NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —Jim Elam began his trucking career 22 years ago when he drove his stepfather’s trucks hauling general freight. Carrying produce now for Crosset Co. out of Ohio, he has never been west of Oklahoma.
“Never wanted to be more than a one-day ride from home,” Elam said. “I had opportunities, just never wanted to. Don’t care to go. I run the East Coast a lot.”
Elam said he got into trucking because he lost his job as a mechanic.
“Didn’t have a choice really,” he said. I had to do something quick to support my family and that’s what I did. That was back before they had all the laws and regulations, too. It was easier back then.”
He said he had his own truck for about 10 years, but got tired of either driving it or working on it so he decided to drive someone else’s truck.
“I’ve got a job right now,” Elam said, “I work by the hour. I get paid by the hour. They pay us [Crossett drivers] for every hour we’re out. They pay us $75 for laying over and sleeping in their truck. I don’t have to buy any fuel.”
Elam said the hardest thing about trucking is being away from his family, which consists of his wife, daughter and two grandchildren. “You ain’t seen nothing until you get grandkids,” he said. “When you get them, you’ll wish you had them before you had kids. They’re more fun.”
Though being away from family is tough, he said the trucking life is fine for a single person.
“Maybe if a guy wasn’t married,” Elam said. “It’s harder now than when I started. Freight is tougher to get and the laws are tougher than when I first started. The equipment’s better, nicer. I wouldn’t tell anybody not to [get into trucking], but if someone had a family, a couple kids, I’d probably tell them to think real hard about it.”
When not on the road, Elam said that he and his wife like to catch a local high school basketball game or race his U.M.P. Modified dirt cars. He doesn’t like to watch NASCAR.
“We race dirt cars,” he said. “I’ve done that for several years. My daughter drove for me about five years and then she got married. Now my son-in-law drives it. It’s expensive, but it’s fun.”
Elam said that the best thing about trucking is that he makes decent money, but that he wouldn’t mind giving it up if another opportunity arose.
“If I had my choice, I’d do something else,” he said. “For 22 years, I always said I would do something else. I could never find anything where I could make that kind of money.”
“It’s been good to me,” he said of trucking. “I’d rather have a job at home, but it’s been good to me. I’ve made a good living at it for 20 years.”
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