By Carmen K. Sisson | Randall-Reilly/J.B. Hunt
As the weather turns warmer, Anthony Branch’s thoughts turn to his favorite activity — hosting backyard barbecues. His “low and slow” cooking style, combined with his easy laugh and a grill laden with ribs, chicken, sausages, and kabobs, keeps his patio crowded on summer nights with family and friends.
His partnership with J.B. Hunt Transport Services makes it all possible, he says. By leasing on as an owner operator, he is able to run his company without having his job run his life. Though Branch enjoys driving, he loves his family even more, so J.B. Hunt’s flexibility made it an obvious choice.
Branch, 54, grew up in Chicago and now lives in Crestwood, Ill. His father was a trucker, hauling beef for a meat packing company, and Branch and his brother often accompanied him on his routes. But even though he was in awe of his father’s strength and dedication, he didn’t feel the calling to follow in his footsteps — not initially anyway.
I spoke with my wife and said, ‘Baby, we’re working and making everybody else rich, but we can live real good if we put ourselves out there.’ ~ Anthony Branch, owner/operator
He went to college to be an accountant but quickly grew “bored with numbers, bored with being broke,” so he joined the United States Navy, where he stayed for 12 years.
His daughter, Brittany, changed everything.
Branch had married his high school sweetheart, Regina, in 1981, and after Brittany was born, he didn’t want to be away from his family.
Though he was a veteran, jobs were surprisingly scarce. He traveled as far as Rockford, Ill., hoping to land a job as a police officer, scrambling against people younger than him for managerial jobs.
It was at his lowest moment — when he was parked near the interstate, trying to figure out how to tell Regina he had been turned down again — that he started noticing the large numbers of trucks on the road. A week later, he was in Green Bay, Wis., training with a national carrier.
The good people around me, the good company I work for, the abundance of freight — it just makes you go to a little extra effort, because you know you’re going to do well if you apply yourself. ~ Anthony Branch, owner/operator
But three months into the job, he was disillusioned. He had only been home four weekends out of 12. Brittany had just started walking. He missed his family, and life as an over-the-road driver wasn’t working. He took a job as a driver/warehouse man but found that he spent most of his time in the warehouse and little behind the wheel.
“I had worked for my CDL, and I wanted to drive a truck,” Branch says.
After working for several other companies, he learned that owner operators were making as much as $3,000 per week, and he was hooked.
“I spoke with my wife and said, ‘Baby, we’re working and making everybody else rich, but we can live real good if we put ourselves out there,’” Branch recalls. With Regina’s enthusiastic support, he became an owner operator in 2006, obtaining his sky-blue, 2002 Freightliner Century Class through a lease-purchase program.
In 2011, fate brought him to J.B. Hunt. The economy was nose-diving, and the company he worked for was struggling. He was sitting in a customer’s parking lot, trying to decide what to do, when his eyes fell on a J.B. Hunt truck. They were everywhere.
After doing his research and talking with a recruiter, he decided to lease on to J.B. Hunt. It was one of the best decisions he’s ever made, Branch says.
These days, he drives between 800 and 1,100 miles a week on an intermodal route, with nights and weekends off. His 16-year-old son, Anthony Jr., is active in both football and wrestling, and Branch is proud that he has never had to miss a game or match.
He is a certified owner operator trainer, and he enjoys passing along his secrets to a successful career with J.B. Hunt. One of the hardest things for new drivers to understand is how to measure their estimated time of availability.
Some drivers wait to send their ETA when they’re empty, and they end up sitting around, drinking coffee and getting frustrated while waiting for their next load. With J.B. Hunt, Branch is able to call ahead with his ETA, then change it if necessary. This keeps him constantly moving and constantly earning.
You’re charting your destiny, and you’re either going to sink or you’re going to swim. The military taught me to work hard and be proud of what you do, and I think that’s why I’ve been successful. This is not just my job; this is my business. My name and my reputation is at stake. ~ Anthony Branch, owner/operator
Other good business practices include filling out log books in real-time instead of at the end of the day, and keeping up with the paperwork necessary to get paid.
Taking care of your truck and equipment is crucial, Branch says. He changes his oil every 60 days, regardless of mileage, and makes sure to keep moving parts lubricated. Because fuel is one of his biggest expenses, he keeps his speed around 60 miles per hour and checks his tire pressure constantly. If he’s parked, the truck is turned off instead of idling.
His military experience has made him quickly adaptable, with a drive and determination that has served him well throughout his career. Everyday he tries to learn something new.
“The good people around me, the good company I work for, the abundance of freight — it just makes you go to a little extra effort, because you know you’re going to do well if you apply yourself,” Branch says.
He is proud to be an owner operator, leasing on to J.B. Hunt.
“You’re charting your destiny, and you’re either going to sink or you’re going to swim,” he says. “The military taught me to work hard and be proud of what you do, and I think that’s why I’ve been successful. This is not just my job; this is my business. My name and my reputation is at stake.”
Name: Anthony Branch
Hometown/Location: Crestwood, Ill.
Family: Wife, Regina; daughter, Brittany, 24; son, Anthony Jr., 16
Truck: 2002 Freightliner Century Class, sky blue with no customization; 1,020,452 miles
Trucking: Since 1992, owner operator since 2006
Business Tip: Take care of your equipment and understand estimated time of availability to minimize downtime.
Secret talent: Barbecuing “low and slow”
Why consider J.B. Hunt: Flexible schedules, professional staff, and an abundance of freight