Long on safety

Jerry Eubanks lives in a rural setting in Fayetteville, Tenn.

Jerry Eubanks of Fayetteville, Tenn., has had many jobs in the past 47 years, but regardless of his job description, Eubanks has spent nearly five decades building a career in safety. From the U.S. Navy to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Eubanks set out to serve and protect. Now he’s making the roads safer through careful driving.

“I think tolerance and patience with the motoring public helps a lot,” he says. “My time as a police officer probably contributes more to patience on the road.”

With more than 1 million safe miles and no citations, Eubanks can say he’s always been on the right side of the law. “It helps to know the laws, and I’ve never intentionally disobeyed them,” he says.

Roland Finchum was Eubanks’ partner on the Tennessee Highway Patrol. “In 1970, when I came into the Highway Patrol, Jerry had been there three years,” Finchum says. “He broke me in, and since then we’ve been friends.”

Patrol officers moving to trucking wasn’t uncommon in those days, Finchum says. “A lot of us in the ’70s drove to supplement our incomes.”

Later, as the safety director of Clarksville Refrigerated Lines, now Greatwide Dedicated Transport, Finchum brought Eubanks on board as a leased owner-operator. “His business and safety sense make him a good driver,” Finchum says. “I’ve never seen anyone run it like he does. He runs that truck like a business.”

Still leased to Greatwide Dedicated, Eubanks has been an owner-operator for 11 years, but he started driving trucks when he was 24. “I started out just driving extra for people who needed it in the late ’60s and early ’70s, part time,” he says.

Before trucking, Eubanks was a police officer in Milan, Tenn., and later a Tennessee state trooper. As a trooper, Eubanks received specialized training as an emergency medical technician, a sniper and a bomb-disposal expert – high-stress jobs he’s reluctant to talk about now.

After 11 years as a state trooper, Eubanks was promoted to special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, where he did undercover work on unsolved homicide cases. Eubanks’ son Adam Eubanks is following in his father’s footsteps as a deputy sergeant with the police department in Fayetteville, Tenn.

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“He’s definitely the reason I got into law enforcement,” Adam says. “I can remember being as young as 5 or 6 and memorizing radio codes.” Adam is specializing in interrogation and interview.

“I remember being in the police academy in ’98 and they were teaching interview and interrogation,” Adam says. “The instructors at the academy recognized my name and pointed out that my father was probably one of the best interviewers in the state.”

Through all this, Eubanks continued to drive commercially, mostly for Towrey Enterprises of Fayetteville, Tenn. “I was always driving a truck, during off time and vacation.” It didn’t seem like added work to him. “Trucking for me is not a must but a want-to situation,” Eubanks explains. “It’s something I love to do.”

After retiring from the state in 1993, Eubanks became a company driver for Elk Valley Freight of Fayetteville, Tenn.

In 1997, Eubanks bought his first truck, a 1994 Peterbilt 377, and leased to Economy Transport of Tampa, Fla., hauling auto parts. The year 2001 was when he leased to Clarksville Refrigerated, hauling groceries for Wal-Mart. When Clarksville was sold to Greatwide, Eubanks stayed on; he now hauls freight to 90 Wal-Mart Supercenters in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky. “Wal-Mart gives us a good fuel surcharge, so I don’t have a problem with fuel right now,” he says.

He’s not spared other costs, though. “The expenses of keeping up a truck – maintenance, tires – everything’s going up every day,” he says.

To cope with an unfavorable market, Eubank relies on the same trait that helps him drive safely: patience. “You have to be careful on selecting your loads and mileage,” he says. “Don’t pick the first thing you come out with.”

Eubanks monitors his trucking expenses separately from home and family expenses.

“I stay in a position where I keep a separate account for my trucking business, and I have had no problem so far,” he says. Eubanks balances two sources of income: his retirement from the state, which goes into the home account, and his trucking wages which go into the trucking account. His net income last year was nearly $150,000 from trucking.

Eubanks is no typical trucker, says Bobby Huitt, Greatwide terminal manager in Shelbyville, Tenn. “He looks at safety first and foremost,” Huitt says. “He has a great attitude and is a true businessman. He’s just overall an outstanding owner-operator.”

Eubanks says he’ll probably retire, for the second time, in about a year. “I would like to do some traveling after I retire,” he says. He’s already sailed the Caribbean and Mediterranean with the U.S. Navy and driven countless miles as a trooper and a trucker, but Eubanks still is eager to expand his horizons: “There’s a lot of the world I haven’t seen yet.”

Jerry Eubanks
1944: Born in Milan, Tenn.
1961: Joined the U.S. Navy.
1965: Joined the Milan, Tenn., police force.
1967: Became a Tennessee state trooper.
1974: Married Sharon.
1976: Son Adam born.
1978: Promoted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
1993: Employed as a driver for Elk Valley Freight.
1995: Became chief deputy of the Lincoln County sheriff’s department.
1997: Bought first truck: 1994 Peterbilt 377
1997: Leased to Economy Transport as an owner-operator.
2001: Leased to Greatwide Dedicated Transport.

Trucker Trivia
TIMEPIECES from the 1800s and early 1900s fascinate Eubanks. “I’ve been collecting pocket watches and clocks for about 10 years,” he says. One of his most treasured pieces is an 1890 Elgin lady’s pocket watch that he found on Ebay. “It has an inscription on the back, listing the date, March 1, 1892, and her name, Pearl VanValkinburg,” he says.

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 [email protected]. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.

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