Speakout – December 20081

Gary Smith

REFLECTIONS: MEMORABLE HAULS
A fracas during a truckers’ strike in Italy is one of several memories still vivid to GARY SMITH from hauling loads and hitching rides across Europe in the mid-’80s. “They kicked me in the eye,” the Powell, Tenn., resident says of getting pulled into the action after he climbed out of his flatbed truck. “I’ve still got a scar from that.” In 1985, he survived a ride he hitched with a driver whom Smith dubbed the Mad Dog Englishman. Smith discovered that three of the truck’s gears were missing and that the driver wouldn’t slow the big rig as it rolled down a twisty Alpine road in fog. “The sun had started setting, and the road kept getting narrower,” Smith says. “I just closed my eyes and said, ‘Lord, I’m going to sleep.'” As they approached the Italian border, the driver told Smith he was going to run the tollbooth without stopping or paying the fee. “He slowed down to three or four miles [per hour] so I could jump out,” Smith says, “but he ran the tollbooth and kept on trucking.” Smith will remember those scares, he says, “to the day of my death.”

TAMMY GIBSON of Asheville, N.C., had wanted to visit New England long before she made her first trip to Vermont at the end of June hauling a load for KLLM Transport Services. “I got some right-out-of-the-tree maple syrup,” Gibson says. “I took it home and spread it on some French toast and sausage.” The syrup wasn’t the only sweet treat she brought back from the Green Mountain State. She delivered 42,000 pounds of white chocolate to cookie maker Otis Spunkmeyer and left with milk chocolate for a special occasion. “I made a chocolate sauce for my son’s wedding reception to dip strawberries in.” She notes: “My favorite trip of all is always the one that gets me home.”

Charcoal skies and gale-force winds prompted rookie company driver JAMES GIBSON of Louisville, Ky., to pull his C. Bean Transport rig to the side of I-75 near Dalton, Ga., in May 2007. Then the tornado ripped through. “It was raining, and all of a sudden there was this big burst of wind, and it blew the trees over the road,” Gibson recalls. “It was like somebody took a water hose and pointed it at your windshield and turned it on. Then it got really, really quiet, and you could see the darkness of the swirl.” Other truckers slowed but kept going, Gibson says. “After it was all over, I caught back up with the pack.” For his good sense, the other truckers called him a sissy.


What is your idea of the perfect truck?
“Something like a Peterbilt, with 10-gear transmission. Something that doesn’t smoke too much. . . . A white truck.”
TIM COLLINS
Hopewell, Va.
Swift

“One with a bathroom. Nothing fancy. Just nice on the inside. Comfortable seats, comfortable bed. You can’t drive well without a good night’s sleep.”
KEENAN ROGERS
Memphis, Tenn.
Southern Refrigerated

“I’d like to have a decked-out Peterbilt 369. There’s nothing prettier than a black truck when it’s clean with lots of chrome.”
WARREN HAMBRIGHT
Jacksonville, Ala.
Sunbelt Transport

“A mattress, a good, working sleeper, a comfortable seat. I’d be partial to white myself.”
BILL READMAN
Pearl, Miss.
Atlantic Industrial Services

“I’m not too big on the fancy things. . . . So my idea of a perfect truck is no chrome, no payments, plenty of room inside.”
TODD LECKIE
Noble, Okla.
J.B. Hunt


Share your memories
Trucking’s changed a lot during the past few decades. Tell Overdrive about your early days behind the wheel, whether it’s heartwarming, funny or horrific.

Send your recollection and contact information to Lucinda Coulter, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa AL 35403, or e-mail them to lcoulter@rrpub.com. Include a print or digital photo of yourself, if possible; prints will be returned.

Published submitters will receive a keychain pocketknife and an Overdrive hat, license plate and T-shirt.


Band together to make your voice heard
In my 48 years as an over-the-road truck driver, the one thing I have learned is that nothing changes. Yes, the equipment has gotten better to drive, but the hours to get a load delivered have gone up, and there’s still no compensation for the time spent at the docks for loading or unloading. The pay per mile has gone up, but we still work for slave wages.

Why does nothing change? It is because owner-operators and company drivers have not learned to band together and make their voice heard. Corporations and lawmakers will not listen to just one person making a complaint, but they will listen if people go in force and have a spokesperson to talk on their behalf.

When you have a lawmaker’s ear, sit down with him or her and state your points and why your group needs help in being heard. Don’t make it a bitch session. Rather, outline your complaints and offer some solutions to the problems.

The major issues I see that need addressing are hours of service, splitting the sleeper berth, detention-time compensation, and fuel surcharges that go directly to the owner-operator. Truck drivers must also get the companies we haul for to stand behind us.

This is the only way that I can see things changing.
MIKE MCRAE
Elkins, W.Va.

Plan well to survive
For an independent trucker such as myself, only one economic law applies: supply and demand. Right now there’s plenty of trucks in supply and not much demand for them. The result is many trucking companies will be forced out of business. No shipper cares how much fuel costs a trucker or what his other costs are. The shipper cares only about how much he can get a truck for. And you can be sure the federal government or the states won’t do anything to help. As Linda Longton correctly points out in her column “Be a survivor” [Viewpoint, June], owner-operators better figure out a way to survive.
TOM KOLLER
Denver


What is your idea of the perfect truck?
“Something like a Peterbilt, with 10-gear transmission. Something that doesn’t smoke too much. . . . A white truck.”
TIM COLLINS
Hopewell, Va.
Swift

“One with a bathroom. Nothing fancy. Just nice on the inside. Comfortable seats, comfortable bed. You can’t drive well without a good night’s sleep.”
KEENAN ROGERS
Memphis, Tenn.
Southern Refrigerated

“I’d like to have a decked-out Peterbilt 369. There’s nothing prettier than a black truck when it’s clean with lots of chrome.”
WARREN HAMBRIGHT
Jacksonville, Ala.
Sunbelt Transport

“A mattress, a good, working sleeper, a comfortable seat. I’d be partial to white myself.”
BILL READMAN
Pearl, Miss.
Atlantic Industrial Services

“I’m not too big on the fancy things. . . . So my idea of a perfect truck is no chrome, no payments, plenty of room inside.”
TODD LECKIE
Noble, Okla.
J.B. Hunt

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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