National’s Treasures

DOYLE AND CATHY BRUCE

HOME: Scott City, Mo.
FAMILY: Two sons, one daughter, three granddaughters
LEASED TO: National Carriers Inc.
RIG: 2004 Peterbilt 379
CAREER: Doyle, 25 years; Cathy, 22 years
FREIGHT: Meat
ACCIDENT-FREE: More than 5 million miles


Doyle and Cathy Bruce once picked up 10 big trees for a delivery that put them much closer to a celebrity than the typical dock usually does.

“We got them from a chicken farm, and we took them to a home in the Hamptons,” says Cathy of the New York area known for its wealthy residents, many of whom are well-known. “The house was next door to Christie Brinkley.”

Rather than being known as the truckers to the rich and famous, Cathy, 53, and her husband Doyle, 59, have a reputation that’s much more basic – and useful. After working as owner-operators leased to National Carriers for more than 20 years, the two are known as hard workers.

“We’re willing to go anywhere as long as we get miles,” says Cathy. The couple also tries to look and act professional. “We try to make a good impression on everyone we come in contact with,” Doyle says.

That combination of qualities has not gone unnoticed at National. The company gave the couple Drivers of the Month awards in 1997, 2001 and 2002, as well as Drivers of the Year in 1997 and 2002. The two also won a 4-million-mile safe driving award.

“They represent our ‘Elite Fleet’ slogan well,” says Loretta Brown, load coordinator for National. “They’re one of the strongest teams in the fleet.”

Sharil Hardy, an operations manager for National, agrees.

“They’ve been the top truck for a number of years,” says Hardy. “They never back down. You never have to worry about a load when it’s under them.”

Brown and Hardy agree that the Bruces always go above and beyond their normal trucking duties.

“They’re willing to help other drivers, whether they’re with the company or not,” Brown says.

“When anything goes wrong, you always look for them to bail you out,” Hardy says.

Doyle and Cathy met each other at a high school basketball game where Cathy was scoring the game and Doyle came to watch. The two dated for three-and-a-half months before getting married 35 years ago. They have three adult children – two sons and one daughter. Whenever they’re home, the Bruces baby-sit their three grandchildren.

Doyle started his trucking career driving a dump truck with a local company, then left to drive for Ohio Pacific Express. Cathy later joined him as a team there, and after a year they joined National.

Cathy said she soon learned that the hardest aspect of trucking was driving team.

“Even though we were married, we were together 24 hours a day,” she says. The tensions of team driving can be handled when both partners practice understanding, which Cathy says is the key to any marriage. “Even if we have disagreements, we get over it right away.”

In their two decades-plus in trucking, the industry’s image hasn’t changed much, she says. “A certain percentage of it is not nice, probably less than 10 percent,” she says. “Most truckers are pretty good folk. A lot of them are family people.”

“If you had a pay increase, it would bring in better drivers. But you’d have the same image no matter what, because there would still be a few bad apples.”

The two say some of their career highlights involved spending time with other teams.

“We used to have a really good time at National running with some husband-wife driver teams to the East Coast – about four, five or six couples,” Cathy says. “We’d have a good time, but now we’re the only ones left. Most [of them] left or retired.”

Nevertheless, she says, trucking has been a good industry for her and Doyle. They recently traded in their 2001 Western Star 4964EX, which they purchased new, for a 2004 Peterbilt 379, but only after keeping their Western Star a year longer than planned while they checked with dealerships for a good buy.

“You can make a pretty good living, go to many different places and meet many different people,” Cathy says. Doyle adds that the job itself is not easy and demands steady, hard work. “If the wheels don’t turn,” he says, “you don’t have a chance.”

FAVORITE HAUL: Meat. We’ve done it so long, it’s no hassle.

LEAST FAVORITE HAUL: Dry grocery because it takes a lot longer to get it off.

WORST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: Being away from home and family.

DREAM VACATION: Stay at home for a month.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Doyle: David Ball. Cathy: Faith Hill, George Strait.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Doyle: Dances With Wolves. Cathy: Pearl Harbor.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Doyle: St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Cathy: Will and Grace.

FAVORITE FOODS: Doyle: steak. Cathy: pie, sweets.

PET PEEVES: Doyle: Rough roads, road construction and costly health insurance. Cathy: Tailgaters and dirty language on the CB.

PERSONAL CONCERN: Staying in good physical shape.

IF WE WEREN’T TRUCKERS, WE WOULD BE: Doyle: Farmer. Cathy: Teacher.

HOPES: To retire comfortably and have good health.