Thirty-one year trucking veteran Lee Uhley got into the profession because his family owned a farm and told a story of when he lived in Washington state and Mt. St. Helens volcano erupted in 1982.
“I learned to drive in Washington [state] when I was in high school and junior high,” Uhley said. “We only lived like 30 miles from the volcano. I was a machinist in a dairy finishing out high school. The mountain blew up and we couldn’t process milk at the dairy. We had to refit the whole dairy and in the mean time, we had to haul milk.”
From Houston, Uhley said trucking is a relatively easy job and he hauls whatever there is to haul. His route takes him as far north as Michigan and as far south as southern Texas.
“I don’t go west of New Mexico,” he said. “I might go to Georgia, but no East Coast. Otherwise it’s a real tight area. I run the corridor between Mexico and Canada 90 percent of the time.”
Uhley also told a story of when a Harley Davidson motorcycle blew up on him two years ago while he was tuning it at a drag race in Granite City, Ill. He said he burned most of the right side of his body and wasn’t looking too hot when he walked into the hospital.
“You know how you go to the emergency room and have to sit for hours?” he asked. “It was the first time its ever happened where I walk in and they’re taking me in.”
A grandfather of 12, Uhley said he felt the industry could be improved if dispatchers actually took on the role of a driver once in a while, noting that some companies are hiring dispatchers with little knowledge of the industry.
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“They’re not drivers. They are people used to working on computers and who figure [stuff] out with a calculator.
He cited an example.
“I spent three and a half hours this morning sitting in Memphis and pulled out in a traffic jam,” he said, adding that today many dispatchers don’t grasp what truckers face on the road.
When he is not trucking, Uhley said he fishes, hunts and plays classical guitar, something he has been doing since he was 10-years old.
He also said he had a wrestling scholarship at the University of Oregon and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management, but opted out of a career in enterprise.
“I decided it was not worth my time anymore working in business, working at a desk,” he said. “I got tired of being a corporate mule.”
Uhley had some other suggestions on what might make more people feel more comfortable in the role of a trucker.
“There are too many hotshot idiots on the road today,” he said. “People think these trucks are their personal cars. They’ll cut you off, they’ll run you off the road and they are not paying attention. They need to put down their cell phones. Back years ago when I used to train people, trainees paid attention to what their elders are telling them. The old folks know a hell of a lot more than the young kids think.”
Tony Lenahan of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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