Overdrive founder, trucking activist Mike Parkhurst dies

| July 24, 2014
Mike Parkhurst, in 2013
Mike Parkhurst

Mike Parkhurst, who founded Overdrive and served as its editor for more than two decades, died of a heart attack Monday. He was 81.

Parkhurst’s longtime friend and business associate John Carny said Parkhurst’s death was unexpected, and the heart attack occurred at his daughter’s home in Sacramento.

Parkhurst launched Overdrive in September, 1961. He was its vocal editor and publisher until its sale to its current owner, Randall Publishing Co. (now Randall-Reilly), in 1986.

During the 25 years he published Overdrive, Parkhurst championed the rights of owner-operators to work freely amid a complex web of Teamster pressures and over-regulation.

Through its early history, Overdrive called for shutdowns to protest fuel prices and anti-trucking legislation. Those shutdowns and other conflicts, notably during the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, eventually led to deregulation in the early 1990s and today’s climate in which the self-employed contractor is able to operate with much greater independence.

Parkhurst
Parkhurst used Overdrive in its first 25 years as advocacy press for owner-operator rights, often pushing for shutdowns to leverage power of truck drivers.

To combat heavy regulation and the dominance of the Teamsters union in trucking, Parkhurst in 1962 launched a national trade group, the Independent Truckers Association, later called the Roadmasters. The group offered members discounts, insurance and legal aid. ITA and Roadmasters dissolved in the 1980s.

In 1962, at 29, he rode halfway across the country on horseback to protest “19th-century laws” governing truckers.

In addition to fighting the Teamsters and the Interstate Commerce Commission, Parkhurst routinely bashed truck makers, fleets, railroads and politicians.

Parkhurst also dabbled in the movie industry. Overdrive financed “Big Rig” (1965), a trucking documentary, and the trucking-themed feature “Moonfire,” (1970). The latter featured boxing champion Sonny Liston and Charles Napier. After writing for Overdrive in the 1970s, Napier went on to star in many major feature films over the next three decades.

For more on Parkhurst from Overdrive coverage, here are a few links: 

Breaking Free: Senior Editor Todd Dills wrote this piece for Overdrive‘s 50th anniversary issue, which chronicles  owner-operators’ conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.

Overdrive’s RoadMansion: Parkhurst this month shared his memories of the Overdrive Roadmansion, a converted Los Angeles mansion that provided inexpensive lodging, dining and entertainment for road-weary truckers.

OverdriveRetro: In celebration of the magazine’s 50th anniversary in 2011, Overdrive editors posted tons of archived pages and stories on the special OverdriveRetro microsite. 

  • vickie Lee thomas

    I was in ITA in the 70s and I remember what it was like before deregulation. I have been driving since 1972 and a lot the stuff has changed since then. Most was good Cuzz it gave women a chance. But things have gone to hell in a hand basket with what’s out there now. Government over regulations, drivers with no road manners, foul mouths, sloppy cloths, no pride in a job, trucks tailgating each other and cars. Between the steering wheel holders and the government I have about to run out of patience.

  • Steve

    Not sure if this is the same guy that put on the Truck show in Indianapolis, IN in the early 80′s. That guy liked to play ping pong, and had a table set up at the show and used to challenge the truck drivers to a game.

  • a.r.fairman

    What a sad day for trucking. I’m the guy (A.R. “Bob” Fairman) standing at the back in the photo, between the gentleman with his arm in the air and the other gentleman in the cowboy hat. That was in the 1960′s and so long ago. Overdrive did a couple writeups about me over the years and was always a great supporter of the owner-operator and small transportation business. Thanks for all you did Mike!

  • jim stewart

    WOW,,, very sad, a real legend has departed. May Mike Parkhurst rest in peace.. I met Mike a number of times over the years. He actually was responsible for me choosing trucking as a career back in the sixties. I know I faithfully purchased every new issue of Overdrive magazine from mid sixties up while Mike was editor/publisher of the magazine. I too proudly belonged to the Independent Truckers Association back in the early seventies. It’s amazing the history we’ve witnessed in this rough business along with the many adventures we’ve had over the years. Those outlaw trucking days are now long gone. Sadly the respect we had back then with the general public and among ourselves has all but disappeared with a past era. I sure hope Overdrive takes the time to increase coverage of some of that past history of this magazine, those trucks, the truckers, and Mike himself. Who knows it may cause a few folk to take a little more pride in this business that many of us once had? Goodbye Mike, May GOD bless your family…..

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  • dick butler

    What a shock just reconnected with Mike a month ago after many years had great phone call and a a few long emails,we were going to have coffee on my way thru Minn.next trip. I met him when I was in my late teens and he always had the independents best interest first. His push for deregulation is the reason Denka Trucking is in existence. He helped a lot of us who were operating outside the rules become legit and grow.
    R.I.P. my friend see you on the other side.
    Dick Butler

  • easymoney

    did you thank him when he was a live ?.

  • ARF

    Yes, I did many times. I also belong to the Roadmasters that he set up for independent contractors and to help them get through all the regulations.

  • Roger Galloway

    He was at first my boss, then, my friend and brother. I knew him well for 45 years. I worked with him on Overdrive, Moonfire, plus, a movie script I wrote and a TV special, “Truckin’ in Nashville,” and countless other projects. We laughed and fought together over the years. He had a strong will, was a creative genius, and never gave up. He was truly one of a kind. I last spoke to him two days before he died. He was working on an idea for a TV trucking series for the Discovery Channel. He worked right up to his passing and he certainly came across as someone much younger than his age. I’ll salute him with a final toast (among the many we had together over the years.) Mike, I will definitely miss you. I know truckers will miss you and remember all you did for them, and I’m so glad you were with family at the end. Roger

  • Mike64

    Those were the days when more than two truckers could agree and believe in something. Strength in numbers ruled the ’70s!

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  • Alina Fierra

    Hi Roger. Remember me?So sad to find you in such circumstances. He was an amazing man and he will be missed. :(

  • cobblestones

    Roger – I am not sure if my post will appear as I’m not familiar with this site, but you and I knew each other (professionally and socially) when I, too, worked at Overdrive. Be interested in hearing from you. Patricia Sawdon Baker

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