Proper Priorities

DESMOND RAFEEK

HOME: Tucson, Ariz.
LEASED TO: Landstar
RIG: Blue 2000 Freightliner C120 Century Class
CAREER: 11 years
FREIGHT: General
ACCIDENT-FREE: 11 years

Phillip Butler of Ranburne, Ala., met Desmond Rafeek when they both participated in Freightliner’s Big Rig Redo at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas last September. Butler says he and Rafeek immediately hit it off.

“I’m a joking-type person, and he was right there with me. He made me laugh,” Butler says. “He took all our jokes in stride and had some for us too.”

Butler says Rafeek is not only a good driver, but also a great role model.

“Other than being the nicest guy I’ve ever met, Desmond has all of his perspectives in order. He has God in his life, then his family and then comes his job.”

Rafeek notes that he has God not only in his life, but in his truck.

“I have a plate that says ‘God is my pilot’,” Rafeek says. “I didn’t want the plate that said ‘God is my co-pilot.’ It seemed more arrogant. My faith is what gets me through everything. It is very important. I don’t understand how people can survive without it.”

Second only to his faith is Rafeek’s family. Now that he owns his first truck, a blue 2000 Freightliner C120 Century Class, Rafeek plans on spending more time in Arizona with relatives, including his 21/2-year-old son, Elisha Paul.

“The whole family really depends on him,” says Rafeek’s mother, Ann Hobbs. “It will be so good when he gets to be around. I just enjoy being around him. He’s a really good friend.”

As for his third priority, Rafeek brings what he calls “old-fashioned” ethics to his job.

“I think your word should mean something,” Rafeek says. “I don’t like greed or dishonesty. I think you should be honest, true.”

When he graduated high school and got his first job making minimum wage in a restaurant. Rafeek kept in mind his mother, who was using a clothesline to dry the family’s laundry because her dryer had broken. He spent his first few paychecks on a new washer and dryer to surprise her.

“He had helped me carry one of the loads out to the clothesline, and he said, ‘That was too heavy for you to be lifting,'” Hobbs says. “I was so touched.”

Years later, Rafeek’s dedication still impresses people he meets.

“He’s a good driver because he’s very cautious and aware of what’s going on around him,” Butler says. “He follows all the rules. He hasn’t been around as long as some of the others, but he’s got the level head to do it as well as people with more experience.”

As he gains experience, Rafeek one day hopes to combine his driving skills and the training he received from working in restaurants.

“I want to run a mobile restaurant,” he says. “I would go to events and set up and cook. That way I can still drive, and I won’t have the stress of the delivery schedule.”

He’s already achieved two goals that his mother shared with him – becoming a successful driver, and recently taking full ownership of his first truck, which gives him more disposable income.

“I couldn’t wait for him to pay that truck off and be able to do something for himself, for his life,” she says.

Paying off his truck this year fulfilled a dream that started when he was a child. When Rafeek was 11 years old, his mother helped him buy a bus ticket from Tucson, Ariz., to Detroit, to visit an uncle who was a trucker. After spending time with his uncle, as well as seeing nearly 4,100 miles of highway, Rafeek says he was hooked to life on the road by the time he returned to Tucson.

“I love being a trucker because it is not monotonous,” he says. “You have freedom to see so much of the country with its beautiful scenery, and you get to meet a lot of people.”

It wasn’t until 1993 that Rafeek became a trucker, when he started driving for Coastal Transport. His mother believes his sense of responsibility and his love for his family factored into the delay.

“I knew he liked to play with trucks,” Hobbs says of her son’s early years. “But I didn’t know he really wanted to drive trucks. I assumed he would go to college. I think he didn’t want to tell me how badly he wanted to [be a trucker] because he was afraid I’d be disappointed.”

Eleven accident-free years after his start, Rafeek is certainly no disappointment. He has logged thousands of miles through beautiful country, made long-lasting friendships in several states and fulfilled a lifelong dream.

FAVORITE LOAD: Any load on a Southern route.

LEAST FAVORITE: Hazmat.

FAVORITE STATE: Alabama.

LEAST FAVORITE: Oregon.

FAVORITE MUSIC: I listen to everything on my XM radio. I like country best.

FAVORITE FOOD: Cheeseburgers.

LEAST FAVORITE: Expensive food.

HARDEST THING TO LEARN ABOUT TRUCKING: Knowing what gear to be in.

FAVORITE MOVIES: Smokey and the Bandit, Black Hawk Down, Convoy, White Line Fever.

PET PEEVE: Greed.

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