As a kid, trucker John Healey said he was good at Tetris — letting the pieces fall into the right slots on the popular video game.
It’s served him well as a car carrier, carefully stacking as many as 10 cars merely inches apart to transport to dealerships. If he does it wrong, it’s not just a “game over,” but a large financial hit.
“It’s kind of like putting together a puzzle,” said Healey, 41, who drives a 2016 Peterbilt 379 with a Cottrell trailer for Moore Transport out of Toledo, Ohio.
Healey, who grew up in Boston, told The Trucker out at the Petro Stopping Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas, that he is typically away from his home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, five days a week, traveling from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the Dallas area hauling cars like Volkswagens and BMWs to dealerships.
Before he got into the trucking industry in 2004, he graduated from college and served in the Army National Guard for seven years in places like Kansas, Germany and Bosnia. He did primarily flight operations, office work in Bosnia for about a year. While he is quick to point out his service wasn’t exactly exciting, he saw some interesting sights, including “ruins from warzones,” visible by helicopter.
After his service, he worked to recruit engineers for contract positions in the private sector, but soon learned there was a more lucrative opportunity in trucking. When he looked at pricing to ship his former wife’s vehicle across the United States, he realized he could make good money, he said.
Though car hauling has been most of his career, he did at one point haul gasoline. He has made it a point, when he can, to help others who are in need.
“I saw a guy walking with a gas canister so I stopped and gave him a splash of someone else’s gas,” Healey said with a big smile. “ … It just feels good to help people out.”
Before working for Moore Transport, he was an owner-operator, carrying vehicles for private citizens where he ran into “a lot of very neurotic customers, lots of concerns with their cars.”
“It was overwhelming,” Healey said. “Twenty-something-hour days, I barely slept; probably lost years off my life.”
While his work life is less stressful as a company driver, it’s still a physically demanding job that goes on — rain, shine, sleet, snow.
“I hit my head at least once a day,” Healey said. “One time on the side of the highway in Maine, there was snow everywhere; I had to lie in a puddle to chain a car up. It was cold enough to be freezing.”
Healey said the job also requires a mental toughness, the understanding of what to do and what not to do when loading vehicles, securing them and knowing how to drive carefully — quick turns and bottoming out could mean major damage. One of the keys is to always set the pins in the hydraulics, to keep the frame from shifting and crushing the vehicle while en route, he said.
While he’s hauled some expensive vehicles, like a rare Mustang and Bentleys, his most unique was “a London taxi. It’s really tall, taller than you’d think. He was shipping it across the country,” he said of the owner/collector. “It was roughly six and a half feet” tall.
Part of the way Healey keeps up with the physical and mental demands of being a car carrier is living a healthy lifestyle.
“I go to the gym almost every morning; I have a membership at both Anytime Fitness and LA Fitness and I also never eat road food,” he said. “On my weekend I prepare all of my food for the week and bring it with me, storing it in an electric cooler. I actually eat really good, save time and money.”
Convenience often holds drivers back from achieving better health, which leads to terrible food choices and little exercise, Healey said.
“I put my mind to it and created a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “Others could too if they tried. It’s a major problem in our industry — obesity, diabetes.”
When he’s home in Hot Springs, he spends his time taking his girlfriend out to dinner or occasionally playing poker, but just for fun — he has a weak poker face, he admits.
Though the job is tough, Healey said he plans on staying in trucking “as long as I can physically do it.”
“I make really good money,” he said.