Every year, we have a chance to sit down at the Mid-America Trucking Show with the winner of the Goodyear Highway Hero award.
Mostly, our conversation centers around the details of the heroic event that is the topic of the hour, but if time permits and the opportunity appropriately presents itself, we’ll ask about other things, including the state of trucking.
So it was with Tilden Curl, a well-versed veteran trucker from Olympia, Wash., who pulled an elderly man from a car trapped on a railroad track just before a train smashed the car to bits.“You’ve been driving a long time. What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges for trucking in the next three, four, five years,” we asked.
“You ask me to find the goose that laid the golden egg,” Curl responded with a smile.
Then he continued: “It’s hard to say really what is going to be the biggest challenge. There are so many challenges on so many levels. There are so many issues with the industry as a whole that a lot of people want to dance around the campfire, but they don’t want to throw on a stick of wood.”
Curl takes issue with the saying that you can’t find two truckers who agree on anything.
“When you say you can’t get truck drivers to agree on three things, well there are three things,” he said. “We need more money to live on, we need complete healthcare coverage and we need a retirement. I don’t know of any truck driver out there that can argue with that.”
Understanding the needs of truckers begins with understanding what it costs to live in America, Curl said.
“Everyone wants things to be cheap, cheap and cheaper, and everybody blames the trucker’s demise on the price of fuel or the price of this or that,” he said. “Those are things we don’t have control over. But what we do have control over is how much we charge. For some reason, the general consensus of the industry is that we need to do this for a lot cheaper than what we can really support our families with. I’ve been an advocate for this industry for quite a few years and one of the things I like to ask is: what is a man entitled to for 70 hours worth of work every week? If you don’t like the word entitlement, what is reasonable to expect as compensation for 70 hours?”
Then there’s the issue of retirement.
“The general consensus in the industry is that we don’t need retirement. Well, I’m 52 and I don’t know how many years I’m going to live and I’d really like to spend a few with my wife. I would really like to retire,” Curl said. “The way I see it, it’s going to cost you on average at least $5,000 a month to substantiate your living. At that rate, you’re going need $60,000 after taxes. At that rate, you’re going to need over one million dollars in a savings account that bears more than 6 percent to get that kind of return every year. And I hadn’t met a whole lot of truck drivers with a million dollars in savings.”
Finally, there’s the issue of health insurance, which is too costly for most independent contractors like Curl.
“A lot of people think they can go out and buy a $500 insurance policy and their healthcare is covered. That’s bogus. When you talk about your teeth, your eyes, your general health, prescriptions and problems that as you get older you’re going to inevitably have, how much does that cost?” he asked and then answered. “I’ll argue that will cost you $1,000-$1,500 a month. You can never get back ahead of the curve. People say you can run a truck for a $1.85 a mile. Well you can run a truck for that and you can pay a driver some money, but he’s not getting adequate healthcare, he’s not getting an adequate retirement and he’s not getting adequate home time with his family because one of the most important things you can do for your family is be a role model and fixture to your family and how can you do that if you’re only home three days a month? That weighs hard on a lot of marriages.”
Let us know.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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