For Clarence Bush a job driving in Iraq doesn’t seem scary since he spent 1969-1974 in the military during the Vietnam War.
Bush is planning to go to Iraq in August to drive for KBR and is currently undergoing a six-month background check.
“I’m doing it to get ahead on bills,” he explained. “It’s good money. It relieves servicemen from other duties. I’ll make between $170,000 to $200,000 a year — tax free. That’s what I was told. I survived Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos,” so this shouldn’t be too bad.
According to Bush, he was in combat behind the lines and did things a “normal soldier” would not do. “They called us the Black Berets,” he added.
Bush’s wife, Terri, rides with him. They’ve been married three years and met in a chat room online during Hurricane Ivan while he was working fire, search and rescue, which he often does during hurricane weather.
“I could talk online,” he said. “We could talk and got to be friends. I just wanted someone to talk to but I fell in love and she fell in love with me. We met in 2004 online, met face to face in 2005, and got married in 2007.”
“She rides with me,” he said. “She’s like a navigator and arbitrator. She talks to the customers and the companies. I won’t talk on the phone while driving.”
Bush currently drives for Southern Refrigerated Transport [SRT] in a 2010 Cascadia Freightliner. He mostly drives the Northwest area of the country and pulls a reefer. He’s been driving off and on for 36 years.
By choice, Bush is out six weeks and home two weeks. While home they work on an old sharecroppers’ house where they live. They are completely redoing the house.
Bush has done a lot of things, and drove trucks even when he was in high school. He’s worked in factories, done firefighting, worked on riverboats and has had other jobs.
“I keep coming back to trucking,” he said. “I’m a free spirit. I like being out there driving and meeting people. I like helping people. That’s why I’m with fire and rescue [he does that when he’s home].
“In Tennessee a car was on fire. I stopped to put the fire out and the company [Southern Refrigerated Transport] put me in their paper.”
The Trucker asked what Bush planned to do after Iraq, and if he planned on staying in trucking.
“I’ll be in trucking until I retire,” he answered. “I’ll retire out of SRT in August, but I’ll still be driving when I come back from Iraq. If I can still drive I’ll keep driving. I’ll drive until I can’t.”
The Bush’s have a third on board, a Schipperke, which is also known as a Belgian barge dog. Her name is Apache and she’s somewhere between one year and two years old; the couple isn’t sure since she was rescued from a shelter.
“She doesn’t like people coming around the truck,” Bush said. “She watches over Terri real good.”
Bush has spent a great many years trucking and like most he has some issues with the industry.
“There’s too many rules and regs being imposed on us by people who don’t know anything about trucking,” he said. “MADD, P.A.T.T., and Public Citizen have too much to say about what we do.
“And I don’t like roadside inspections. If there’s going to be inspections it should be in a safe area where no one can get hurt. In general, I just don’t like everybody saying truckers are the bad guy. Four-wheelers cut you off, pass you and then slow down; nobody pays attention to that but they do go after the truck if he doesn’t drive right.”
Bush said he usually drives eight-and-a-half to 10 hours a day and doesn’t exceed the 11-hour rule although sometimes he might get close to it looking for a place to park his truck.
“Parking is hard to find,” he said. “States are closing rest areas. Lots of times I’ll get ready to stop and have to go another hour or two to get in a safe area.”
Bush’s wife was listening as The Trucker talked to him and we wondered what her plans were when he is gone for a year to Iraq.
“I’m gonna hope for the best while he’s over there,” she said, and added that she’d try to spend more time with her three grown children. She may go over to be with him once he’s been there for six months; that part is yet to be determined.
Bush said he has hope for the industry in the coming years.
“I hope to see that the industry grows, rather goes up for the drivers [and that] the whole thing goes back like it was in the ’60s,” he said. “Seeing the truckers get the whole ‘White Knight’ name back again.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.