Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Career trucker finds it hard to make a good living in tough economy, but sticking with it

Friday, February 19, 2010

Charles Nestor says he’s in trucking for the long-haul. (The Trucker: BARB KAMPBELL)
Charles Nestor says he’s in trucking for the long-haul. (The Trucker: BARB KAMPBELL)

Nestor file:
Leased to Landstar
Drives: 2000 Freightliner
How long driving: 40 years
Birthday: Dec. 23, 1944

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Charles Nestor, of Sanger, Texas, says he’s been a truck driver for most of his life, and in those times he wasn’t driving he was still working in the trucking industry.

“I’ve worked as a mechanic, dispatcher, safety professional, owned my own trucking company with multiple trucks,” and a few other things, he said. “Sometimes I’d just take a break from driving for a couple of years. I’ve been in the industry over 40 years.”

Nestor has been married to his wife, Faye, for 46 years and has a grown daughter and a grown son and six grandchildren. All of them live in the same area of Texas.

And it was because of his family that Nestor got into trucking.

“I got out of the service and there just really wasn’t a lot to do and [trucking] looked like an opportunity to make some money. I had a wife and one kid,” he said.

Nestor said he doesn’t get to see his family much lately because he has to work more just to make any money with the way the economy is.

“I’m on the road a lot,” he said, “I’m working harder than I ever have because I’m trying to pay the bills. There’s no real profit to be made. I used to stay out seven to 10 days and go home for three to four days. Now I just stay out all the time. It’s been bad for about one-and-a-half years. It’s getting worse.”

Nestor hauls dry van loads, general commodities and stays mostly in the Midwest.

The Trucker wanted to know when Nestor thought the economy might improve or if he was already seeing better freight.

“It’s not gonna improve until we make adjustments in the kind of people we elect to public office,” Nestor said. “We need improvement on all levels of government. Do they want to serve as career politicians or do they want to serve the public? The people in charge of the Federal Highway Administration want to keep the boss happy. It’s a matter of people doing their job. There’s always an out for people in government. Leadership starts at the top. Right now I think our top is pretty thin.”

Nestor has been in the industry long enough to have worked under many rule changes including Hours of Service, which he wishes they would just leave alone.

“There’s nothing wrong with [HOS],” Nestor said. “They need to leave it as it is. They should have left it as it was. Just make a decision and stick with it. Be a man. Somebody needs to man up. Guys like me way down here at the bottom of the hill are always victims of some decision made by an uninformed bureaucrat in Washington. I would like to hear justifications for making another change.”

One of the problems, in Nestor’s opinion, is the quality of truck drivers hired.

“If you want better safety standards you have to get better truckers in the industry,” he said. “The only way to attract them is with better pay and rates. Untrained, unqualified drivers cause safety problems. When I came in it was hard to get a job driving a truck. Now if you have a pulse you can drive. Deregulation hasn’t benefited the trucking industry at all. It has let people come in as carriers on a fit basis not on a needed basis.”

Nestor admits it is lonely out on the road, but he does things to try to pass the time.

“I read, work on the truck, do crosswords,” Nestor said. “The 34-hour restart can be boring. You need a routine. Walk, bathe and shave every day. Get online and dial up the news. Stay informed. I talk to my family about twice a day.”

Nestor’s wife is retired but he says there is no retirement option for him.

“I still owe money on a mortgage and I’ll be paying on that ‘til I’m no more,” he added. “I used to buy houses and pay them off in three to five years. We have no earning power now. I thought about doing something else but not seriously.”

Another problem he has with the industry is how some truck drivers behave.

“One of the nastiest things that happen out here is people with their CB radios,” Nestor said. “I keep mine off. I don’t know that it’s gotten worse; it just doesn’t seem to go away. I wish women would get out of the trucks; not because I’m sexist but for their own safety. You should always treat women like ladies until they show you otherwise, which isn’t very often.”

And then the conversation returned to politics.

“We need to bring our military closer to home and secure our borders,” Nestor said. “We need to develop a good energy policy; make it efficient, clean and plentiful at a reasonable price. We should revisit foreign policy; how we address other people. Be forthright. We don’t need to tell other people how to live in their country.”

Nestor spent four years in the Air Force with time in Vietnam during the war. He was an aircraft mechanic and while he wasn’t in combat, he still has bad memories.

“I saw lots of boxes loaded on the airstrip,” Nestor said. “I can smell death a mile away. That’s a terrible thing to stay with you.”

Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at barbkampbell@thetrucker.com.


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