Featured Article: Giving back

TCA’s top owner-operator spares no effort to help his community, customers and fellow drivers.

Steve Recker was treated to an expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, where TCA held its annual meeting at The Wynn, which has its own golf course.Steve Recker was treated to an expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, where TCA held its annual meeting at The Wynn, which has its own golf course.

It’s better to give than receive, the saying goes, and Steven Recker is proof of that. Even as he’s had to deal with cancer that struck him and his brother at the same time, he’s continued to give freely to meet the needs of others on and off the job. His generous spirit helped him win the 2009 Owner Operator of the Year award, sponsored by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive.

“It takes a very special individual to stay the course in this profession,” says Robert Molinaro, president and CEO of Warren Transport, where Recker is leased. “Steve’s work ethic – ‘Let’s do it and do it right’ – is a trait of Steve’s, whose large frame of over 6-ft. 3-in. is matched by the size and goodness of his heart.”

Recker receives cash, products and services worth $25,000. He was honored in front of hundreds of industry leaders at TCA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, as were the two finalists, Woodrow Walker and Larry Severson, both leased to Dart Transit.

The Owner Operator of the Year award recognizes safety record, work history and community and industry involvement – areas Recker has excelled in. He has driven more than 2.8 million accident-free truckload miles. In 2006, he was selected as the Iowa Motor Truck Association’s Driver of the Year, and he also served a year on the IMTA Road Team.

While he and his brother were attending high school in Iowa, Recker recalls, “Our dad told us if we wanted to buy our first car, he’d help, but we needed to get a job.” He found one at a grain elevator, where a man taught him to drive his truck. After other driving jobs, in 1985 he landed at Warren, based in Waterloo, Iowa, where he has thrived as an owner-operator.

“The biggest thing with Steve is his demeanor and how he approaches people, both in our company and our customers,” says Craig Cory, a Warren vice president who used to be Recker’s dispatcher. “I’ve never had a complaint.”

Recker, like some other Warren contractors, typically delivers heavy farm equipment between Baltimore, Md., shipyards and Midwestern dealerships. Loading and unloading can be challenging, Cory says, and Recker “helps other owner-operators quite a bit when he sees they need help.”

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His long-time friend Fred Vorwald, also leased to Warren, recalls Recker extending himself in a different way. It was on a Saturday when he was in Baltimore with Recker, a fellow Catholic who rarely misses church while on the road. “He said, ‘Tomorrow morning, you better get up and get showered early. I’m taking you to church with me.’ ” Vorwald complied. “I said, ‘I don’t want you big son of a gun dragging me out of the truck!’”

At home in the community of New Hampton, close to Alta Vista, Iowa (population: 290), Recker donates money to his church, the Boy Scouts, Special Olympics and Camp Courageous of Iowa, a facility for individuals with disabilities.

Recker has cared in other ways for neighbors in New Hampton. There was the flood in the early ’90s, then a bad ice storm a couple of years ago that took out power. “We were taking heaters to where they needed them,” he recalls. “People don’t wait around to be asked, they’re just there.”

It was Recker’s brother, Gary, who needed help last year with the family farm due to his struggle with cancer, and Steve Recker took off several months to assist. Both men learned in early 2009 that they had 10-pound tumors in their left kidneys. “We were diagnosed within a month of each other,” Steve recalls. “We were the talk of Mayo Clinic for a while.”

Each tumor was removed. Steve’s checkup in late November showed no recurrence of the cancer. Gary has been through radiation treatment and might start chemotherapy. Two years ago cancer claimed a good friend of theirs, who had accompanied them on trips to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

Even while enjoying the big Sturgis event on his Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, Steve is careful to remember those back home in need, such as a friend’s child who wasn’t supposed to live long but now is 41 years old. “Every year I get him a shirt, and it makes his day,” he says.

As Recker has helped others in his hometown, they’ve been there for him. Two nights after he received the TCA honor amid the glitz of Las Vegas, “my girlfriend and friends of mine threw a surprise party,” he says. “My name was on a billboard. It was really nice. That’s the kind of community it is.” n

Con-way driver wins contest

Gordon “Butch” Colvin of Con-way Truckload was named 2009 Company Equipment Driver of the Year in the Truckload Carriers Association contest co-sponsored by Truckers News. Finalists were Richard Gassman, of Greatwide Logistics Services, and Brian Rhodes, of Con-way Truckload.

Colvin receives cash, products and services worth $25,000. The carriers of the three finalists sponsored their trips to the TCA meeting in Las Vegas.

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