Island Hopping!

FebTT1Imran Bartley was only 17 years old when he made the decision to hop from the island of Jamaica to the “island” of New York. Trading ocean breezes and what many would consider paradise, to live the fast-paced life in the Big Apple, was a huge change he made in 2007. Speaking of why, he said, “There is a wider variety of things to do here.” Pretty courageous words for such a young man.

Before coming to the United States, Imran learned to drive in Jamaica, going out with his stepfather on weekends and holidays. He was 13 when he started shifting gears and backing trucks up. This is the way many drivers learned “back in the day” before truck driving schools became the only way to get a foot in the door to drive a truck. And, in my opinion, it is a much better way to learn.

FebTT2Not surprisingly, there aren’t many “dressed up” trucks in Jamaica. The chrome shops there carry a very limited inventory, and if you want your truck to be dolled up there, you have to come here, to the US, order the parts, and then have them shipped back to the island. Not an easy (or cheap) task.

Growing up in Jamaica was very laid back. It’s a friendly place, and the people there are more oriented on doing things together with friends and family. They have American foods in the supermarkets, but they don’t have the luxury of having fresh foods on the island year-round. Imran often misses the beach back home, and really looks forward to going there on vacation.

After moving over to the States, before getting back into trucking, Imran worked at a Jamaican restaurant for five years. Part of that time he was a baker, before the chef position was offered to him. This job paid very well, but he wanted to get into the profession he loved even more – trucking – so he quit his job and started his quest, chasing after his first real love.

Talking with Imran, I was very impressed at the methodical approach he used to get into the business, in a big way, for such a young man (now 27). He does a lot of research before making any business decision. Talking to many people is part of his research. He looks for the most common answer, to see how it fits with his thoughts, and then makes his decision.

FebTT3After researching “how to get into trucking” here in the States, he decided he was going to have to go to truck driving school. He decided on the Ferrari Driving School in Queens, New York. Already having driving skills, he took and passed the road test with ease after ten hours of training, on the road, in the school. He used the classes, mostly, to help learn all the intricate details of doing a pre-trip and filling out a logbook, and then passed all the tests with flying colors, getting his Class-A license.

After attending the truck driving school, he went to CR England, to get more training, and stayed there for just nine months, before going to Prime, for a year and a half. They offered him their lease-purchase program, but he just didn’t trust getting into his own truck that way. During this time, he started saving money, and eventually saved enough to start looking for his own truck and trailer. He also made the decision to get his own authority, and really make it on his own. Go big or go home, right?!

FebTT4With the help of OOIDA, he started the paperwork in June of 2016. I know firsthand how much they can help in this process. When you work with OOIDA, you are tapping in to the many years of experience they have in helping drivers become new owner operators. And if the person you are talking to doesn’t know the answer to your question, they will find someone who does, and get back to you with the correct answer. You can look back on my January 2012 story, about getting your own authority, for more in-depth information about this topic, if you are looking to do that, too.

The Truck Paper was a main source Imran used while looking for the perfect truck and trailer. He looked at many rigs during this process, but, realistically, many were too far away for him to actually go and look at in person. One thing he was sure of, though, was that his first truck was going to be a Kenworth W900. And, after driving the lousy company trucks, he knew that it would have to have a pre-emissions engine. After getting his insurance, his authority became active in September 2016, and he was now ready to get out there and start “living the dream” in America.

I really believe things happen for a reason, and after finding the perfect truck – a 2006 Kenworth W900 with a Studio Sleeper, an ISX 565 Cummins, an 18-speed and 3.55 rears, he found a great trailer to pull, too – a 53’ Utility with a Carrier 2500A unit. When he talked about his truck, he always said, “That’s my baby,” which I thought was pretty cool. I told him trucks are always girls, and he agreed. She doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m sure one day soon she will.

FebTT5It’s funny, sometimes, how you can just start up a conversation with another driver, make a friend, and just immediately see a story right there in front of you. Such was the case, here. After he complimented me on my truck, we started a conversation, and the more I talked to this young man, the more impressed I was with him. So many young people today are not nearly as focused as this young man, who is willing to take the time to do things right – young people today want everything right now! To all the young people out there, patience is a virtue.

Right now, his plan is to run hard and pay her off as soon as possible. Making sure that she is clean and mechanically-sound is important to Imran, as breakdowns out on the road are much more expensive than doing preventative maintenance. Having a mechanic back home that he trusts, and doing some of the mechanical work himself, helps save money and gives him peace of mind that his equipment is sound to run down the road.

I asked him what he thought of spread-axle trailers, like mine. I told him about the advantages of loading a spread-axle over a closed tandem, but he was not sold. He said he likes the looks of them, but would have to do some research. And maybe, down the road, if it is a profitable and smart change to make, he would look into getting one. This kid is sharp! Right now, Imran is getting help with things like IFTA, but, down the road, when he learns more and understands it, he plans on doing that stuff himself, too.

One day, when his combination is paid for, he plans to start dressing her up, and maybe even take her to a few truck shows. I think when that day comes, he will be a real contender. Taking time to learn is the foundation for this young man to build a solid business, in this land of opportunity, that we all love so much. I wish him all the luck, and look forward to seeing him again real soon.

About Kim Grimm

Kim Grimm has had a license to drive a truck since April of 1978 and has driven millions and millions of miles ever since. Living in Wisconsin with her beloved cocker spaniels, Kim, who is a long-haul owner operator, has been a regular contributor to 10-4 Magazine since 2003.