Overdrive founder, trucking activist Mike Parkhurst dies

Mike ParkhurstMike Parkhurst

Mike Parkhurst, who founded Overdrive and served as its editor for more than two decades, died of a heart attack Monday. He was 81.

Parkhurst’s longtime friend and business associate John Carny said Parkhurst’s death was unexpected, and the heart attack occurred at his daughter’s home in Sacramento.

Parkhurst launched Overdrive in September, 1961. He was its vocal editor and publisher until its sale to its current owner, Randall Publishing Co. (now Randall-Reilly), in 1986.

During the 25 years he published Overdrive, Parkhurst championed the rights of owner-operators to work freely amid a complex web of Teamster pressures and over-regulation.

Through its early history, Overdrive called for shutdowns to protest fuel prices and anti-trucking legislation. Those shutdowns and other conflicts, notably during the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, eventually led to deregulation in the early 1990s and today’s climate in which the self-employed contractor is able to operate with much greater independence.

Parkhurst used Overdrive in its first 25 years as advocacy press for owner-operator rights, often pushing for shutdowns to leverage power of truck drivers.Parkhurst used Overdrive in its first 25 years as advocacy press for owner-operator rights, often pushing for shutdowns to leverage power of truck drivers.

To combat heavy regulation and the dominance of the Teamsters union in trucking, Parkhurst in 1962 launched a national trade group, the Independent Truckers Association, later called the Roadmasters. The group offered members discounts, insurance and legal aid. ITA and Roadmasters dissolved in the 1980s.

In 1962, at 29, he rode halfway across the country on horseback to protest “19th-century laws” governing truckers.

In addition to fighting the Teamsters and the Interstate Commerce Commission, Parkhurst routinely bashed truck makers, fleets, railroads and politicians.

Parkhurst also dabbled in the movie industry. Overdrive financed “Big Rig” (1965), a trucking documentary, and the trucking-themed feature “Moonfire,” (1970). The latter featured boxing champion Sonny Liston and Charles Napier. After writing for Overdrive in the 1970s, Napier went on to star in many major feature films over the next three decades.

For more on Parkhurst from Overdrive coverage, here are a few links: 

Breaking Free: Senior Editor Todd Dills wrote this piece for Overdrive‘s 50th anniversary issue, which chronicles  owner-operators’ conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.

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Overdrive’s RoadMansion: Parkhurst this month shared his memories of the Overdrive Roadmansion, a converted Los Angeles mansion that provided inexpensive lodging, dining and entertainment for road-weary truckers.

OverdriveRetro: In celebration of the magazine’s 50th anniversary in 2011, Overdrive editors posted tons of archived pages and stories on the special OverdriveRetro microsite.