A Day In The Life: Jimmy Schuetter

The Herald | Road WarriorClick on the photo above to launch the web presentation.

Story by Leann Burke

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan

For once, Jimmy Schuetter of St. Anthony got to sleep in. Rather than pulling into Classic Bulk Carriers in Huntingburg around 2:30 a.m., the St. Anthony semi-truck driver arrived a little after 5 a.m., having filled his truck with a load of cement powder the previous night.

For some, rising a few hours after midnight each morning, climbing into a semi and driving all day may be baffling; for Jimmy, it’s just normal. The 52-year-old has been driving a semi since he was 18 years old — 34 years — and he’s done just about any length trip you can think of. These days, though, he stays local so he can be home each night with his family — his wife, Stacey and two kids, Jaden, 14, and Kynlee, 9. With the exception of getting a couple more hours of sleep, Oct. 22, unfolded like most of Jimmy’s work days have for the last nine years.

When Jimmy arrives at Classic Bulk Carriers — a company he founded in 2001 with current owner Keith Hedinger before later selling Keith his shares — most of the company’s other truckers have already left for the day. Jimmy’s first order of business: fire up his black Peterbilt and check it over. The rumble of the 1998 truck fills the quiet morning, with the truck’s lights and the street lights in the company’s parking lot the only light in the rural area between Jasper and Ferdinand. Finding everything in working order, Jimmy climbs into his truck — Jimmy Schuetter Trucking LLC is painted on the driver’s side door, signaling that he owns his truck and contracts with Classic Bulk Carriers — and makes the first entry of the day in his log book. A few minutes later, he pulls onto State Road 162 and heads toward Evansville.

The sun hasn’t even thought about rising yet, and the road is empty. That’s exactly how Jimmy likes it. Later, there will be more drivers out, which slows him down. That costs money since he gets paid by the load.

Jimmy reloads his truck with cement powder at CEMEX/Kosmos Cement distribution center at the Port of Indiana in Mount Vernon.

Just under an hour after leaving Classic Bulk Carriers, Jimmy exits Interstate 69 in Evansville. This early in the morning — about 6:30 a.m. ET — the city’s streets are nearly deserted. When he gets to his first stop — Concrete Supply’s plant on Vogel Road — it’s deserted, too. As usual, Jimmy beat Concrete Supply’s employees to the location. It’s not a problem though. He has the key code to get onto the site.

“That’s the benefit of knowing your customers so well,” he said. “I can unload myself down here, whatever I want to do.”

Jimmy’s got his truck hooked up to Concrete Supply’s cement silo with one of the truck’s three hoppers unloaded before the first of Concrete Supply’s employees arrives.

While Jimmy waits for the cement powder to empty, he hops back into the driver’s seat to make another entry into his log. U.S. Department of Transportation laws dictate that truck drivers can only drive 14 hours per day, that they have to take breaks and that all of their time be logged. That means noting every time the truck is loaded and unloaded. In newer trucks, the logs are done on computers, but Jimmy’s older truck doesn’t have that system. He has to use a paper log and be able to show every hour is accounted for.

“That’s something that’s changed over the years,” Jimmy says of the record keeping. “Everybody wants to have everything documented and recorded.”

Once Concrete Supply’s concrete manager, Jerry Marx, gets in, Jimmy heads into the office. The two work together to make sure the silo doesn’t get overfilled. If that happens, cement powder will explode out of the top of the silo and cover the parking lot in powder. Jimmy’s had that happen, he says, but not recently.

The two chat while Jerry gets the computers that monitor the silo up and running. It’s deer season, so the two talk about their plans for weekend hunts. Jimmy’s taking a long weekend to take his family to a cabin in Crawford County for hunting. Jerry figures he’ll head out to hunt sometime Sunday.

This time, the unloading process takes about 45 minutes, and Jimmy’s back on the road around 7:30 a.m. ET heading to the Port of Indiana in Mount Vernon where he’ll stop at the CEMEX/Kosmos Cement distribution center.

Jimmy takes State Road 62 toward Mount Vernon. The swan hood ornament and flame decals are examples of the many ways that Jimmy has customized his truck. "When you're in something that many hours and that many days, it's worth it," Jimmy said.

As he pulls up to the distribution center about half an hour later, he fires up the CB radio to communicate with the person running the loading silo. He tells them who he is and where the powder is going — this load, too, is bound for Concrete Supply — and then he pulls his truck into the loading area. While the truck loads, he climbs the stairs that wrap around the loading tower and into the office to chat with the guys up there. He knows them well, too.

This morning, he’s one of the first trucks to pick up a load, and he’s the only truck there when he arrives. That’s his goal, he says.

“When we come back later, there might be three or four trucks here,” he says. “Then you have to wait.”

After another entry in his log, Jimmy is back on the road back to Concrete Supply. By now, the roads are more crowded as students rush to classes at the University of Southern Indiana and commuters head to work.

Back at Concrete Supply, it’s getting busier, too. The company’s cement mixers move around the property as Jimmy pulls in and hooks up his truck. As the cement powder exits Jimmy’s truck, cement mixers sit beneath the silo getting filled.

Jimmy walks up and down the length of his truck opening the valves that control the air pressure and release of the cement powder from his truck. He’s been doing it so long now, he can tell by the tone of the humming coming from the truck how close to empty one of the hoppers is. He bangs on the side of the hopper to make sure all the powder is emptied into the hose that carries it into the silo. When he’s satisfied, he turns the valves again and heads into the office to ask Jerry if there’s room in the silo for more powder.

Jimmy drives his truck on State Road 62 toward CEMEX/Kosmos Cement distribution center to reload his truck with cement powder in Mount Vernon.

While Jimmy waits to be able to unload more powder, he jokes around with the guys in the office, and back outside, Booter Hart of Evansville sneaks up behind Jimmy with one of Concrete Supply’s loaders. Jimmy can’t hear the machine coming over the sound of his truck unloading, so Booter often drops the bucket near Jimmy.

“He always gets me,” Jimmy says, chuckling. “I jump right out of my skin.”

Today, though, Booter doesn’t drop the bucket. Jimmy catches him in time, and the two laugh about the foiled prank.

After Jimmy finishes unloading his truck, he’s on the road back to Mount Vernon and the CEMEX distribution center.

It can be repetitive, driving the same route multiple times a day, but Jimmy doesn’t mind it. He did the longer trips when he was younger, and this schedule allows him to be home with his family most nights. Plus, it’s still not a desk job.

“Fourteen hours a day doing this is a lot faster than a desk job,” he says.

There’s also an element of following in his father’s footsteps with his career choice. Jimmy’s dad, Bob Schuetter, drove a semi, too. Jimmy’s pretty sure his father’s career is what led him to drive a truck in the first place. Once he started, Jimmy says, he was hooked, and bought his first semi in his 20s.

“I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing,” Jimmy says. “I drained my savings account for the down payment.”

He spent the next five years of his career driving as much as he could to ensure he could make the truck payments. But those days are almost 30 years in the past now, and Jimmy’s worked hard enough that he can afford a less hectic schedule. He locked in a more regular schedule nine years ago when Kynlee was born. That’s when he became the main driver Classic Bulk Carriers sends to Evansville every day.

By now, it’s midday in Evansville, and the city is bustling. The roads are pretty crowded, and the CB radio crackles with the chatter of different drivers out on the road. Jimmy knows quite a few of the drivers that pass him on the road. He points at one truck as it passes on the other side of the highway.

“I know him,” Jimmy says.

He points at another truck. That driver just spoke on the radio, Jimmy says, adding that “that guy never shuts up.”

Although guys still chat on the CB all day, Jimmy says that culture is changing. The younger drivers don’t use the radios much, only turning them on to tell other drivers if they see hazards or to communicate with loading docks.

When he gets to the CEMEX distribution center, Jimmy turns up the radio to tell the operator who he is and where this load of cement powder is going. This time, Jimmy’s heading for another cement company in Evansville, David Enterprises.

Jimmy drives his truck through David Enterprises after unloading cement powder in Evansville.

David Enterprises is another regular stop for Jimmy, and as he pulls onto the property, the employees wave at him, and come out to chat as he’s unloading his truck.

After finishing up at David Enterprises, Jimmy heads back to the CEMEX distribution center to pick up the last load of the day bound for Concrete Supply.

That he could take a load to David Enterprises in between loads for Concrete Supply is a testament to the rapport he’s built with his customers.

“I can tell them, ‘Hey, I’m going to run one over here, then I’ll be back,’” Jimmy says. “If [Concrete Supply] didn’t know me, they’d say, ‘No, I want mine first.’”

On his way to CEMEX, Jimmy pulls out a bag of trail mix and snacks on it. He doesn’t stop to eat much, he says, so he mostly snacks throughout the day. He aims for healthy foods, although Diet Mountain Dew is his weakness. He uses it like coffee. The healthy eating also tends to go out the window on Fridays when the guys at Concrete Supply order in fried chicken. Jimmy’s always included in that weekly tradition.

This time, as Jimmy pulls up to the distribution center, there’s a line of three semis ahead of him. He takes his place in line and waits. It’s close to 2 p.m. ET, and Jimmy’s about to pick up his last local load for the day. Normally, that would mean the end of his day is near, but today, he’s agreed to take an additional load up to Clinton, just north of Terre Haute. Classic Bulk Carriers has been hauling a lot of cement powder up there for a road project, Jimmy says. It’s been a hectic schedule to keep, so he’s going to help out a bit.

Jimmy refills his gas tank at the end of the day at Classic Bulk Carriers.

The trip north will put him at or close to the 14 hours he’s allowed to drive, so he prepares to spend the night in his truck’s cab if needed. Behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats, there’s a bed made up with a comforter featuring Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR emblem — Earnhardt is Jimmy’s favorite NASCAR driver — and quite a few copies of North American Whitetail.

He lucks out, though. The rest of the day passes quickly enough that he gets up to Clinton and back to Bulk Carriers by about 9:45 p.m., just about right at his 14-hour cutoff. After settling his truck in for the night, Jimmy heads back to his St. Anthony home around 10:20 p.m. He knows his family will already be asleep, and he’ll head straight to bed, too. Tomorrow morning, he’ll get to sleep in, too, since he has to have at least a 10-hour break before he can drive again.

But as soon as the 10-hour break is up, he’ll be back on the road to Evansville for another day of carrying cement powder to the cement plants that support projects throughout the tri-state area.

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