Howard White says he saw the writing on the wall about a year ago while driving for Arrow Trucking so he left, and when the company shut down last year right before Christmas leaving drivers stranded all over the country, he was kind enough to give rides to two Arrow Trucking drivers.
“I didn’t like how [Arrow] operated,” he said. “They were going downhill fast and didn’t fix equipment.”
After leaving Arrow, White said he just stayed home for three months and worked at Subway until he got hired by Prime and then he was offered an opportunity to lease a truck and “couldn’t resist it.”
White has been a trucker for 10 years and had his own truck for about nine months. He drives a 2010 Freightliner Cascadia. White usually drives northeast to southwest and has driven the 48 states over the years.
He currently hauls a tanker with either vegetable oil or chocolate.
White, who is single and has no children, was with a woman when The Trucker talked to him at a North Little Rock Petro. His friend, Nancy, is also a driver. She hauls food products. They meet up from time to time on their routes and this was one of the occasions when they were in the same area.
“Nancy is a friend who I met on the road,” White said. “It’s a big stress relief to have someone to talk to.”
White said he gets home to West Blocton, Ala., every four to six months and stays home for two to three days. When there he said he sleeps, fishes and visits with his dog, a timber wolf Siberian husky mix.
“I heard they are trying to ban having pets on the truck,” White said. “Our company allows dogs. I take her sometimes,” he said, adding that he left her home for awhile because she needs to be able to run and not be cooped up in a truck all the time.
White served the United States as a member of the Army for four years. He was a combat engineer and operated equipment as a demolitions expert.
“I got to blow things up,” he said. White served in Iraq for a little over a year in battle and didn’t want to rehash any of that for a newspaper article.
When asked what he liked about trucking, he said: “You don’t have a boss man looking over your shoulder and you get to see the country.”
Back when White was just a kid, he spent a lot of time in the logging woods where he drove a log truck in and out. And the reason he gave for getting into trucking is a unique one.
“I got into trucking because it’s just another way to serve my country,” White said. “I can’t serve in the military no more.”
And just how does he serve his country as a trucker?
“By feeding them, clothing them,” he said. “If it wasn’t for us out there, they wouldn’t get their chocolate. I had an older woman say they should take trucks off the road and I asked her how they would get stuff from the rails to the stores. She was a little stunned. I guess she had never really thought about it.”
White is concerned about some of the new rules that he’s heard they are trying to bring into trucking.
One thing that he is concerned about, even though he doesn’t appear to be overweight, is a person’s weight issue.
According to what White has heard there’s an obesity rule where 39 percent body fat is as much as one can have and still drive. It’s that way “at Prime at least” he said.
One thing that is in the works is a new rule about electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs). This particular rule was announced April 2 after we talked to White so specifics of the rule were not known at the time of the interview.
“I don’t like the idea of a black box in all trucks that report to DOT (Department of Transportation) before it reports to the company,” White said. Prime, White said, is going to electronic logs.
While many who have fought electronic logs find they actually like them once they have them because they cut down on paperwork, many still fear having them on their trucks.
“There’s no leniency,” White said. “If you’re two hours from your shipper and you run out of hours you’re [stuck] there.”
The wait times to load and unload are major issues for a lot of truckers. For White, hauling a tanker, he doesn’t have the usual wait times, but sometimes he does have to sit and wait for hours.
“I was at Texas for 12 hours waiting to unload recently,” White said. “It takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half to unload.”
One thing that does give White some trouble on a more regular basis, he said, is stress, mostly from paperwork.
But he does like working for Prime.
“They try to keep you moving,” he said. “They’ve got excellent equipment. I never pulled a tank before driving for them. They showed me everything I needed to know and I haven’t had a problem yet. They try to look at the bigger picture. They stay up-to-date on the equipment. They want things fixed as soon as possible. They keep us up-to-date on new laws and regulations. They use an on-board computer, Qualcomm, to tell us about new things and to notify us when adding or removing fuel stops.”
Other truckers, however, can be a bother and danger, he said.
“It’s ridiculous — they do everything they can do to run over you — they used to watch out for you,” White said about truck drivers. “They are out here for themselves, to heck with everybody else. They don’t give you the adequate room that you need. I have a safety collision device; it will measure the distance between you and the car in front of you. If they cut you off it engages all the brakes.” His truck also has sensors that give rollover safety warnings.
White says in order to save fuel he sets his cruise control and runs between 58 mph and 62 mph.
Prime, he said, really stresses safety.
“Prime’s safety department says there’s no load that’s so hot that it won’t cool off in a ditch,” he said. In other words, “the load is not worth your life. When we get dispatched on a load it is dispatched at 42 mph. Their theory is ‘you are the captain of the ship.’”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.