Raúl Rosas Bravo has spent more than a million miles on the road in nearly two decades of driving –
By Tara García Mathewson
How often do you think about the distance food travels before ending up in your supermarket? Raúl Rosas Bravo has made it his job to think about that. He spends the bulk of his days on the highway, driving refrigerated trucks carrying milk, beef, pork and chicken between the Midwest and New York and Ohio, mostly.
Over the last 20 years, Rosas Bravo has spent countless hours on the road, traveling more than a million miles shuttling his edible cargo as part of the nation’s vast trucking industry. Sometimes he’s gone for two days, sometimes four or five. When he used to drive to and from California, he would be gone two weeks at a time.
Rosas Bravo owns and operates Rulis Trucking, a family business he founded in 2002 and has steered through the highs and lows of the economy since then. He and his wife have eight children, ranging in age from 9 years old to 28. The oldest has an accounting degree and has brought those skills back to the business, improving record-keeping and operations. When his daughter was in college, she too worked at Rulis, arranging routes and helping with invoices.
“All the kids say they’re part of Rulis,” Rosas Bravo said. “They don’t work for us, officially, but they’re key pieces. My wife, too. When we started it was the two of us doing everything by hand.”
The kids, much more comfortable with technology than their parents, have brought a new level of efficiency to the business. And after years of thinking about the company as a way to maintain the family, Rosas Bravo is talking about expansion. His family is more experienced now; they can create better systems and set the company up to grow.
Already he has drivers he can call on to take over for him when he wants a break. If he wants to take a week off and spend it with his family, he can.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Rosas Bravo said. “To be able to control your own schedule.”
Rosas Bravo arrived in the United States from Puebla, Mexico on May 1, 1985. He was barely 19, with big plans to work for a year, make a lot of money and return home. Like many other immigrants, he found himself working to pay off debts that first year, and when he met his wife and started having kids, his priorities changed. He still hasn’t moved back to Puebla, and he has long stopped thinking he will anytime soon.
When Rosas Bravo first came to the United States he worked in California agriculture, which gave him a first-hand look at the massive trucking business intertwined with it. He started driving at night after working in the fields during the day, getting more deeply involved in the trucking side of things as the years went on.
He moved to Illinois with his wife and growing family almost 20 years ago, officially starting his business as a full-time enterprise soon after. Rulis has five trucks, and the bulk of the business is in transporting food that needs to be kept cold. Early on, Rosas Bravo focused on transporting vegetables, and now he moves mostly meat and milk.
“It’s a difficult business,” Rosas Bravo said, “like all other businesses. We have highs and lows. We’ve had good times and also bad times.”
Rulis Trucking is particularly affected by the cost of diesel. When the price goes up, Rosas Bravo feels it immediately. Diesel prices steadily increased from the time he founded Rulis Trucking to the economic crash in 2008 and a prolonged period of pricey diesel lasted from 2011 to 2014, according to historical data.
Rosas Bravo said things have gotten better since then. And his family business continues to allow him to provide for his family, contribute to his savings and invest.
One day he does think he’ll go back to Puebla — perhaps in retirement. He hopes he’ll have the flexibility to come and go freely, though. Winters in Puebla, avoiding Chicago’s cold, and summers with his children, in his adoptive, Midwestern home.