Keith and Julie Mathis of New Albany, Miss., drive for FedEx Ground, out of Olive Branch, Miss., where they’ve been for four years driving an extra board route while working toward a dedicated run.
The couple has been married 12 years. Keith’s been a trucker for 23 years and Julie has been driving rigs for 10 years. They do line haul from hub to hub and haul packages. Their route takes them out West to Utah and California.
Julie has two daughters ages 35 and 38, while Keith has two daughters ages 24 and 21.
Julie said she got into trucking to make more money. Her girls were grown and she was home alone all the time. For Keith, it was a matter of making more money. He was building furniture, doing upholstery, and said it paid more to haul it than to build it.
Keith said he knew something about trucking because his father and oldest brother drove trucks.
“Both told me to stay away,” he said.
Both Keith and Julie said driving long-haul causes missed family time.
“It’s hard,” said Keith. “You miss a lot while kids are growing up; events while they are in school.
“You do miss a lot,” agreed Julie. “I have five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Some live in Alabama and I don’t get to see them very often.”
The couple is home one to three days almost every week and they have plenty to do when they get there.
“I wash clothes,” said Julie. “Three of the grandkids live at my house. You have to get clothes out of the way so you can wash your own. I go visit my mama.”
While she does that, Kevin said he works in the yard. “I like to ride four-wheelers sometimes,” he added.
“With grandkids there’s always something going on,” said Julie. “There’s always someone hollering ‘grandma.’”
“The 15-year-old is my shadow,” said Keith. “His name is Joshua.”
Julie and Keith drive true team, meaning when one drives the other sleeps and they keep the truck moving. The Trucker wondered if they had issues with the Hours of Service rules since many teams say they miss being able to split driving time into five hour increments.
“We don’t like it,” Keith said. “We used to do five and five or eight and eight. Now we do 10 and 10.”
“We don’t have a choice,” Julie added.
Keith said he’s more tired running 10 all at once and Julie agreed.
“It’s really hard to sit in that seat for that many hours,” she said. “And you can’t lay back there and sleep on the roads in this country” because they are in such bad shape.
Keith said one of his hobbies is to aggravate Julie, but he also likes to hunt and fish. Julie likes to fish as well when they have time. Keith said he hunts deer mostly and fishes for whatever he can catch.
“It’s just relaxing going and watching the water even if you don’t catch anything,” said Julie.
Initially Julie got introduced to trucking while riding with Keith when she was on vacation from her job as a waitress in her sister’s restaurant. In fact, her sister is the reason they met.
“My sister introduced us,” Julie explained. “My brother-in-law and Keith’s daddy drove team. He came [to the restaurant] to find someone to keep him awake for his next run. I went with him that first night and we went to Chicago. It was pretty much love at first site.”
Keith said they will keep driving until they retire, and Julie quipped, “I get to retire first!” And then she explained that she’s 10 and-a-half years older than he is.
Keith said that FedEx keeps them up to date on all of the rules and regulations and said they had just had a contractor’s meeting at Olive Branch a few days before the interview.
While driving, both Keith and Julie listen to XM Radio; he likes Westerns on Old Time Radio, or music, while she listens to Book Radio and Old Time Radio.
The team said if they get tired they definitely don’t drive because of safety and will stop sometimes and sleep with the truck parked.
FedEx doesn’t push them to drive tired, or in bad weather.
“[Driving tired] is like with weather; they leave it to your discretion — park it and call them.”
During the past winter, Keith said they were in a lot of snow, but didn’t have to shut down much.
“Keith’s really good about picking our route, listening to the weather,” Julie added. And both drive anywhere while Keith usually takes the nights and Julie drives in daylight.
“If you’re gonna drive a truck you have to know how to do it all,” she said.
Keith said Julie learned how to drive at the school of hard knocks.
“He taught me,” Julie said. “Back then I just went and got a permit and he taught me how to drive.”
Julie said her dream was to see Colorado and Keith took her on her second time out with him, but now they don’t have time to sightsee.
Keith was Contractor of the Month at FedEx in June 2009.
“It’s the easiest truck driving job that I’ve ever had,” he said about his current job. “You don’t have to deal with customers. There’s no load and unload. It’s drop and hook.”
“Most everywhere you go folks are nice,” Julie said.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.