A veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, Kevin has worked as a trucker for a few years after leaving the army back in 1997. He has since finished college and is now a physics teacher in a Houston-area high school. To augment his income, he also works part-time as an independent transporter.
We reached out to Kevin to hear more about his broad professional experience and his approach to online shipping.
That’s quite a life story you got there, Kevin. How did you get into pet transportation, anyway? Did you start with CitizenShipper right away, or did you use some other site first?
I was looking for some extra work I could do. I had a pickup truck at the time, so I googled shipping jobs and came across CitizenShipper. It’s my third year on the site; I can do only a couple jobs per month while teaching, but I turn it way up in the summer when school’s out!
The first item I ever shipped was actually a small piano… which ended up being a mistake. Since then, I’ve bought a minivan so I could also transport pets, as well as a motorcycle trailer. I recently did 42,000 miles and hit all 48 contiguous states in a little over a month.
This is a side business for me, so I bid what I can when I can, and let the reviews speak for themselves. Mine is rarely the cheapest bid, but some pet owners care about their pet’s well-being more than the money they spend.
The customers describe you guys as professional, informative, easy to talk to… There seems to be an emphasis on the quality of communication you provide. Could you tell us a little about that?
I guess it must be something I got from my dad – he used to work in public relations. But yes, communication is definitely important. People love their pets, you know. I send picture updates from the road regularly to keep them in the loop…
I’d say quality communication is the single most important aspect of the business, apart from taking care of the actual animals.
You also work with your mother and your son, is that right?
Yes, my mom is a retired teacher, so she helps me out occasionally when I can’t make time. She enjoys the work, says that at her age, it’s nice to get out of the house at little.
My son Seth and his girlfriend also drove, back when he used to live with me. They’re huge animal lovers, but the driving was too stressful for them. So it’s mostly me now.
Could you tell us about the safety standards you apply? You mentioned on Facebook how important it was not to leave the animals alone in the vehicle without the AC on?
Oh, I don’t leave them alone even when the AC is on, except when I need to hit the restroom. Sometimes I even sleep in the vehicle, when we can’t get to a pet-friendly hotel. Keeping the animals safe is an absolutely vital part of the job.
I use USDA travel carriers in several different sizes. The larger ones cost me $70 apiece, but it’s worth the investment. Not every customer can provide a carrier of their own, so it’s good to have them available. If they do have one, of course, it’s better to use that – the pet will be more accustomed to it. And for the dogs that ride in the backseat, I’ve got seatbelt harnesses that keep them buckled in nicely.
Is there anything we can improve on the site to make your life easier? Any complaints or suggestions?
I’m actually pretty happy with the platform – thanks for facilitating the coolest side hustle ever! I mean, there is the issue of some bids being ridiculously low, like when a driver offers to do a 1,000-mile trip for $50…
Yeah, there was some talk recently about introducing a minimum price per mile to prevent lowballing bids? Some people were for it, others spoke out against it…
I was in the former camp on that. There are these unrealistic bids on occasion, but if people can make it work, I wouldn’t want that option taken away from them… or from me, or any other driver.
For example, last time I drove from Houston up to Chicago, I had an empty truck bed on the return trip. So I decided to made some super low bids on that route since I was going that way already.
There’s this guy Lenny that keeps underbidding me… but hey, more power to him. I checked out his profile to make sure he’s on the up and up, and it seems he’s actually doing a great job. I even recommended him to other people a couple of times, based on his reviews alone.
A remarkably positive attitude, Kevin! One last question, though – have you considered going all-in on this? Expanding your operations, hiring additional drivers, things like that?
I’ve thought about it, made inquiries with some friends, but we never got around to it. Besides, when you go that route, it gets a little cost-prohibitive, you know.
All right, I think that’s all we need – thank you for taking the time, Kevin. We’ll be sure to let the folks at Lenny McQuinn Metro Runner know you had such nice things to say about them!
Thanks for the opportunity, take care!
So there you have it, a veteran and educator working in transportation on the side, and doing a stellar job. Let us know what you thought of Kevin’s story in the comments below.