Throughout Steve Press’ 30-year career as a trucker, he’s hauled it all.
“Anything they put in the back — sporting goods, ladders, hay,” Press, 60, told The Trucker. But recently, his cargo was a little bigger and furrier.
“Just recently we hauled some camels. We hauled them for Ringling Brothers,” Press said. “There were eight, from Denver to St. Louis … they had a special trailer for them. We had to stop every two to three hours to make sure they had plenty of water and food … We got a lot of attention at the truck stops.”
For the past 13 years, Press has been a driver for Swift, currently driving a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. However, the married father of three got his start in trucking by recovering vehicles as a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
“I started out as a machinist and moved over to transportation,” Press said, who joined the military out of high school in 1974. He was stationed in Korea. “I moved a lot of heavy equipment, got tanks out of the mud, things like that.”
Press said he enjoyed his time in the military, despite losing all his teeth.
“I got a new set of teeth from the government,” Press said, saying he told a man on a wrecker ‘not to mess with nothing.’ He hit one of the levers, the boom came around and I woke up in the hospital. They said, ‘the good news is you’re still alive, the bad news is you need a new set of teeth.’”
After 13 years, he left the Army, despite their urging that he teach in the military. But, he was destined to teach people on a different kind of front line — truckers.
He was “grandfathered” into trucking, receiving his Chauffer’s License while serving. He’s traveled the lower 48 and Canada.
“I just wanted to see more of the United States,” Press said. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen it before, it always changes.”
Press has seen Disney World and Disney Land, the Grand Canyon and even a “geyser go off,” in a national park, he said. Rather than sit in backed-up traffic out on the main stretches, when he can swing it, he takes the backroads to soak up the rural cultures of America.
“We stopped at a little general store that had wood plank floors and grooves in the floor where people walked up and down them. It’s amazing that people still live like that,” Press said of the Utah store. “We go to the supermarket, our meat is wrapped in Saran wrap. There’s wasn’t, it was in white paper.”
While parts of the landscape has changed and others have stayed the same, two things are certainly different — prices and regulations.
“If we paid more than 95 cents a gallon, we got chewed out,” Press said of when he first started in trucking. “Back then, you could really make money because a logbook didn’t mean nothing. It’s just something you carried with you.”
However, Press said he likes using an electronic log.
“I make more money because everything is done by the minute,” he said.
Since Press didn’t have a desire to teach in the military, he put those skills to use for Swift as a driver trainer.
“Listen to what you’re being taught and put the electronics down and pick up the map,” Press stresses to new drivers. “The map has been there forever. I have two GPS in the truck, the company one and my own, and I’ve noticed the company one will drive you down a dirt road in a minute. You can’t beat the road map.”
When regulators decide to enact more changes, Press said it’s aggravating for drivers.
“Leave the 34 hours where they’re at and quit playing with it,” he said. “They need to get out of the offices and ride in the truck instead of looking at a book … It’s easy to do something behind a desk. I couldn’t go do their job by reading a book.”
He is out on the road for about a month at a time, but when he is off at his home in Archdale, North Carolina, he spends his time woodworking, working on vehicles and spending time with his wife.
“Right now I’m remodeling my house. It’s not as easy as people think it is. It’s a challenge and my wife and I are doing it together,” Press said, adding it’s important to do things like that as a couple since he is gone so often. “We’ve missed so much time together the two of us, it’s something we can do together. Even though she can’t measure,” he said with a laugh.
As the United States continues to change, Press plans on seeing it evolve, at least for the next seven or so years.
“As long as my health holds up, I plan on being out here,” he said