Company driver for Ronnie Dowdy
How long trucking: 3.5 years
Drives: Most of 48 states
Truck: 2006 Freightliner Columbia
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Danny Fife of Lake View, Ark., has had many different jobs and ended up in trucking when his wife said that’s what he should do.
Dottie, his wife of six years, and the obvious (if you talk to him for two minutes) love of his life, saw an ad for a driving school one day and she said, “You know what you need to do?” Fife said. She told him about it and said he needed to check it out, which he did. He’s been a driver ever since.
“She says we have the perfect marriage,” Fife said with a laugh, “I’m home four-and-a-half days a month.”
He also has a companion on the road, Cooper, his Shih Tzu puppy, who waited on the dashboard while Fife ate breakfast and took care of other business in the truck stop.
During an interview with The Trucker that lasted about 30 to 45 minutes, Dottie called twice and texted once. Every time she called or Fife talked about her his face lit up and we could tell that it was true love for the couple.
Fife said he stays out three weeks at a time and then returns home for four-and-a-half days at which time he catches up on honey-dos, fishes, plays with the dogs, and goes to festivals and shopping with his wife.
“I live on the White River [in Arkansas], so I fish,” Fife said. “I fly fish. My wife ties my flies for me. We have to travel two hours to go shopping. We don’t have any malls. There’s just a Walmart.”
Prior to starting his trucking career, Fife was a retail manager in a Western clothing store. He once worked in the Mall of America in Minnesota as an assistant manager of a store. Before that he managed a Gateway computer store until they closed them all.
“All my life I traveled around a lot,” Fife said. “I was born in Oregon. Dad worked for the railroad and we lived in Texas and California and I’ve moved around a lot.”
This is one reason that Dottie thought he should be a truck driver.
“It was Dottie who said ‘you move around a lot’ and she thought it would be ideal for me to be a trucker and she was right,” he said. “I love trucking 90 percent of the time. Trucking keeps me out of trouble. I really enjoy being out on the road. You get to see a diversity of people. You get to meet a wide range of people. You’re never in the same place every day. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not for everybody though.
“My wife’s been out with me before. She loved it. She got to see some places she’s never been before. She’s a home body, though, and couldn’t do it all the time. It’s too much of a confined space. My wife and I burn about 4,000 minutes a month talking. That’s one of the things — people not being able to be in touch on the road. We’re closer because we talk so much. I know what’s going on with her.”
Fife started his trucking career by attending a school that lasted three weeks. He said it wasn’t enough time to learn over-the-road trucking and that they had only about four hours driving a truck included in that.
“They stressed: ‘you are not here to learn how to drive a truck,’” Fife said. “I had driven one in the past hauling hazardous waste but had never driven over-the-road.”
After school ended he was hired on by a company and then was sent out with a trainer for three weeks. After successfully completing that training time he was put with a lease operator to team drive for three weeks. He did not get to go home during any of that training period.
“Most people have problems being away from home — that’s probably the hardest adjustment a driver has to make — being away from home. It’s rough; 10 weeks gone initially while driving.”
Dottie really supports Fife’s efforts to be a truck driver. She cooks meals and freezes them for him to take with him out on the road to eat. He eats out sometimes, but when he runs out of food she’s prepared. He also can go to Walmart and get meat. He has a George Foreman grill and an electric skillet on his truck.
“It’s a big challenge on the road to eat,” Fife said. But in addition to the food she prepares, he added, “What makes it so easy is my wife. Without the support at home I don’t think anybody can do this.”
The Fifes met in a chat room on Yahoo.com. She lived in Iowa and he lived in Memphis, Tenn.
“The first time she got out of that Jeep, I knew she was the one I wanted to spend my life with,” Fife said about meeting her for the first time in Memphis. “Two years ago, the first of December she says, ‘We’re moving.’ We were living in Iowa and it was 15 degrees with nine inches of snow on the ground. After 42 years, ‘I’ve had enough,’ she said.”
Fife said that Dottie had been to Bull Shoals, Ark., which is close to where they live now and two months after she declared they were leaving, they were living in Arkansas.
As for any troubles on the road, Fife doesn’t really have much he wanted to complain about, but did say the biggest problem is when dispatchers want you to be where you can’t legally get to. The problem, he said, boils down to a lack of coordination and problems loading and unloading.
“Unless trucking makes shippers and receivers pay, it’s not going to change,” he added.
Weather, especially in the winter, can be a problem out on the road, but mostly, Fife said, problems are because of other drivers.
“There’s no load out there worth my life,” he said. “It’s an enjoyable career, but it’s not for everybody.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.