me that. Great advice about them. farm property. Yeah. So we had to get in our heads and do something. So get into trucking.

Jeremy Kellett  07:26

So had to tell us how you got into trucking? Well,

Leonard Freels  07:30

I’m third generation, like I told you my granddad was a farmer. But not. He had a best friend that had a watermelon company. Produce company and he hauled watermelons for him in the summer. And then me saving these farms wasn’t great. My dad farms too. He started to actually trade a green truck for a Kenworth. And on the way home, he broke down in front of a livestock market. And he went in and asked for help. And they got him going. And he ended up hooking to a cattle wagon and going somewhere in Kansas. He said he didn’t know how to drive. He didn’t know how to law. And then cows had a rough ride but they might. This was your granddad. That’s my dad, your dad. Yeah. Okay. So and then he had several trucks and a truck for years. So that was the you know, there you grew up in it. I did. I do. I didn’t. I didn’t particularly like trucks. When I had my choice. I would go to the farm. But that’s just you know, that’s what I did. I changed so many tires and brakes and worked around the shop that I really didn’t want anything to do with trucks when I got a girl.

Jeremy Kellett  08:33

So how’d you do it? I mean, when was that break? mean when you got out of high school to go out to drive in or Yeah, to

Leonard Freels  08:41

In high school, I needed a job. I went to work for a ceiling fan plant and it took me about five minutes to decide that it wasn’t for me. So I was only willing to go back just a little bit. That was when CDL you could get grandfathered in and when they left me chauffeur to the CDL. So I went ahead and did it. Why not? You know, so I had my CDL and I wasn’t a ceiling fan maker. So we looked around the family for a local job. I could only drive into state back then. I was 18 She didn’t draft for dad. No. No, actually, dad had a truck in the fence row. The transmission was out of fuel tank and was off of exhaust for all dogs but he said, If you can fix it, you can have it 359 Pete I spent time and blood sweat and tears and got that thing fixed up. And when I turned 21 He said you need to find a real truck. I sold that one. So yeah, he sold my 359 so it’s 1993 I went out and actually I went and bought a new Debbie 900 and went to work. On my 21st birthday. I was sitting in Jacksonville Florida delivering a load of something in a reefer. It wasn’t illegal the day before driving down but I had to get going.

Jeremy Kellett  09:54

And that was for who for you at least Oh,

Leonard Freels  09:56

I was using my Father’s authority. Okay, I use Did for just a short time when I got enough money I got the I probably 9494 through. When I come down to here it’s actually still active but um, but I’ve had my own authority since then,

Jeremy Kellett  10:12

since 1994. So you piggybacked off dad and started doing I did your own deal, dad, or dad, just give it up. Eventually. Your two years. Yeah, he

Leonard Freels  10:23

When I finally retired two or three times he would retire and come back and then up until 19 When I came down here, he was still driving for me. Oh, yeah. Yeah, he’s still driving today. He drives tracks with dump truck hauls rock, so he’s never gonna give it to anyone. Yeah, he’s gonna work to nail on Davies’ funeral I believe so.

Jeremy Kellett  10:44

So you never you never were a company driver anything for anybody. You went straight into bought your own truck

Leonard Freels  10:52

other than the, you know, maybe a week or two, you hit the single fan place. I’ve never had a job. I’ve just always done my own thing so well. It’s

Jeremy Kellett  11:03

pretty impressive.

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Jeremy Kellett  11:53

So during that time, you had your own authority and you started gaining trucks or what was the next process there? What made you it was

Leonard Freels  12:03

It was a slow gang. I’m not really a people person. I know you can’t tell that from a cabin up here. But I kept my own wind driven for several years. And my dad’s first retirement. He kind of got tired of it and picked up some drivers he had since the mid 70s. So we hated to send him down the road. So I just got a few trucks and picked them up. And then I just kind of more or less took over. He was at one time running about 15 between my uncle, my dad and myself and seven or eight have remained and then I think 12 is the most I’ve ever had at one time. Yes. Yep. puller reefers. reefers. Yes. I picked up from Kentucky where we’re there. There’s a lot of distilleries. We hold a lot of liquor out there. I picked up state bailment for Montana, Idaho, Washington before they deregulated. That’s like I said, you don’t know anyone who runs a truck. Fast Six, seven loads a week into there. And then I got hooked up with a big restaurant supplier. So we brought back french fries and table star potatoes. So we load them right back into Kentucky just round around for several years.

Jeremy Kellett  13:23

How long do you do that letter?

Leonard Freels  13:25

Well, right up until I came here and at 19. So, so from 1994 to 19. So Oh, wow. Several years. Yeah. Yeah, I always dispatched. John never quit driving, I drove and I won’t say every week. But I always drove because I dispatched everyone. And when I’m at the shop, doing stuff, I can’t stay concentrating on what I’m doing. So when I was in a truck, I was pinned up in a truck. So I could dispatch my drivers that way.

Jeremy Kellett  13:59

So you had to dispatch them on where to go and what to do plus, yep, drive down the road garden

Leonard Freels  14:04

and deal with customers. Yeah, I had to micromanage everything. I couldn’t leave it to anyone else. So yeah, I didn’t think I could anyhow, a lot of big responsibility that so yeah. And I’m not gonna say I didn’t enjoy it. But you go from 25 years old and you wake up the next day and you’re 45 You know, when you work 100 hour weeks? It goes in a hurry.

Jeremy Kellett  14:28

Yeah, what was that? I mean, what were some of the negatives to doing a night for 20 years? Yes.

Leonard Freels  14:34

The on call 24/7 You know, there’s never been a good phone call at 3am and I would or somebody out a few in Idaho or is now worse. Yeah, I sure don’t miss that anymore. That’s one of the main things but then I didn’t get to enjoy my family. I make good money, supported them. You know, all of them graduated with college degrees paid for. With the exception. My boys, they decided they want a new pickup. So they use their college money for that. So whatever. But anyhow, they. So I feel like the key and then, and my wife is the main thing she raised them kids, she’d done an excellent job. I just supported what I did best and good, but you don’t have a life when you do that. So very seldom I didn’t work 100 hours a week. And now you’re realizing that yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, I really enjoy it now. We were talking earlier about the logs. I was the biggest advocate of E logs. I thought that was the dumbest thing ever, but now I’m on them. And I actually go to bed after 10 or 11 hours instead of you know, you got another 500 miles to go you just started another book and go, Yeah, I don’t, I couldn’t go back to it. Right. I really, I actually really enjoy them didn’t think of what

Jeremy Kellett  15:49

we hear a lot of that, you know, and stuff like that. And, guys get on it. It helps him you know, it gives you more structure. I guess, Sharon’s, most guys enjoy it. And there’s some small things they don’t enjoy. But

Leonard Freels  16:03

Well, that’s one of the main reasons I’m here today. When they went yellow, the insurance went up and up. You know, and then I had some old drivers that weren’t interested. They just retired. They were old enough to call it quits. And that’s just what they did. They wouldn’t do it. No, no, he loved No, he wouldn’t do no December of 18. Whatever the date was, that was the end of them. They had at least four guys that that was a

Jeremy Kellett  16:30

So what would you do with your trucks just to sell part of them? Trailers I’m assuming Yeah, trailer.

Leonard Freels  16:36

I had 21 trailers. I know that because that is not an easy project around and up. 21 drivers dropped all over the distilleries in Kentucky in Indiana. And actually there was one dropped in Pingree Idaho. So I had to Bobtail to Idaho to pick up my trailer and get it back. So that was I decided, first of the year 19 I was done and it took me till April to finally get everything wrapped up. Well, so I was going to retire. I actually sold some contracts, went in form for a week, went to Vegas for a week and then I called Kent Childers. I said you got a spot for next week. That was our take

Jeremy Kellett  17:15

zero. So how did you make that transition from there to us? How did you hear about us?

Leonard Freels  17:24

On rhodo you Oh, oh, nerves, your commercials? Yeah. Actually, I told my dad I said, I’m gonna go. I think I’m gonna go to Oakley and that was right after Hilo and I talked to Kent and I didn’t sound like I made an appointment but I let all the drivers know. Well, then I backed out. I went ahead and paid my insurance premium and then we ran one more year. And then after I said I’m done. So I didn’t. I’d seen the trucks oculus got nice trucks right around you know, you just made them on the road. Actually, there was a gleam of Keynes , a guy I admire. I don’t know if you know Glenn or not, he was down here for a short bit.

Jeremy Kellett  18:04

Yes, I think I do. Did he have a Western stone? Did I remember? England keen?

Leonard Freels  18:11

Yep. We hold for the same Turkey factory there at Huntingburg Indiana Okay, so I knew Glenn and I met him and it seemed to me it was pretty nice down here. So let’s just decide I don’t know why I made that decision. I just decided that’s what I was going to do and I stuck with it So

Jeremy Kellett  18:27

had you ever known you’re gonna end up in a division right? I am. Have you ever done that before?

Leonard Freels  18:31

I had none. I had not actually come down here to pull a tank when I first signed on. But I suppose I didn’t pay attention when they were telling me what was going on. And I found out they were gonna be out three weeks at a time so a couple weeks later I found a dump trailer.

Jeremy Kellett  18:48

Change their store Jags that up real quick good. Oakley Trucking is a 100% Owner Operator company. We specialize in Hopper, bottom and dump and pneumatic drivers. We provide the trailer free of charge and you provide the truck. We have a large customer base that reaches the whole United States as well as parts of Canada. Our owner operators live anywhere from Texas to North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and everywhere in between and we get them home weekends. We take it seriously when you join Oakley trucking because we need you to be successful. Oakley offers great benefits and a competitive mileage base so you know that when your wheels are turning, you’re generating money no matter if you’re loaded or empty. We understand that you want to make a good living and that you make our living. We only take on independent contractors and to be honest with you we are very particular on who we lease on. You must have a good driving record, good work history, and a clean, dependable truck. So if you’re interested in Oakley trucking or just want some more information, you can go to Oakley trucking.com Listen to our weekly podcast, the Oakley podcast and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We talked a little bit about it but what’s some of the little things but but probably big things that you had to deal with when you had your own authority compared to now you don’t have to deal with, you know, we talked a little bit earlier about getting paid, is it I mean,

Leonard Freels  20:10

oh, that’s a biggie, that’s what we do. If I were I don’t need to practice, your check is in the bank for it, you only think about it. Another big thing is when you’re doing your own thing, you have to have so much capital, you know, the fuel spikes 50 cents a gallon. You don’t think I mean, that’s a big deal for one truck, have 12 of them that run, you know, coast to coast, you’re talking lots of money that you had to have in the bank. And you surcharge him and get it back. We were talking two, three months down the road before you started saying that.

Jeremy Kellett  20:43

You gotta have some operating capital to be able to go out there until you get paid for

Leonard Freels  20:48

shared customer. Because then guys, when I get in, and they want to check right, then they want their check yesterday. Yeah. So you have to, that’s the main thing. You got to be a money manager. You know, I’d say that’s the number one thing that I mean, that’s easy to say. But I guess the problem is when people go out and learn how to drive a truck and get and get their own truck, they think you know, that’s nothing but big bucks to be made there in that area sometimes, but you got to hang on to it. You can’t just go on a spending spree and not worry about tomorrow because it’ll bite you.

Jeremy Kellett  21:16

Yeah, that’s good advice. Being a businessman says it ain’t just, I got a bunch of trucks and I’m making a bunch of money. Well, you can make a bunch of money, but a bunch of money can go right out the door real quick. And

Leonard Freels  21:31

then $20,000 phone calls come regularly. Yeah, you know, the more you get, the more regular they come.

Jeremy Kellett  21:38

Well, what about now? I mean, so, you know, you had a lot of things that are different from running your own authority to now your lease to Oakley were. We do a lot of that stuff for you? Sure. You know, I think some of the big things that people don’t realize are the fuel discounts. Oh, yeah, that’s me. That makes a huge difference. Yeah,

Leonard Freels  22:00

yeah. When I ran my fleet car through Lowe’s, they gave me 10. And they bumped it up to 12 cents a gallon. And I really thought I was a big shot. You know, I was close to JB Hunt, maybe until I saw what kind of discount you guys get. And I didn’t have a discount. So,

Jeremy Kellett  22:16

yeah, it adds up quick, when you’re putting all those gallons. You know, it’s just little things like that. And then, you know, insurance is always here. Liability Insurance is a big experience for somebody with their own authority. I mean, I know it’s a big expense for Oakley, you know, we pay a lot of money for liability insurance, and then you’re responsible for those guys. They’re driving under your liability insurance out there.

Leonard Freels  22:43

Well, that’s another thing. The ELD has changed. Tracking is the insurance if you don’t run the ELD, or I know the company I was with. It was like 60% premium. Wow. So that’s one thing that ran me out. I’d kind of gotten my feeling, you know, I mean, it’s cool to have fat Shani trucks run up and down and roll with your name on it. And everybody knows who you are. Because I’ve got 10 trailers dropped at the distillery and no one’s broken and got my name written on the side of it. Yeah, that’s pretty neat. But you know, after 1520 years, you will fail. So it’s not as much glory as it seems.

Jeremy Kellett  23:24

Right. And they don’t, it’s got to produce money. It’s got to produce a good limit, you know, for sure. How about now? You know, I know you said you could make money doing that. But you’re making money now? Yes. Well, you have for the last four, four and a half years. Do you and your wife feel more financially stable now?

Leonard Freels  23:46

Yeah. I mean, we’re at a different time in our life. Everything’s paid for. So you know, they, it’s, it’s pretty nice. That is enough. But yeah, the money’s here. I don’t work weekends anymore. When I first started, I was running Canada, and I wasn’t making a ton of money. But then I kind of got back to the same thing that I was doing. You know, one time I was at two and a half weeks, and the wife’s like, what do you think she went there to be home. So then I swapped this base. I figured it was the perfect time to say, hey, I don’t work weekends. Yeah.

Jeremy Kellett  24:20

Well, you were you. I mean, you were geared for all those years to work, work. So has it been hard for you to kind of slow down and go home on the weekends? Not at all? No, well, you’re a smart man because I can tell you when you’re able to get things paid for. Doesn’t that just make you dinner does change the way you think? No?

Leonard Freels  24:43

Yes, it’s definitely a good feeling.

Jeremy Kellett  24:45

When you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to worry about things shutting down or going wrong, or I mean, yeah, well,

Leonard Freels  24:51

When I first started, I told him I had kale chips, and I told him I said kale, I take six weeks off a year. He’s like, okay, and then I heard it through the good Man. He’s like, yeah, he really meant it, that guy vacations all the time. You know, and that’s what I worked for. So glad that I can do it. And, you know, I’ve never heard a word out of Oh, cleaning my dispatchers about, you just say, Hey, I’m off next week, and it’s not a problem. Yeah, so they definitely work with, like you

Jeremy Kellett  25:19

said, there’s work for, you know, to get some of that family time home, time off care, vacation, or whatever it is you like to do? You know, let’s go find some more antique directors.

Leonard Freels  25:31

wife know here that

Jeremy Kellett  25:34

We all have those issues, for sure. You know, that he is. So what would you tell somebody that that is thinking about? Coming to Oakley and is nervous about, you know, the dry bulk industry and never been into it? You wouldn’t? What would you tell them? They need to be smart about it?

Leonard Freels  25:58

Oh, yeah, you know, it’s just no matter what business it is, it’s a lot of you know, just paying attention to what’s going on around you, you know, everyone’s scared of those dumb drivers. And I was too at first, but I’m not saying I’m not but you know, they gotta respect Yeah, yeah, it’s his dirty work, sweaty work. But it’s good work. Good, it’s good to do a whole lot better and just wing it on your back. And then I really enjoy it. I didn’t know that I would. We were talking earlier about the truck that I just released on. I saved it. Because it could be on paper low, just in case I had to go back and do my own thing again, because I was, you know, I would need to get back on the paper. You always got back up. Yeah. Yeah, it’s a long way to Seattle back without that paper, so I was saving it. But I went and brought it because I’m, I never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. But I plan on retiring here. I’ve got 15 years old, I’ve got nine and a half more years before I can kind of kick back and that’s what I plan on being right here. At least that long.

Jeremy Kellett  27:00

That’s good, man. Great story. Great success story. You know, and changing. Not careers, but changing business paths, you know, from having your own authority for 20 years, or plus to, to make that big decision of getting rid of trucks, getting rid of trailers, and leasing on to somebody. And it’s good to see that you’re enjoying it and you want to retire here and we want you to retire here because you’ve been a great owner operator for us.

Leonard Freels  27:29

Okay, and yeah, it was here. It wasn’t. It was different at first . I was saying that I wasn’t nervous.

Jeremy Kellett  27:36

Well, you ought to be I mean, everybody is coming into something different, you know? Well, thank you for sitting down with me. I really appreciate your input. It’s authentic. I can tell you know, and people that watch this and listen to it. I hope they learned something from it, you know, and get a good idea of what’s, what’s not. What’s here at Oakley, but also going through the trials and stuff you’ve been through. So, thank you, brother. I appreciate everybody. Listen to the Oakley podcast. Another great episode. You know, Leonard Freels got a great story. And we’re so glad to have Rob Rogers locking him here at Oakley. Be sure to check us out every week. We have some new episodes coming up. That is gonna be great. We also got some really good ones in the past. I would recommend you go into the past, look in the archives and check out some of our episodes and some of the people we’ve interviewed over the past year or two. It’s really good. Got some good owner operators and good testimonials so appreciate y’all listening. We’ll talk to you next week. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Oakley podcast: trucking, business, and family. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to rate or review the show on the podcast platform of your choice and share it with a friend. We love hearing from our audience, so if you’ve got a question, comment, or just want to say hello, head over to our website, theoakleypodcast.com, and click the “leave a comment” button. We’ll get you a response soon and may even share some of the best ones here on the show. We’ll be back with a fresh episode very soon. Thanks for listening.