Mark & Kathy Thompson: Life At The Crossroads.August 7, 2017
You Got A Problem With That? Call Jimmy Layfield.August 7, 2017
At least, we hope so!
It’s almost as far from Oregon to Alabama socially and politically as it is geographically. Which is one reason you might assume that Portland natives David and Stephanie Ponder would prefer living in their home state to the Heart Of Dixie. You’d be wrong.
It’s a beautiful Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, on the Tennessee river near Muscle Shoals, the day we catch-up with Stephanie. She and David are home for the week, and playing hosts to fellow Baggett Owner Operator team Tom & Sandy Whitney. “It’s just gorgeous today!” says Stephanie. “We love living down here. We like the people and the politics.”
Ponders & Baggett: Third time’s the charm.
When asked why she and David (who left Baggett twice for other companies) are here to stay this time, Stephanie says flatly, “Experience, maturity and attitude.” That experience was gained, in part, “many, many years ago, when we saw an ad posted on the back of a truck in Texas that promised teams $600 a day hauling military freight.
“We were with that company for three months when we started realizing something wasn’t right. For one thing, the company’s training really wasn’t good.”
Their maturity came, in part, from the first time they left Baggett. “We got mad about something, I don’t even remember what, and we spent eight years with
. We finally decided we were tired of working that hard to get a load. And with all the miles we were running, the upkeep on our truck was a lot higher than it is with Baggett.
“We’re so happy to be back. We enjoy the people in the office, and we’re very comfortable working with them.”
You deadheaded 2500 miles to come back?
That’s right, says Stephanie. “Our last company had sent us to the Anniston military base, where we had the chance to catch-up with several Baggett drivers. It didn’t take us long to figure-out we wanted to come back.” So she and David deadheaded all the way from Oregon to Alabama to lease-on with Baggett for their third and, Stephanie insists, final time.
So what’s changed at Baggett?
Actually, Stephanie will tell you, Baggett is pretty much the same company it always was—which is encouraging to the folks here who like to think we’ve been treating our drivers right for a long time now.
“We especially enjoy the personal contact we have with actual people. [The large company] had hundreds of agents, and they left it up to the drivers to establish their own relationships with those agents, in order to keep a steady stream of loads coming in.”
So how do you establish relationships with agents at a company that large? “Good question!” Stephanie says. When asked to name something she appreciates more than ever at Baggett, she mentions James Ragsdale’s training. Not surprising, considering the issues they had with the other company’s lack of support.
“James is a great instructor. He’s on top of all the rules and regulations. And if you asked me, he’s even more likable and personable now.”
Any complaints these days?
About the only topic that raises Stephanie’s ire during our conversation is the state of certain military bases they’re serving these days. “Some of the facilities are still good, but some are really undermanned.” Asked for an opinion as to why that is, Stephanie pauses. “Yeahhhh, I’ll stay away from that one!”
For now, she and David plan to enjoy a long weekend with the Whitneys, followed by another one-to-three weeks on the road. “We’re kind of semi-retired, but as long as Baggett wants us, we’ll be with them.” Sounds like a great plan to us!
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