This is something I grew up hearing as a normal course of the day. It was part of my families language. You see, I grew up in a truck driving family. My Dad drove for Willis Shaw for a short period of time and took me on a trip once as a 5-year-old. I remember staying in a motel in Jackson Mississippi and him buying me a t-shirt at the truck stop. “My Dad’s a truck driver and I’m a little stinker”. It had a picture of a truck and a skunk on it.
My Favorite Trucker: Big Arkie
Not to take this a different direction, but my dad died not long after that time. When my mom remarried a few years later, guess what my step-dad did for a living? Yep, he was a truck driver. And soon we had a ton of family friends that were truck drivers. And I loved it. They all had their “handles” and that’s what they called each other in everyday life. There was Peter Don, Pushover, Angry Man, and my dad (I never called him my step-dad), Big Arkie.
My dad, Big Arkie, drove for various companies until he tired from being on the road all the time and bought his own dump truck and helped haul dirt and asphalt to better the infrastructure of Northwest Arkansas. Peter Don and Pushover had their own trucks and hauled loads for companies like Tyson and an up and coming retailer in the 70’s called Walmart. I’m not 100% sure of this, but Angry Man worked for his Dad, E.L. Reddish Trucking who was one of the few to have interstate operating authority at the time. Later, Angry Man bought a dump truck and drove for the same group Big Arkie was and man they hauled a lot of asphalt for the roads in Northwest Arkansas.
Trucking (Life) Lessons
I loved getting to ride along with my dad. He was the quintessential truck driver. He taught me the importance of using your mirrors when driving, never pull out in front of a truck because of the distance it takes them to stop, and being courteous to them on the road because their life is not 9-5. I loved truck driving so much that one summer Peter Don let me go out of the road with him for 2 weeks. I was 13. He was hauling loads from the few Walmart Distribution Centers to stores in Texas. I remember brushing my teeth in the cab of the truck, swallowing mouth wash, and flashing the trailer lights when someone in traffic flashed their lights to let you change lanes (this is some trucker code everyone should know).
I need to add one more character to this story before I summarize. My mom. She has had a variety of jobs in her life. Truck driver being one of them. You see, she also drove a dump truck for a season. She always had a CB handle but she could also back it up. She was Gray Lady because she frosted her hair even in her thirties.
The Importance of Truck Drivers
What I didn’t completely understand as a kid surrounded by these incredible people in my life, is that the truck driver is an essential part of the supply chain of everything we consume. You see, how else do you think a package gets to your door? How do the Halloween decorations get to the stores? How does the gas get to the station? These things are brought to us courtesy of hard-working men and women who pilot 80,0000-pound vehicles of commerce.
I have been fortunate to have a great career in logistics and transportation. It all started on the dock of a national LTL company and included the largest trucking company in the nation as well as the largest retailer on the planet. I have sat in break rooms and talked to drivers about their lives and their days. I’ve sat in the passenger seats while they put those things through and 18-speed gear pattern. I’ve watched them put a 53-foot trailer in a spot to a dock door with 18 inches to spare in either side.
Truck Driver Appreciation
At my company, we believe in truck driver appreciation. Not just one week out of the month, but every day. We don’t have goods to move or drivers to take care of. But we have customers who do. And I also drive the roads every day. Next time you are traveling along and feel the need to stop for coffee, find a truck stop and tell a driver thank you. Buy them some coffee. They are keeping commerce moving in this great United States of America.
I’m sad that a few of the characters in my life have passed on, including Big Arkie, but I will forever be grateful for the lessons these people taught me and the tremendous appreciation I have for their career and lifestyle.