The ‘Monkey Gouger’ bests odds


Owner-operator passes 4 million safe miles and, yes, there’s a catch

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Trucking’s been very good to me,” says Sumter, S.C.-based Jimmy Ardis. “I’m very proud of what I do, and I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished — I don’t know of anybody who’s driven this far safely … ” — with only one arm, adds the Sapp Trucking-leased owner-operator. Since the early 1980s he’s been part of a federal waiver program for drivers missing limbs, giving him the opportunity to excel.

Excel he has. Last month, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association presented Ardis with an award acknowledging his now 4 million miles of safe driving. “It is a pretty big milestone in my life,” he says, given that at age 6 in Oklahoma, Ardis was not expected to reach his next birthday. “I had sarcoma cancer,” he says. “An uncle in med school at the University of Oklahoma [had] picked me up by my arm, and when he did I passed out. They rushed me to a joint clinic in Oklahoma City — I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Doctors did exploratory surgery on Ardis, telling his parents they didn’t like what they were seeing — “When we go in, if we have to, we’re going to take his arm off,” they said.

“They didn’t tell me this,” Ardis says. “I woke up, and I didn’t have a left arm.”

The 2007 Peterbilt 379 of Jimmy Ardis — handle: Monkey Gouger — powers the cancer survivor’s 4 million-plus-mile journey.

Records Ardis received when his Oklahoma doctor passed away show that physicians at one point estimated he might not make it past two weeks. Then they scheduled a six-month follow-up appointment. All clear. Then another six months. Pretty soon, years had gone by without a single recurrence.

His early voyage into over-the-road truck driving hit a bump when at age 19 “they caught me driving,” he says. The fact that he didn’t have an arm disqualified him from running interstate with a chauffer’s license.

By then in Sumter, S.C., where he lives today, he went to a local vocational rehabilitation center that agreed to pay for him to go to truck driving school. He eventually graduated No. 1 in his class and bought his first truck, finding himself in a “Catch-22 situation.”

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“To get a waiver you had to have a driving job, and to get a job you had to have a waiver,” he says. “Here I was with a truck and trailer, no income coming in, I’ve got a new baby that’s just been born, and my world was coming down on top of me.”

He wrote then-Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole directly. Her staff called his house about testing for the waiver just a couple days after receiving that letter. Two years on, Ardis was Atlanta-based Refrigerated Transport’s top earning owner-operator — and 4 million miles later, “my driving record is spotless,” he says. “I reckon the reason I’ve done so well in trucking is that I’ve been surrounded by a bunch of great drivers and people in the industry who cared about me through the years.”

Keep on trucking, Jimmy.



| Elephants in the room | There were two filling the space between members of the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee at its Feb. 6-9 meeting. As committee members discussed how exactly to prevent electronic logs being used to harass drivers, the first was noted by Jane Mathis of Parents Against Tired Truckers. The very reason to be interested in electronic logs, she said, “is to prevent fraudulent use of written logs.” It was a belief held by many so-called safety advocates sitting among the elephants. The second such beast raised its trunk after a wide-ranging, fractious discussion captured on the Channel 19 blog Feb. 8, as OOIDA’s Todd Spencer capped it all off: “The reality isn’t, as Jane pointed out, [that driving more than 11 hours is the big problem] — the elephant in the room is the time spent loading and unloading. It’s never captured, it’s never accounted for … Of course, the limits of any perceived benefits [of electronic logs] can never actually be realized” because of the limits of the technology, Spencer said, his contention being that an electronic logging device will not substantively change the uncompensated detention time problem that is rampant. Find more from the meeting: