Back in 2020, Howes Products, developer of lubricants and additives like their well-known anti-fuel-gelling products and much more, launched the Howes Hall of Fame; a digital platform designed to honor outstanding people, places and things in the trucking and farming industries that make up the backbone of its customers.
Today, Howes inducted a new member of that Hall, a man who picked up the tradition of broadcasting legend Bill Mack out of a Texas home base and ran with it straight into the contemporary world with Red Eye Radio. That's Eric Harley, the radio host who will be familiar to regular Overdrive readers also for his hosting of events around the Overdrive Red Eye Radio Trucker Talent Search series.
One thing Harley has always been known for is, of course, his voice. He's currently co-hosting the Red Eye Radio Network, an overnight trucking radio show that can be heard 1 a.m.-6 a.m. Eastern on more 240 radio stations around the nation as a beacon in the night for millions of drivers. Like Bill Mack before him, Harley's top priority lies in keeping over-the-road truckers awake and alert over the long stretches of highway on overnight runs.
He began his career in radio right out of high school more than 35 years ago. He got his trucking-radio start in 1996 when he joined the Midnight Cowboy himself, Bill Mack, on the Midnight Cowboy Radio Network. This was no accident. Eric has a very prominent family history in the trucking industry. Both of his grandfathers were truckers, one who started before the Great Depression and the other who drove before, during, and after World War II. His father was also a truck driver, delivering pharmaceuticals after his military career. Today, his brother in-law runs his own business driving a truck out of Oklahoma.
Given that family history, throughout his career Harley's been mindful of the importance of radio for the overnight hauler. Not just an entertainer, Harley has geared his programming also deliver vital news on changing equipment and regulations. And most importantly, he's focused on including trucking listeners in the conversation as news and central issues unfold, listening to and engaging with drivers to keep his finger on the pulse of the people who make up the industry; what Harley called an “interesting and continuous learning experience.”
It's contact with the audience he appreciates most about his work, he told the folks at Howes. “I’ve had a lot of fun hanging out with celebrities" like Willie Nelson, Lee Greenwood, and countless others, he said, "but wow, I really cherish the time, the moments, that I can share with the drivers and the information that they share with me.”
This nonstop education has fueled a passion and devotion to America’s drivers, with full awareness of the "many sacrifices that they make being away from home for so long and all of the issues they have to deal with while driving a truck,” he added.
Said Erika Howes, vice president of business development for Howes Products, about this latest Hall of Fame induction. “My brother Rob and I have had the opportunity to be interviewed by Eric on a number of occasions, and we always come away feeling like we just had a conversation with a friend or co-worker. His pointed questions, great listening skills and thoughtful responses make his interviews feel casual and relaxed, but always professional. Eric has a knack not just for understanding people, but for finding a way to connect with them.”
Though Harley said he sees himself as an advocate often speaking on the behalf of truckers, he feels that the strongest voice for America’s truck drivers is their own. With today’s social media and online presence, he feels drivers' voices are more prominent than ever before, and he feels pride in his show's efforts to amplify those voices.
Honored with several awards over the years, including the Dallas Press Club award for best talk show, Harley still goes after the work with humility. With each show, “we have to start at zero and earn our audience," he said, "something that is always a challenge.”
Eric Harley joins a growing list of inductees in the Howes Hall of Fame, including:
- Ellen Voie, founder and president of Women in Trucking
- The Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa, the "world's largest"
- Trucker-songwriter Tony Justice
- Truckers Against Trafficking, working with truckers to spot illegal human trafficking
- Peterson Farm Brothers – a family depicting the challenges of modern-day farming
- Billy Stone, an American driver representing the heart of the trucking industry