All for One: Michael Bowman Trucking Winston, Oregon

by Darin Burt

Business owners are often a very competitive group. Especially in an industry like log hauling, where the jobs can come and go, owner-operators are always looking for an advantage over the other guy. Some log truckers like to keep to themselves and ride “under the radar,” but Michael Bowman is proof that there’s more of an advantage in working together.

Bowman currently does all the hauling for Tree Tippers, out of Oakland, Oregon. Eichi Hirta and his wife Ginger, are a fairly new logging contractor working with a shovel, skidder and yoder, and produce three or for loads a day – just enough to keep Bowman’s 1990 Peterbilt steadily busy.

But there were a few detours along the road to get to where he is now. 

Bowman has been hauling logs since 1989. Before that time, he was an auto upholsterer. Growing tired of that profession, he talked to his father in-law Mark Garoutte about joining him in his log trucking business.

“I grew up in Roseburg, and there were always log trucks around,” Bowman says. “I’d always thought they were neat.”

Initially, Bowman drove Garoutte’s cab-over pulling a flatbed. But logging was hot and heavy, so they put logging gear on the cab-over and started hauling logs with it. He put Bowman in his 1975 Peterbilt 359 logging truck. The truck had a 6-4 transmission, which Bowman says was a real learning experience.

“We were hauling out of Prospect, OR. My father-in-law rode down there with m; we got back to the mill, he opened the passenger door and said, “Use your head, boy!’ I’ve been hauling logs ever since.”

When his father-in-law decided to relocate to central Oregon, Bowman decided to stay home. He hired on with Gene Whitaker, where he hauled logs for six years; and then he went to work for Agee Logging, hauling logs and lowboying.

When owner Bruce Agee upgraded his lowboy truck, Bowman had input in putting the truck together. Mark Jones built the 1990 Peterbilt from a kit, and it is spece’d with a 3406B Cat motor, 18-speed transmission, 48,000lb Rockwell rear ends with a single locker, Peterbilt Air Trac suspension. Only a few months later, Agee passed away and his widow and sons eventually chose to sell out. Bowman was out of a job, but he was given the opportunity to buy the truck he was driving.

“The timber market was in the toilet, fuel prices were higher than ever,” he says. “I thought, now would be a really good time to buy a truck . . . so, I did.”

“It’s been challenging, that’s for sure,” he adds. “Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough that I know a lot of people.”

Bowman went where there was work, hauling for Chuck Bracelin, over on the coast, and even travelled as far as Yakima and Morton, Washington to find loads. Back home, he hauled for Schaffer Logging, but when work slowed he was lucky to run across the Tree Tippers.

“Tree Tippers logs for Lennard Warren Contracting. If Tree Tippers gets slow, I can bounce over and haul Lennard’s logs too,” Bowman says.

“My philosophy has always been that you never want to burn any bridges in this business. You just want to get along with everybody, whether it is loggers or other truckers. Even though another gypo trucker is competition, if you have an extra load you can’t haul and you give it to them, well, what goes around comes around.”