By Karen Robes Meeks, San Bernardino County Sun
A few years ago, the Gardena resident asked his oldest son to be his partner in the drayage trucking business, which involved ferrying containers to and from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles with a 1996 Peterbilt truck.
Jorge Jr. jumped at the chance to work with his father, a man who supported a family of five children with trucking.
But the ports enacted a Clean Trucks Program in 2008 to reduce the number of polluting trucks operating at the port, requiring trucks that do business at the ports to be 2007 and newer.
That move pushed the cost of buying a truck from $5,000 to $15,000 for an older model to more than $100,000 for port-compliant trucks.
“We were just getting started, but we were pretty much shut down as soon as this happened,” said the younger Gomez. “How are you going to finance a $100,000-plus truck when the economy is kind of shaky?”
Enter transportation companies such as Rancho Dominguez-based Total Transportation Services Inc. and Long Beach-based Progressive Transportation Services, which both established Pathway to Ownership, lease-to-own programs to help independent trucking contractors such as the Gomezes own new trucks. The companies buy the trucks and act as financiers to contractors.
“We found that most of the independent contractors were not credit-worthy, so we needed to come up with a solution,” said Vic La Rosa, president of trucking company and logistics provider TTSI, which is helping more than 150 contractors under the Pathway to Ownership program. “The more opportunities we can provide for these independent contractors, the more our business will grow.”
Earlier this month, Progressive Transportation Services recognized 68 independent owners who recently earned their own clean truck through the program. More drivers from both companies are expected to own their trucks free and clear in the coming months.
“A historic transformation is under way in the harbor complex, and soon throughout the state of California,” said Kevin Dukesherer, an owner of Progressive and a founding member of the Clean Truck Coalition, a group of area trucking firms that use clean trucks.
On Jan. 1, the California Air Resources Board will ban trucks with 2006 and older engines at ports and rail yards statewide.
“Motor carriers are investing millions of dollars in new, clean trucks and making it possible for independent drivers to build their own small businesses,” Dukesherer said. “Air quality is dramatically improved. And the ports are safer and more secure than ever before.”
Under La Rosa’s program, a contractor can own a $115,000 truck after six years by making monthly payments of $1,500 for 72 months.
Because they decided to split the cost of the new truck and work alternating shifts, the Gomezes were able to pay off the truck in October after 4 ½ years, becoming one of the first to finish the lease-to-own program in the state.
The Gomezes are now considering a second truck.
“The sky’s the limit when you’re your own boss,” Jorge Jr. said.
Jorge Sr. said he is happy to finally be in business with his son, something he’s always wanted.
“It means a lot,” he said. “We talk to each other every day. He cares about me a lot, and that’s why I’m so happy that we’re a team.”
Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.