Runs in the family

| January 04, 2002

TRUCKERS: Bill Elkins, 67, and Rodney Elkins, 42, of West Terre Haute, Ind.

TRUCK:2000 Volvo 770

LEASED TO: GDS Express out of Akron, Ohio

FREIGHT: General

ACCIDENT-FREE: Bill: 45 years, Rodney: 23 years

MOTTO: Bill: Stay healthy and see what comes along. Rodney: Tighten up the bootstraps and get going.

In a way, the team-driving days of Bill and Rodney Elkins of West Terre Haute, Ind., date to 1973, when Bill taught his 14-year-old son how to back a truck.

Rodney was already a seasoned traveler, frequently joining his dad on flour deliveries. “We would stop in truck stops and eat cheeseburgers and French fries and play on the pinball machines,” Rodney says.

By 1973, Bill had been on the road 17 years. “I started driving when there weren’t so many trucks on the road,” Bill says. “There were only two-lane roads, and trucks were single-axle.” Bill’s grandfather Herschel Rector taught him how to drive. Since the age of 14, Bill had been riding with his grandfather on weekends, hauling railroad ties.

About 1956, Bill started out as a company driver hauling bread, and after a few years he became an owner-operator in 1960. His first few trucks were single-axle, gas-powered rigs, a Diamond T and an International. He grew his company to about 16 trucks and handled dispatching and getting his own contracts. He sold the company in 1989. “Deregulation made having your own authority worth nothing and flooded the market with trucks,” he says. He drove team with his son Rodney for the next seven years.

Rodney didn’t stay in trucking from the age of 14, but he found his way back to the road. “I like being out and about, not stuck in a building,” Rodney says.

Bill has seen changes for the good, including better equipment and better roads, but also for the bad. “The people controlling the freight rates aren’t the people handling the freight,” Bill says. “Drivers aren’t making the money they should.”

Now, Bill runs part time with Rodney, who runs full time, back and forth to California.

“Trucking’s been good to me,” Bill says. “Maybe in a year or so, I’ll retire, but every time I say that my family just looks at me and smiles because they know I won’t.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: Bill: All the Lethal Weapon movies.
Rodney: Star Wars. I saw it in the movie theater when it first came out.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Bill: I don’t watch much television.
Rodney: The King of Queens.

FAVORITE FOOD: Bill: Potatoes and steak, any beef.
Rodney: Boiled seafood.

LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Bill: Fish or shrimp.
Rodney: Anything fried.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Bill: Starting with nothing and building it up to a certain level.
Rodney: When I was working for an airline, I went from ramp loader to fuel supervisor. I got to fly all over the country, and I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilots.

IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: Bill: I had wanted to be a law student.
Rodney: I would be working construction and building homes.

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