Trucker of the Month: Tough calls

By Lanier Norville | September 01, 2009

Wilbur’s relationships outside work are equally important. Houston Chambers, his best friend of more than 40 years, notes his buddy’s social skills. “He cares about other people,” Chambers says. “He’s the type of guy that’s going to like you when he first sees you.”

Wilbur also is “proud of his equipment,” Chambers says, cleaning and polishing his 2004 Freightliner Classic himself. That’s just one reason Wilbur is frequently requested by Bennett’s customers.

“He keeps his equipment so neat and clean, when it pulls into a customer’s facility you know it’s going to be top-notch,” Coffee says. “He’s a clean-cut and very respectable individual, so we get a lot of customers requesting him. Right now the most important thing [in our industry] is customer service.”

Though rates are dropping and freight volume is down, Wilbur maintains a positive attitude. “It’s a little frustrating to haul equipment that last year paid so much more,” Wilbur says, “but I just stay busy.”

In 2008, Wilbur’s net income was $42,000, though he predicts it will be down by at least one-third this year.

When business is slow enough to keep him home, though, Wilbur takes time to enjoy his family. He and Wanda Sue have been married for 37 years. They have three children –

Robby, 34; Amanda, 27; and Mark, 19 – and four grandchildren. Amanda and her family live in a house on Wilbur’s homestead, where he recently attended his grandson’s first birthday party.

Wilbur attributes his long marriage to one rule: “I do exactly as I’m told and don’t run into trouble,” he says. When he and his wife argue, he notes, he always gets in the last two words: “Yes, Dear.”

Robert Wilbur

Sept. 4, 1953: Born in Marietta, Ga.

1972: Married Wanda Sue Bennett

1975: Son Robby is born

1980: Purchased first truck, 1970 Dodge dump

1981: Purchased a 1972 International TranStar and signed on with Plantation Transport

1982: Daughter Amanda is born

1984: Leased to National Freight

1987: Leased to Bennett Motor Express

1989: Son Mark is born

1996-1997: Won two Bennett Driver of the Month awards

2004: Bought new 2004 Freightliner Classic with a 500-hp Cat

2008: Won second Bennett Driver of the Year award; first in 1997

Trucker trivia

WATER SKIING is a favorite pastime of Wilbur and his best friend Houston Chambers. “He would try things that weren’t even humanly possible,” Chambers recalls of Wilbur’s bravado. “If you were in that boat, sometimes you just had to stop and laugh.”

A MAN NEEDS three things in life, Wilbur says: “a wife, a John Deere and a Harley-Davidson, and I have all three.”

WATCH Robert Wilbur at youtube.com/OverdriveMag. Or visit OverdriveDigital.com and click on the video link in the Trucker of the Month story.

DO YOU KNOW an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Lucinda Coulter, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail lcoulter@rrpub.com. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year. n