On his journey around the world, Tim Barton stopped to see an old military graveyard in Moscow. Here, he is propped against a World War II Russian landing craft.
Six months into his planned year-long global circumnavigation, Tim Barton has already seen and done a lot more than your average American driver. He has experienced trucking in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, driving and riding in a variety of Volvo trucks on all kinds of terrain.
Barton, an ex-fleet driver and owner-operator – as well as former Truckers News equipment editor and Overdrive senior editor – caught the international traveling bug in summer 2003 on a trip to Sweden to test drive the Volvo D16 engine. A Volvo representative suggested he travel the world in Volvo trucks, and Barton leaped at the chance to learn and write about the trucking industry in other countries.
With the help of Volvo representatives and other sponsors (Michelin Tire, Shell Oil and Flying J truckstops), Barton scheduled a trip around the world with stops in countries on every continent except Antarctica. “Volvo really gave me the opportunity to fulfill a lifetime ambition,” Barton says.
Barton left his positions with Truckers News and Overdrive last spring and flew to the first stop in a worldwide truck tour – St. Petersburg, Russia.
“I started in Russia in April in an attempt to follow the weather,” Barton says. “I am traveling north to south on the first part of this trip to take advantage of spring in the north and winter south of the Equator.”
Barton traveled to Moscow by truck and then hopped a plane to Hungary when the Russians wouldn’t allow him to drive across the border. He crossed much of Europe, Africa and South America the same way – flying from country to country and driving or riding in Volvo equipment along the way.
“I was warned off of driving from north to south of Africa by all those guys with sub-machine guns,” Barton says. “But I’m going to do it one day.”
So far, Barton has driven into anti-European Union riots in Barcelona, Spain, and into an uprising of native peoples in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
On his travels, Barton has noticed significant differences between trucking in the United States and in other countries. One of the biggest differences, Barton says, is the level of services available – truckstops and infrastructure like roads and bridges, especially outside of Europe.
“There have been roads you might mistake for American interstate,” Barton says in his online journal at www.nomadworldtrucktour.com. “In many countries the pavement deteriorates after leaving urban centers, becoming narrow and suffering from neglect. Beyond the commercial and cultural centers of developing nations, the truck driver earns his keep on two lanes over long distances.”
In South America, transcontinental drivers – the equivalent of over-the-road drivers in the United States – are more like pioneers, Barton says.
“What is called pavement in Bolivia would hardly qualify as farm road in the United States,” says Barton. “While there are sections of excellent pavement, the Bolivian pothole, called buraca in Portuguese, will eat an axle in a heartbeat. And there are many buracas.”
The roads often turn to dirt and cut through terrain like jungles and mountains. During the rainy season, the dirt roads turn to mud, and during dry times, the dust is so thick a truck passing by can create a blinding cloud. A round trip across the continent that would take six to seven days in the United States would take more like two months in South America, Barton says.
“You can be caught, as I was, on the border of Bolivia for 12 days waiting for clearance on a load of dog food,” he says. “It’s like riding in a covered wagon almost.”
On top of that, the truckstops were little more than “shacks on the side of the road,” Barton says.
But the South American truckers Barton met have one benefit U.S. truckers don’t. They are offered well-equipped bunkhouses at the terminals, complete with a maid to do laundry and cook meals, and they don’t have to pay for their own food. “You don’t find that in America, for sure,” Barton says.
How much money a driver earns varies by country. In the Scandinavian countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden), drivers earn the equivalent of about $50,000 U.S., Barton says. Drivers in other areas aren’t so fortunate. “For example, the guys in South Africa are making $800 a month, and they’re working just as hard as our guys,” he says.
Law and hours-of-service enforcement is another area of trucking that can be dramatically different in other parts of the world. “In some countries there are rules but nobody takes it seriously, and in others, there are no rules at all,” Barton says.
Barton plans to begin the last leg of his journey in January, when he will fly to Ireland. After driving through the British Isles, he expects to drive through central Europe to China through the Balkans, Turkey and India. He will fly to Australia to drive, then fly to Mongolia and cross Asia to Moscow, ending his trip in June.
Readers can follow Barton’s progress at this site
One Brave Man
Over his lifetime, Rick Trask has been a police officer, soldier and a truck driver. Now he has two new titles to add to his name – hero and a guy who knows how to handle things when the going gets tough.
Earlier this year, Trask, a driver for Averitt Express, saved a man from a burning tanker truck on I-55 outside of Jackson, Miss. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his truck run off the road into the woods on the southbound side,” says 48-year-old Trask, of Tomball, Texas. “I thought, ‘Did I just see that?’ and sure enough, he was off. I immediately stopped and ran to help.”
When Trask, whose former career as a police officer prepared him for emergency situations, arrived at the accident, others were standing there watching but making no move to help.
“The man was hauling hazardous material, so some people were afraid to get close,” Trask says. “I could hear the man screaming ‘Help! I’m on fire!’ and I knew I had to help.”
The man was hanging out of the passenger window but couldn’t free his legs to escape. After two hard pulls to get the man out, Trask removed his own shirt to beat out the flames on the man’s legs.
“The tractor was completely engulfed in flames,” says Trask. “It just burned the hair off my arms, but the man received third degree burns on his legs.”
But Trask shrugs off being hailed as a hero. “People don’t realize what they can do until the time comes,” he says. “Instinct kicks in, I guess, but I knew I would do whatever I could to help.”
The victim was rushed to a burn center in Nashville, Tenn., where doctors had to amputate both of his legs. “His wife and son were there with him, and his wife called me a short time later,” Trask says. “She told me her husband wanted to thank me himself when he recovered.”
Unfortunately, that was not to be. The man, who had a heart condition, died of a heart attack less than a month later. The stress of the accident and the strain of his recovery was too much for the man to overcome, Trask says.
“His wife called me again to thank me for giving him back to them,” he says. “He died in the arms of his family rather than in the arms of a stranger on the side of the road. Of course, I wish he could have lived, but it is very rewarding to me to know that I gave them at least that much time with him that they wouldn’t have had.”
Trask is no stranger to personal adversity. A year and half ago, Trask was diagnosed with tongue cancer. As part of his treatment, his tongue had to be removed. “I was diagnosed about six months after I began working for Averitt Express,” he says. “My treatment cost around $150,000. Some companies would have been looking for a way to get rid of me, but not Averitt. My leader said, ‘Just get well. When you’re ready to come back, we’ll have a place for you.’ And they did.”
Trask says he has seen first-hand how people-oriented Averitt is. “Averitt stands by its people,” he says. “They not only saved my career; they saved my life. They’re a hero to me.”
TCA Names Finalists in Driver Contest
The Truckload Carriers Association and its contest co-sponsors, Truckers News and Overdrive magazines, have announced 32 finalists in the 2004 company driver and independent contractor contests.
The top five winners in both contests will receive prizes including cash, savings bonds, trucking supplies and gift cards. The grand prize of the Independent Contractor of the Year Contest is a new fully loaded International truck.
The annual competition is open to U.S. and Canadian truckers. Finalists are judged on verified safe miles driven and verified driving records, including moving and hours of service violations.
Finalists are asked to complete the second half of the application by Dec. 17, after which judges will select the top five in each contest. The top three prize winners for both contests will be announced during the TCA 2005 annual convention March 6-9 in Las Vegas.
Company Equipment Driver of the Year finalists:
- Douglas Berg, Sammons Trucking
- James Daniel, Pottle’s Transportation
- Richard Downin, D.M. Bowman
- Rocky Elslwick, Swift Transportation
- Albert Golden, Pottle’s Transportation
- Robert Hagen, Challenger Motor Freight
- Darrell Hand, O&S Trucking
- Alex Kibodeaux, Epes Transport
- Brian O’Leary, Western Distributing Transportation
- Cornell Sowell, Arnold Transportation Services
- Ruppert Stevens, Epes Transport
- Jerry Waddoups, Central Refrigeration – Dick Simon Trucking
- Robert White, Hogan Transports
- Loyd Widener, Celadon Group
Independent Contractor of the Year finalists:
- Daniel Beber, Warren Transport
- Albert Beck, Dart Transit
- Constance and Lanny Beyer, Midwest Coast Transport
- Donald Choulward, Pottle’s Transportation
- Earl Faro, Sammons Trucking
- Jerry Johnson, O & S Trucking
- Debra and Robert Jurashen, Landstar Ranger
- Robert McCray, Warren Transport
- Roy McKenzie, Epes Transport
- Jimmy McSwain, Sunco Carriers
- Steven Recker, Warren Transport
- Larry Severson, Dart Transit
- Dennis Siler, Dart Transit
- James Thompson, Swift Transportation
- Charles Valentine, Epes Transport
- Ronald Warner, Davis Transport
- Michael Wiest, FedEx Ground
- John “Mike” Wissinger, Coastal Transport
All The Trimmings
You won’t have to celebrate alone on Christmas day if you’re driving through northeast Pennsylvania this year.
For the past eight years, Bob Bolus of Bolus Truck Parts and Towing has been serving free home-cooked turkey dinners on Christmas day to the Scranton, Pa., community, and this year he has extended an invitation to all truckers passing through.
Bolus teamed up with Sheryl Youngblood, a psychologist specializing in truckers and host of the KnightTime Radio Show, to get the word out to truckers.
“This is the first year we’ve extended this to the drivers,” Youngblood says. “We want them to meet the great people of northeast Pennsylvania. We can be their family away from home.
“A lot of [truckers] tell me they eat turkey and noodle soup or a turkey sandwich to try and make believe it’s a Christmas dinner. I didn’t want them to have to do that.”
The dinner will be served buffet-style from noon to 6 p.m. at the St. Lucy Church in West Scranton at the corner of 7th and 10th Streets.
Bolus starts two days ahead of time decorating the church and getting the food ready with the help of volunteers and local stores, Youngblood says. Last year, he and the volunteers served 2,200 people.
To help truckers enjoy the free dinner without the hassles of parking, KnightTime Radio Show will be running an hourly shuttle from the Petro Stopping Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Exit 178B off I-81.
Drivers can call the KnightTime Radio Show toll-free at 87-RADIODOC or visit this site for more information.
A Voice for Drivers
Dissatisfied with problems within the trucking industry, four drivers from Maine decided to take matters into their own hands.
They came together on July 4 to start the non-profit group American Truckers Advocacy Council, Inc., hoping to create an entity that would give non-unionized truckers the voice and resource in the industry they deserve.
“I’m a company driver, and I have been since I started,” says ATAC Chairman and CEO Dave Milligan, a driver for LJ Kennedy out of Kearney, N.J., “but I also realized as a company driver that unless you’re in a union, there’s nobody out there to represent your cause.
“Nobody’s speaking up for the drivers. There needs to be an organization that speaks for the drivers as a whole.”
ATAC’s main thrust for the moment is recruiting more members – along with offering support via a 24-hour toll-free hotline to get help out on the road, Milligan says.
“A big thing that’s frustrated us drivers is all the misinformation you get,” Milligan says. “We want to give drivers a resource for honest information. We basically want to do anything we can to help a driver. On the road, you don’t have access to phone books, and the expenses in trying to get something resolved can get high. We can do the legwork.”
ATAC also has big plans for the future. Milligan says the organization is planning to create a legal defense fund for truckers and is working on striking deals for cell phone service rebates and other perks for members. ATAC also hopes to work with other citizen groups to inform the public and government officials about truckers’ concerns with pay, hours-of-service rules, idling laws, split speed limits, the targeting of drivers for tickets and driver health issues.
“We have the most dangerous job there is, yet we’re working more hours and making less at it,” Milligan says. “The average lifespan of a trucker is 61, compared to the national average of 76. We need to be in a better position than we are in today; the health issues, the pay issues all firmly need to be addressed.”
Milligan says LJ Kennedy has been very supportive of he and his fellow truckers’ endeavor.
“Actually the president of the company joined as an associate,” he says. “They do believe in taking care of drivers. They would like to see some things change, too. It’s nice to know there are people in the industry that are like-minded. It’s not all us against them.”
Having a CDL is one of the only requirements to be on the board of directors of ATAC. “It’s started for drivers, by drivers and it’s run by drivers,” Milligan says.
Any CDL holder can join ATAC for tax-deductible dues of $50 per year. A limited number of founding member slots are available with six months of membership free and annual dues of $45 guaranteed for life. Charter member slots are available with three months of membership free and annual dues of $50 guaranteed for life.
Associate status is also available for any non-CDL holders wishing to help ATAC.
For more information on joining ATAC, visit its website at www.truckerhelp.org or call (207) 777-1769.