A lot of truckers carry pictures of their loved ones when they’re on the road. Sharon Jones of Chicopee, Mass., thought it would be better to take her father along in person.
“I was driving alone, and I got bored,” she says. “I was talking to myself and going crazy.” That’s when she realized she needed company.
“She asked me, and I said, ‘Why not?'” says her father, Bruce, who got his CDL and joined her in December. He had spent most of his career as a mechanic, sometimes working on big rigs. “I think it’s great,” he says. “We have a lot of fun out there.”
For Bruce, it’s been a unique chance to be close to a daughter he almost never knew. She was born three months premature and narrowly escaped death, he explains. “We almost lost her, so she’s always been special. Now we’re best of friends.” He is close to his other two kids as well, he adds.
Now Bruce, 48, and Sharon, 25, drive around the country together, often on a run between Boston and Los Angeles. They haul things like plastic kitchenware and fork trucks for Toyota. They are changing jobs from West Side Transport of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a company called Transport America, which is giving them a guarantee of 20,000 miles per month.
Sharon appreciates having a partner. “You never have to worry about locking the doors or getting harrassed, which can be a problem for women,” she says. “I never have to worry when I’m trying to sleep. I mean, if I’m alone and someone tried to steal the truck – little old me, what am I going to do?
“It’s also less of a headache,” she continues, “because you’ve got someone else there if you get lost somewhere or if you need help backing up. Plus they keep you company; it’s somebody to talk to.”
The two usually drive eight hours on, eight off. Bruce doesn’t need more than four hours a night of sleep, so he stays up keeping her company.
Do they ever have a good old-fashioned family squabble? “Oh, we have our moments,” they respond in unison. “It’s usually when we’re overtired,” she explains. “It’s usually when I’m just waking up. I’m not a morning person.”
The father-daughter team plans to grow into a family business. They want to go from driving a company truck, which they did for West Side, to leasing one, to buying one of their own. Then they want to start hiring other drivers. “We’ll let someone else make money for us,” Bruce says. “Hopefully we’ll have two or three trucks in five years. And hopefully as the business grows, we’ll get more family into it.”
The truck they just started leasing is a 1999 Freightliner Classic XL, which Bruce says is “like a Cadillac.” Next spring they plan to trade in that truck for a Freightliner of their own. They’re going in 50/50 on the truck, of course. “I’m just psyched to own my own truck,” Sharon says.
“I told her she can choose what kind of truck we get,” he says. “It’s her dream to own a truck. I’m trying to teach her how to run her own company, so when I retire, she’ll know how to do it.”
Bruce says he expects to drive another 15 to 20 years. “When I don’t enjoy it anymore, it’s time to get out.”
Sharon started driving trucks in October 1999. Before that, she was a school bus driver. She switched to over-the-road trucking because it was more interesting. “I kind of like being on the road,” she says. “You get to see a lot.”
She started at Schneider, but after six months she went to West Side when they offered her $.33/mile.
She’s happy to be driving over-the-road, and happier still to have her old man in the seat next to her. “Trucking is something different,” she says. “You learn something new every day.”