A Winning Combination

Trucking Family Members
Kermit Osmon – 1935-60
Bob Breeden – 1963-94
Clarence Breeden – 1963-92
Carl Breeden – 1973-present
Debra Breeden – 1973-present
Darrell Breeden – 1970-present
Vivian Breeden – 1994-present
Bill Breeden – 1980-present
Dennis Breeden – 1985-present
Jackie Breeden -1987-present
Jeff Breeden – 1990-present
Gary Edwards – 1984-present
Shannon Edwards – 1988-present
Rodney Clidienst – 2003-present
Colleen Clidienst – 2003-present
Charles Akins – 1987-2003
Sheila Akins – 1987-96
Alan Plumber – 1985-present
Chris Breeden – 1991-present
Christopher Breeden – 2003-present
Dwayne Jones – 2003-present

Many people subscribe to the philosophy of not mixing business and family. Some would say it’s a recipe for disaster. Not Dennis Breeden. The 44-year-old Plainville, Ind., driver and trucking company co-owner has found hiring family members to be a win-win venture. “We’re a close family anyway,” Dennis says. “Having family members working with us has been great.”
In addition to millions of miles of safe driving, the family has a long track record of community and social involvement for numerous causes, including helping low-income people and a prison ministry (see “Helping Hands”).

That’s why Truckers News has selected the Breedens as its 2004 Great American Trucking Family. They will receive their award and be recognized at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Sept. 10-12.

Dennis and wife Jackie, along with partners Mark and Tracy Thomforde (no family relation) own a 25-truck fleet called J.T. Express, which primarily hauls parts for a Toyota plant in Princeton, Ind. Family members working with Dennis’s company include his sister Colleen Clidienst and brother-in-law Rodney (owner-operators), his uncle Darrell Breeden and wife Vivian (owner-operators), his brother Jeff Breeden and his uncle Bill Breeden, an ordained minister, who drives part-time.

Other family members are either leased to T.S. Boyd Grain that also hauls Toyota parts or work in the automotive parts plant.

Even though Dennis, a certified diesel mechanic with almost 20 years of over-the-road driving experience, stays busy running and expanding his year-old company (he just started a small LTL division with the Kroger supermarket chain), he will fill in driving when needed. And his wife also has no problem with jumping in a truck as a fill-in and delivering a load solo. “We all pitch in when we’re needed,” Jackie says.

Dennis’ trucking heritage actually begins on his mother’s side of the family. His grandfather Kermit Osmon was an owner-operator hauling produce for more than 20 years starting in the 1930s. Several other members of the Osmon side farmed and hauled grain.
After Dennis’ father, George Breeden, died in 1968, his mother Sheila married Charles Akins. They became owner-operators and drove for North American and Atlas Van Lines, where they earned numerous driving awards.

But the heart and soul of the trucking family is the Breedens. The original trucking members on this side began with Dennis’ late uncles, Clarence Breeden and Bob Breeden, in 1963. Carl Breeden and wife Debra along with Darrell Breeden and Bill Breeden round out the original trucking family members.

“I got my start in trucking going out with my oldest brother Clarence when I was about 15,” says Darrell. “He would swap seats with me going down the road and let me drive. I started driving full time in about 1976. Today, I’ve got two trucks leased on with Dennis and work as the safety director.”

Safety is a top priority with Darrell. An embarrassing lesson when he was a rookie helped reinforce his commitment to safe trucking practices. “I was in Hubbard, Texas, when I got out of the truck and forgot to set the brakes,” he says. “I went into a post office and came back out, and my truck was gone. I thought someone had stolen it. It had rolled down the hill into a drug store. Luckily, no one was hurt.”

Darrell, 54, who had a few short stints in other lines of work over the years, says he was always quickly lured back to trucking. “I just love the independence of trucking,” he says. “I like to travel, meet great people, and I actually like to drive.”

Trucking is more than a job to the Breedens, whose extended family, past and present, boasts 21 CDL holders. It’s a way of life. “I’m proud to be a truck driver,” Darrell says. “Not everyone can do it and do it well.

“Trucking has always been the driving force with us. We’re a working class family. Because of trucking, I’ve never been out of work. When everyone else was being laid off from jobs, I was working. Trucking is a lot better than being an unemployed factory worker.”

But it was being an unemployed factory worker that brought Carl, 60, and Debra, 56, of Washington, Ind., to the over-the-road life in 1973 when Carl was laid off at the local Uniroyal tire plant. He had driven in the past part-time with his brothers. He bought a truck and began with a flatbed before hauling grain and eventually seasonal produce.

Once he became an owner-operator Carl never looked back, even though his wife had some apprehension about trucking at first. “I didn’t want him to be a trucker,” Debra says. “Our oldest daughter was in kindergarten, and I knew he would have to leave me and the kids.”
Carl solved the problem by taking the entire family on the road. Both their daughters were home schooled in their rig and later received college degrees. “I think we had a better life than expected by having our family together on the road,” he says.

All the Breedens agree that trucking has changed a great deal since they started driving, especially in the last couple of decades. They feel they are more “old school.”

“We drive because we like the lifestyle,” Dennis says. “Drivers used to be more willing to help each other on the road. You don’t see a lot of that today. Also you hear a lot more hateful talk on the road. It sounds like there are a lot on unhappy people on the road.”

Politically, the Breeden family runs the spectrum of views. But they don’t let their political philosophies affect their relationship. “We’re pretty much split between conservative and liberal,” says Dennis. “We have some good discussion, but we don’t take it to the point that we can’t get along.”

“Even though we disagree on some issues, we love each other because we’re family,” adds Bill. “Family is our No. 1 allegiance.”

Bill, who is a well-known political and social activist (see “Bent on Dissent”), feels being named the Great American Trucking Family is the most important honor his relatives could receive because of what the award represents. “I think it’s cool because trucking is the backbone of this country,” he says. “Being honored is great because we all love this job and love our country. It’s great to get something for representing the working class rather than some award from a politician. It means more.”

Bent on Dissent
Rev. Bill Breeden of Spencer, Ind., is not one to go along with the crowd. He believes dissent is the purest form of patriotism, and he’s made a name for himself standing for causes that have often put him at odds with mainstream public opinion.

Bill, 55, who is the minister of a Bloomington, Ind., Unitarian church, is an opponent of the death penalty and has actively protested well-known executions including that of Okalahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The self-proclaimed pacifist continuously speaks out against war and other issues that fall into what he calls social injustices.

But Bill, a part-time relief driver for his nephew Dennis Breeden, is best known for a lighthearted protest that has branded him as the only person to receive jail time for the Iran-Contra affair. The incident occurred in 1986 when city officials of Odon, Ind. – where Bill lived and the town’s most famous son, John Poindexter, grew up – erected a street sign honoring Poindexter, the national security advisor under former President Ronald Reagan.

Bill, feeling it was wrong to honor a man who was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, took down the sign. He replaced it with his own hand-written sign, objecting to Poindexter’s actions and signing it “MWLF: the Midwest Liberation Front.”

Some city officials mistook the joke as a plot by a terrorist group, and soon a posse of law enforcement were scurrying about the surrounding area looking for Bill and the sign, which he declared he would return for $30 million – the same amount Poindexter allegedly smuggled to the Contras.

Bill hid the sign in the teepee where he lived at the time, while holding interviews with the press at an anonymous location.

During the confusion, the police mistakenly detained Bill’s twin brother, Darrell Breeden, who also is active in social issues and peace groups. Bill finally turned himself in to police because he feared for his life and the safety of his family. “It was meant to be somewhat humorous, even though I was serious about the issue, but things almost got out of hand,” Bill says.

Bill was tried and sentenced by a jury of upset citizens to eight days in jail, of which he served four. Ironically, Poindexter received an executive pardon for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.

Helping Hands
The road can take a lot out of a driver, leaving little opportunity for matters outside of work and family. But over the years, many members of the Breeden trucking family of Indiana have managed to carve out some extra time to give of themselves to various charitable organizations and causes.

Carl and Debra Breeden several times have transported relief supplies to a Navaho Indian reservation in New Mexico. “I’ve always had a strong interest in Native American culture,” Carl says. “I knew the need was there, and we decided to try to help.”

Carl and Debra, along with Dennis and Jackie Breeden, also have been involved with a church-sponsored program called Feed My Sheep, which helps low-income families and individuals.

Rev. Bill Breeden, who is the minister of Bloomington’s (Ind.) Unitarian Universalist Church, has been a catalyst in several charitable programs, including a prison ministry. He visits inmates in solitary confinement, where he’s part of program called Read to Me. He tapes prisoners reading children’s stories, which are given to their children and grandchildren.

In 1986, Bill drove a bus with $90,000 worth of relief supplies to Nicaragua. While driving back to the United States, he was stopped by Honduran military, held blindfolded and interrogated for four days.

Despite the dangers, Bill returned to Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch caused landslides and flooding, killing tens of thousands of people. “A State Department official told me it was ridiculous to try to do, but I was the first aid truck to make it,” Bill says.

Recently he helped get medical equipment shipped to Cuba, which included 20 kidney dialysis machines. “The people down there really needed those machines, and I helped get them to the people who needed them,” he says.

Trucking Family Finalists
The Cochrans

“Collectively we have 19 drivers. About 432 years in the industry, including some 180 years of safe driving combined, and one company-based truck rodeo championship,” says Fred A. Pirkle Jr. in his entry. The family is loosely based in Dothan, Ala., and their impressive list of drivers begins with James T. Cochran, 61 years driving; Eddie Cochran 42 years driving; Charles Cochran, 55 years driving and John Cochran, 33 years driving.

The Connors
“My dad has been an owner-operator for 28 years. My grandfather has been an owner-operator for 62 years. My great-grandfather started driving with chain drive trucks,” writes fourth-generation truck driver Michael Connor from Lock Haven, Penn., in his entry. Several members of the family bought a piece of ground together to park their trailers on, complete with lighting and concrete drop pad, and the family does most of their own maintenance, working together whenever they can.

The Williams
The Williams family has been trucking for the past 75 years. “Calvin Williams has been in the industry for the past 56 years, and at the age of 75 he is still trucking,” says the entry from owner-operator Jason Williams. This New Hampshire family listed 16 members in the trucking industry, beginning with Walter Williams and a 1926 Model T one-ton. The family is active today in Red Cross benefits, toy runs, a cancer benefit and a local therapeutic riding center.