Featured Article: Giving back

Max Heine | April 01, 2010

TCA’s top owner-operator spares no effort to help his community, customers and fellow drivers.

Steve Recker was treated to an expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, where TCA held its annual meeting at The Wynn, which has its own golf course.

It’s better to give than receive, the saying goes, and Steven Recker is proof of that. Even as he’s had to deal with cancer that struck him and his brother at the same time, he’s continued to give freely to meet the needs of others on and off the job. His generous spirit helped him win the 2009 Owner Operator of the Year award, sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive.

“It takes a very special individual to stay the course in this profession,” says Robert Molinaro, president and CEO of Warren Transport, where Recker is leased. “Steve’s work ethic – ‘Let’s do it and do it right’ – is a trait of Steve’s, whose large frame of over 6-ft. 3-in. is matched by the size and goodness of his heart.”

Recker receives cash, products and services worth $25,000. He was honored in front of hundreds of industry leaders at TCA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, as were the two finalists, Woodrow Walker and Larry Severson, both leased to Dart Transit.

The Owner Operator of the Year award recognizes safety record, work history and community and industry involvement – areas Recker has excelled in. He has driven more than 2.8 million accident-free truckload miles. In 2006, he was selected as the Iowa Motor Truck Association’s Driver of the Year, and he also served a year on the IMTA Road Team.

While he and his brother were attending high school in Iowa, Recker recalls, “Our dad told us if we wanted to buy our first car, he’d help, but we needed to get a job.” He found one at a grain elevator, where a man taught him to drive his truck. After other driving jobs, in 1985 he landed at Warren, based in Waterloo, Iowa, where he has thrived as an owner-operator.

“The biggest thing with Steve is his demeanor and how he approaches people, both in our company and our customers,” says Craig Cory, a Warren vice president who used to be Recker’s dispatcher. “I’ve never had a complaint.”

Recker, like some other Warren contractors, typically delivers heavy farm equipment between Baltimore, Md., shipyards and Midwestern dealerships. Loading and unloading can be challenging, Cory says, and Recker “helps other owner-operators quite a bit when he sees they need help.”

His long-time friend Fred Vorwald, also leased to Warren, recalls Recker extending himself in a different way. It was on a Saturday when he was in Baltimore with Recker, a fellow Catholic who rarely misses church while on the road. “He said, ‘Tomorrow morning, you better get up and get showered early. I’m taking you to church with me.’ ” Vorwald complied. “I said, ‘I don’t want you big son of a gun dragging me out of the truck!’”

At home in the community of New Hampton, close to Alta Vista, Iowa (population: 290), Recker donates money to his church, the Boy Scouts, Special Olympics and Camp Courageous of Iowa, a facility for individuals with disabilities.

Recker has cared in other ways for neighbors in New Hampton. There was the flood in the early ’90s, then a bad ice storm a couple of years ago that took out power. “We were taking heaters to where they needed them,” he recalls. “People don’t wait around to be asked, they’re just there.”

It was Recker’s brother, Gary, who needed help last year with the family farm due to his struggle with cancer, and Steve Recker took off several months to assist. Both men learned in early 2009 that they had 10-pound tumors in their left kidneys. “We were diagnosed within a month of each other,” Steve recalls. “We were the talk of Mayo Clinic for a while.”

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