Fruits of their labor

| September 01, 2006

“I knocked on Sherman Fraley’s door at his house and told him I needed money for food,” Fentress says. “Sherman said whatever he had in his wallet, I could have half of it. He only had six dollars, but he gave me three dollars so I could get something to eat. I’ve never forgotten it. But that’s the kind of people they are – just good folks.”

The Good Ol’ Days
Without doubt, the Fraley family has seen a lot of changes in the trucking industry. Second-generation drivers moved from horse and wagon to the combustible engine. Model As and Model Ts gave way to bigger straights and more capacity for hauling. As trucking grew, so did the need for professional drivers. And back then, you had to look the part. This meant a jacket and standard black tie. Drivers also often wore badges with their names engraved on them.

Straight trucks evolved into 10-wheelers and then cabovers that had little room for more than driving and carrying a few personal items. No air-conditioning, no air-ride, no engine brakes and no power steering. Most just had no power.

“Back then if you pulled a mountain in second gear, you’d better go off it in second gear,” says 72-year-old Sherman Fraley. “If you didn’t, you’d be in trouble.”

“I remember loading potatoes in North Dakota and having to back up the hill where he loaded to get out of there because those old cracker boxes had no power,” says Bob Fentress, a long-time member of the family, who has two trucks leased to B&J Trucking.

Modern refrigerated units for hauling produce have also made a big difference, the Fraleys say.

“Everything used to be floor stacked,” says Sherman. “We put black tar paper on the floor of the trailer and used a bunker-and-blower to cool the produce.”

The bunker-and-blower system involved two small doors cut near the top of the front of the trailer where blocks of ice were placed. Then a small gasoline engine mounted between the doors provided power to blow air across the ice to cool the trailer.

Today, all the Fraleys drive shiny, conventional trucks with the latest bells and whistles. But all remember where they’ve come from.

“The equipment we have today makes a lot of difference in trucking and getting drivers,” says Jimmy Fraley, co-owner of B&J Trucking. “But as far as trucking itself, I think trucking used to be more fun. I enjoyed it more when it seemed more relaxed.”

Fentress says it’s comical when he hears today’s drivers complain about a truck. “It almost makes me sick when I hear a driver complain about a rough ride,” he says, laughing. “Most don’t know anything about a rough ride.”

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