On the Road Again

Jerry Yowman is the owner and general manager of C & J Towing in Central Point. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

Jerry Yowman loves the auto transport business. He started when he was 14 and has been at it since, except for a year when he tried a job indoors and found doing the same thing every day wasn't for him.

In his business, Yowman says, "when you get up in the morning you don't know what you are going to do."

Jerry Yowman

Age: 56

Job title: Owner and general manager, C & J Towing

Job description: Transports vehicles throughout the U.S. for individuals and businesses; provides local towing service

Salary: Drivers make $400 to $600 per week for a 40-hour week; with overtime, drivers can earn up to $1,500 per week

Education: High school graduate; specialized training in transport

How long on job: 41 years

If you could have your dream job today, what would it be? "This is my dream job. I wouldn't change anything."

Yowman is the owner and general manager of C & J Towing in Central Point, which he runs with his wife and son. He employs an office manager who can also tow cars and hires other drivers when necessary.

Local tows make up the majority of C & J's business, with four to five longer transports per month (more during the summer). Yowman drives most of the long trips himself.

"It's kind of like a vacation going to Los Angeles or Canada or Spokane," he says. "We have hauled loads all the way to the Mexican border and to Surrey (British Columbia), and as far as New Jersey."

C & J has five flatbed haulers, including a recently purchased 40-footer that can accommodate two cars. It also has a two-car open trailer and an enclosed trailer that can haul exotic and collector cars.

Yowman got his driver's license in New Mexico at age 14. He landed a job with a towing company on the condition he finish high school.

Yowman moved to the Rogue Valley in 1969. Except for a two-year spell in Texas during the early 1980s, he has made this area his home.

Drivers' wages aren't great, Yowman says, but overtime can substantially boost paychecks. "If you're good at it you've got a job waiting anywhere you want to go," he says.

Yowman doesn't charge by the mile or hour. Knowing how long each haul will take, he sets basic rates dependent on weather.

"If I want to take an extra 10 hours or go the long way around because of the weather I do it," Yowman says. A transport to Seattle would cost about $500 in the summer but $800 in the winter. A summer haul to Los Angels would cost about $1,200.

Yowman has transported a Rolls Royce for the Smothers Brothers, Studebakers for a local collector, a rare 1950 Kurtis sports car, a 1932 Ford worth $75,000, and cars to auctions. Most of the collector transports come during the summer.

"Nobody wants to put a high-dollar auto out on the road in the winter," Yowman says. Insurance reimbursement is little consolation to a car collector whose vehicle lands in an accident, he adds.

Last year Yowman took a black Dodge Magnum from Medford to Sunriver near Bend for display on a golf course at a Chrysler Corporation event. Because the company wanted the car spotless, he hauled it in the enclosed trailer.

Most hauls are one way. Yowman says it's unusual to be able to arrange to transport another vehicle back to this area.

Yowman has never been injured while transporting or loading vehicles, a fact he credits to good on-the-job training.

"The hardest part (of the job) is staying out of people's way. You've got to constantly be looking at people coming at you on two-way roads," he says. "You watch out for drunks, drug users, sleeping drivers. I don't like to drive between 2 and 8 a.m. I don't like two lane roads."

Despite the worries, Yowman wouldn't have it any other way.

"There isn't a better job in the world," he says. "I like the outdoors."

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