If there has been a figure central to the grassroots in trucking across its diverse interests, personalities and causes these last several and more years, there’s no one I can think of fitting that description better than Arline Bennett, who passed a week ago after a long battle with cancer. I only spent a brief amount of time around her in-person over the years, yet it feels as if I knew her, as her voice was a mainstay on a myriad of driver-led online radio shows and podcasts. She often served the managing role, working the controls for call-ins and keeping things running on-time and shiny-side-up.
One of those show hosts, John Grosvenor, summed up what she meant to him and his own advocacy and broadcast efforts with his “Independent Truckers Show” by noting that, for truckers of his ilk, “she was a pillar within our community” and “one of the kindest people this world has ever known.”
Very few, he said, realized that, in her private life, Bennett’s support went a long step beyond just advocacy. “Arline helped truck drivers that were abandoned or stranded on the road,” Grosvenor said in his public tribute. “She contacted local authorities and left her contact information in case a truck driver needed help and, often enough, she received phone calls and she helped many truck drivers through the years. All that she did, she paid for out of her pocket. I had a conversation with her about her endeavors and together we created the Pay it Forward Facebook group page. We hoped to grow the effort so that truck drivers may help each other in the same spirit of kindness.”
Bennett also ran things for trucker Jacinda Duran for her Jacinda Lady Truckin’ Live show on the Unplugged Radio Network when she happened to be on the road during the (typically) Wednesday broadcasts, too. While she only met Bennett in person once — this past August for what amounted to a slightly late 75th birthday celebration and benefit for Miss Arline at the Millersburg, Ohio, fairgrounds, “there was an instant connection,” said Duran. “We were similar personalities, very outspoken. It was nice to connect with her” further.
Her passing no doubt leaves many wishing they’d had more time with her, yet it also offers an opportunity to celebrate Bennett, given the indelible mark she’s left on so many in the trucking community.
“We often referred to Arline as the ‘Queen of Trucking’ or the ‘Mother of Trucking,'” as Grosvenor put it.
I think of trucker-songwriter Mandi Jo Brown, too, and her affection for Bennett, chronicled in part in this report from her Trucker Talent Search-winning recording session here in Nashville in 2019. News that Bennett was ill at the time had spread among her community, and as I wrote back then, Brown penned a take-off on Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that you can hear her play live in that edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast.
Mandi Jo, too, had assembled a video for a recorded version of it built from stills she collected from Bennett’s surrounding community of drivers, all sending messages of appreciation to her. It had just been released that week in 2019, and the video follows. “She said whatever she wanted to say and it was usually the absolute truth,” Brown said. “And she loved truck drivers,” part of why “we got along so well.”
Here’s a personal salute to Arline Bennett, and may she live long in our collective memory.
ICYMI: Truckers Christmas Group’s virtual Christmas concert
File this under “worth checking out” if you missed it last night via the Facebook page of the Truckers Christmas Group, whose nomination collection for beneficiaries of the more than $20K raised in this year’s campaign to assist deserving trucking families is ongoing through this evening.
The TCG’s virtual Christmas concert featured two women mentioned in this post — Duran and Brown — and many others besides with music videos, live performances and more. Those include Mr. Long Haul Paul Marhoefer, none other than Bill Weaver (with among other tunes his “Christmas Out Here,” which might be my favorite holiday-season trucking song of all time), Mike Sheffield, Ken Freeman and others. Sit back and listen in on/view the hour-plus-long broadcast via this link.