It’s hard to win at anything when you go it alone. Because of this, Dan Richards (56) of Medford, Oregon has always surrounded himself with a team of winners. Whether leading a college basketball team or running a successful trucking operation, Dan realizes that teamwork makes all the difference. Dan believes in this concept so much, he named his trucking company “Coach” – because every team needs not only a good roster of players, but a good coach, as well!

When growing up, Dan’s immediate family was not in trucking, but he had an uncle and two cousins who were log truck drivers. Dan first rode with his uncle when he was about seven years old – and he was hooked. Dan rode with his uncle and cousins every summer until he went off to college, and for that, he can never thank them enough.

While in college, Dan had a summer job at a sawmill in Springfield, Oregon. On a Friday afternoon, Dan ran into the owner of the mill who mentioned that one of their truck drivers had abruptly quit, leaving them a driver short for the following Monday. Dan told him he knew how to drive a truck – which he did not – and the owner said, “Great, show up at the truck shop on Monday and we’ll get you lined out.” Over that weekend, Dan’s older cousin, Paul, who he had rode many miles with in his log trucks, taught him all he could in that short period of time. Long story short, Dan survived that summer, and two more, without ruining the equipment or hurting himself (or anyone else around him). But, today, he wouldn’t recommend that approach when getting into the industry.

From 1978 until 1986, Dan coached college basketball – the last place he worked was at the University of Wyoming. During these years as a coach, he realized the importance of teamwork, which he would later use in trucking. Some of the teams he coached were good, and some were not, but he always told them the same thing: “Play the entire game – regardless of the score – as if it were zero to zero!” After being fired from the University, Dan started trucking, but he never forgot that “team” spirit.

In the 1980s, Dan became an owner operator at Monfort, a legendary company based in Colorado, hauling beef all over the country. He met some very influential folks there, including Bob and Ron Emmert, Steve Wyatt and his dad, Bill, just to name a few. These men taught Dan how to truck hard, and he, like many of those old Monfort drivers back then, ran some incredible miles. In the ‘90s, Dan leased on to Interstate Distributors out of Tacoma, Washington. While there, he met some owner operators who taught him how to run smart – how to run efficiently. Guys like Tod Hale, Vern Knuteson, Gary Setterberg, Lenny Wilins and others, helped Dan fine-tune his daily approach to trucking, and became an integral part of his team.

Around 2003, Dan stepped away from trucking and went to work at a software company owned by a friend. The money was good, and he certainly needed the break, but working in an office began to take its toll. Dan would sit in his office, every day, and stare at a map of the United States that was hanging on his wall, wishing he was out on those roads running miles. After almost 13 years, it was time for Dan to get back to trucking.

Assembling his new “trucking team” in 2016, Dan ordered a truck from Butch Wood at DSU Peterbilt in Phoenix, Oregon. Butch was very instrumental in helping Dan put his latest truck together, and after being out of the business for so long, that was a big asset to Dan – Butch really brought him back up to speed. Kyle Marsh, the Service Manager at DSU, was also a tremendous help – he gave Dan great advice during the ordering process, and has been a wonderful resource since he took delivery of the truck.

The truck is a 2016 Peterbilt 389 with a 455-hp PACCAR engine and an 18-speed double-over transmission. With 3:08 rears, it’s barely turning over as he cruises up and down I-5. “I’ve had big horsepower under the hood over the years, but the 455 does a good job and gets good fuel mileage – plus, the extended warranty was half as much as a bigger motor,” said Dan. The trailer is a 2016 Wilson 53-footer with a Pacific Truck and Trailer curtain kit. It’s a high cube, and its light enough that Dan can scale 48,000 pounds, if needed. Dan’s awesome combo is painted a unique Lavender Metallic and Black Lilac Pearl, and you don’t see a bright purple Peterbilt every day, that’s for sure.

Bill Abernethy and his entire team at Commercial Collision in Medford, Oregon, did all the extra modifications to the truck after it was delivered. They painted the tanks and headlight buckets, added lower extension panels to the cab and sleeper, installed an inverter and did the deck plate. They do outstanding work, and Dan is lucky to have them on his team.

Pulling for Tradewinds Transportation out of Albany, Oregon, their team is second to none. Dan first pulled for Don Headrick, the owner of Tradewinds, back in 2001, so this was not new territory for Dan. “Don has created a unique environment and put together a staff that does a great job. They treat me like one of their drivers or owner operators. I can’t imagine a better situation for me,” said Dan.

Dan used to play a lot of golf, but trucking doesn’t leave much time for golf, so he’ll probably wait until he retires to start playing again. He and his wife Cyndi belong to Rogue Valley Corvettes, and they do a lot of socializing with their friends from the club, along with some very important charitable work. Dan loves driving their 2014 Stingray convertible. He also enjoys doing yard work. Cyndi has turned their backyard into a mini paradise, so Dan spends a lot of time at the barbecue, hanging out with friends. Having friends who spend the winter on their sailboat in La Paz, Mexico, Cyndi and Dan have had some wonderful vacations there.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Dan has no children and, for the most part, no family left. He does, however, have friends that might as well be family. Cyndi has a son who is in the process of moving from Portland to Los Angeles. He’s a nice young man, and he’s starting art school in the fall. Together, Cyndi and Dan have an “adopted” daughter of sorts – well, not really – but they have taken a keen interest in her. She just finished college and has begun her career in the automotive industry. Dan and Cyndi are looking forward to watching these young people, and seeing how their lives play out.

Doing all he can to help new owner operators and drivers that he meets, Dan certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s been very lucky to learn from some outstanding people in this industry over the years, and is not afraid to share some of that knowledge. In an effort to pay it forward, Dan does everything he can to teach young people about trucking. Actively involved in the “Trucker Buddy” program, which pairs truck drivers up with a classroom of children, this year he had a class of third graders in Vista, California who followed his every move via communication through their teacher – he even took his truck and trailer to their school just before they left for summer vacation, and they were thrilled (and so was Dan).

Having put together an all-star team that includes DSU Peterbilt, Commercial Collision, Tradewinds Transportation and all the others who have helped him along the way, Dan plans to truck – Lord willing – for a few more years, because he loves it. He’s had some interesting jobs in his life, but trucking is the most enjoyable one, by far. Going it alone is not easy, so Dan Richards is happy to have a great team around him – and teamwork makes all the difference!

About Jared Fagundes