Trucker tributes

Overdrive introduced itself 40 years ago as “a magazine for the trucking industry, primarily the drivers who are the muscle and sweat and heart of trucking.”

With that statement began the magazine’s tradition of regularly showcasing outstanding truckers and their trucks. That focus on trucks has developed into the monthly Reader Rigs and annual Pride & Polish truck beauty show. Trucker profiles evolved into the Trucker of the Month and Trucker of the Year, one of the industry’s biggest honors.

The December 1961 Tractor of the Month was listed simply as a “good looking Kenworth” and the runner-up as an International Cornbinder in “excellent condition.” But in June 1962, C.E. Rasmussen, a California owner-operator leased to Mayflower, received detailed coverage of his oak-paneled sleeper and office, custom built by a camper manufacturer. A rarer feature was the Tractor and Trailer of the Month, which debuted April 1968.

By 1967, Overdrive was running monthly features of members of Roadmasters, the magazine-sponsored organization that publicized “the trucking industry’s current plight to the proper authorities.” Bob Lewis, an owner-operator leased to Illinois-based Allied Van Lines, was featured in July 1967, sporting his Roadmasters patch and a beard. The article said the Allied district manager threatened to deny Lewis loads if he didn’t shave, but Lewis kept the beard anyway.

Owner-operator Bob Lewis was Roadmaster of the Month in July 1967. The magazine noted he kept his beard over protests of Allied Van Lines.

Another regular feature, The Hero of the Month, was introduced that July. It honored truckers’ good deeds, starting with an unnamed trucker who saved the life of a motorist.

Small Fleet of the Month was introduced soon after that. Wrecker of the Month debuted in July 1970 because so many wreckers were submitted for Tractor of the Month features, Overdrive reported.

The first Trucker of the Year, Elton Blair of Ohio, was honored in January 1988, and Trucker of the Month began appearing after that. “We began profiling successful owner-operators we could recognize and elevate for their skills,” says Jeff Mason, vice president of Randall Publishing, which purchased Overdrive in 1986. “We were surprised by the response.”

Blair, then leased to the Michigan-based U.S. Trucks, won national attention by making an annual delivery to poor families in Guatemala. The publicity in Overdrive and other media resulted in donations for his humanitarian effort. Blair and his Trucker of the Year award were also featured on “Nashville Now” on The Nashville Network.

Today’s Trucker of the Year receives trucking-related gifts, cash prizes and all-expenses paid trips to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, the Randall Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and anywhere in the continental United States with $1,000 cash.

Ted and Delores Travis, a Kentucky owner-operator team leased to National Carriers of Kansas, say they liked the attention that came with being 2001 Truckers of the Year.

Delores says their award was covered in local papers, and she appreciates the gifts that accompanied the honor. “It makes me want to truck more,” Ted says. “I got a lot of compliments.”

Nightly giveaways and more. Overdrive‘s 40th anniversary cross-country tour begins Aug. 5 and concludes at the Great American Trucking Show, Sept. 7-9 in Dallas.

This month, 1999 Trucker of the Year Harvey Zander will be in the spotlight again. Zander, who is leased to Dart Transit Co. of Minnesota, will be the lead driver on Overdrive‘s 40th Anniversary Voice of the American Trucker Tour. The Minnesota owner-operator says people still frequently comment on his 1999 title and the accompanying publicity. “I liked the kudos I got from town people,” Zander says. “It’s good to hear about good things instead of bad stuff about truckers. It keeps you from becoming complacent.”

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