Michael Dauphinais, of Fort Mill, S.C., known as Mr. D to many, has driven off and on since 1977.
Called Mr. D because children could not pronounce his name, he also has the initials M.R.D., he pointed out to The Trucker as we looked at the Mr. D emblazoned on his 2006 Peterbilt that he runs as an owner-operator leased to Oakley Trucking Inc., North Little Rock, Ark.
Dauphinais hauls end dump loads consisting of scrap steel, sand, gravel, stone and other things.
Before becoming a trucker he went to electrician school and had his own business for about five years.
“My uncle was a truck driver hauling beer and he conned me into driving with him,” Dauphinais explained. “I worked with him about a year and then got my license. I started running cross country hauling swinging beef and did that for a couple of years.”
Dauphinais said he started working as a trucker after having a slow season in the electrician business and needing to make money.
After a couple of years hauling meat, he got out of long-haul trucking and started driving local and doing electrical work, too.
“Then an opportunity to be a condominium superintendent came along and I did that for almost 20 years,” he said. “It helped that when I was younger I was a carpenter. I’ve been on my own since I was 14 — you do what you have to do to survive. My parents passed away. I hopped around until I was 16 and then got an apartment and a roommate.
“Mom died in a car wreck. My step dad was beat up in the wreck pretty bad. There were 13 kids between them. [My step dad’s] mother made the decision not to take care of us.”
Truckers who have been in the industry a while, even those who have come and gone like Dauphinais, often talk about the changes over the years. Sometimes those are good changes and sometimes not.
“I think it’s changed a lot since the ’70s,” he said. “A lot has gotten better and a lot has gotten worse. Standing by a pay phone in the cold is gone. Communication is better — cell phone, laptop, Internet, TV. In the ’70s I used to stand by a pay phone in a snowstorm and they’d say call me back in 20 minutes; they’d always say that. Now all the loads are online and dispatching is easier, too.”
Dauphinais said Oakley is good at keeping him busy and that he has a good dispatcher.
After 20 years as a condo superintendent Dauphinais went back to driving a truck.
“I got divorced four years ago,” he said. “I’ve got no kids so I got back into driving. At 50-something years old where do you go? I get home every five to six weeks now. That’s my choice. I have a townhouse. I have no place to work on my truck. I’m home three to four days.
“It’s really expensive to keep the condo to be home such a short time, but you need a place to hang your hat. I’ve got a real good family. They’ve all offered me a place to stay. For now [having the condo] works.”
When The Trucker asked if Dauphinais planned to stay in trucking the answer did not come easily.
“That’s a tough thing to answer,” he said. “Do I enjoy it? Yes, but with all the rules and regulations like CS2010 [I’m not sure]. I’m fortunate. I had no tickets until yesterday. I got a ticket for following too close. The officer ran back to his car to get the next two trucks. It’s a money-making thing. I was on I-30 in Louisiana. Towns need money to survive. If you’re on the back roads you better be driving the speed limits. I don’t know if there’s an answer to CS2010. I understand what they are trying to do.”
Dauphinais said he usually drives nine to 10 hours a day. On his 34-hour restart, which is when The Trucker found him, he was doing what he usually does.
“I do laundry, get my truck washed, clean inside of my truck, have breakfast,” he said. I eat a lot of my meals in the truck — sandwiches, canned soup, or leftovers from cooking at home. I very seldom eat out. I’m stuck here for 34 hours. I came in here last night with one-quarter hour left on my 70. I usually get a motel room. If it’s cold out I stay in the truck to keep it running. I was too tired last night to mess with getting a room.
“Money’s not quite the same as it used to be out there. I spend $500 to $700 for fuel. I made more money back in the ’70s than I do today. I’ll keep driving as long as I can. I really enjoy seeing the country. I enjoy driving. I’d say 85 percent of the time I enjoy it. Snow and rain doesn’t bother me. You have to use common sense. If it doesn’t feel right pull over and park.”
Dauphinais said there some things that could make trucking better.
“There are two areas that I really see that need improvement,” he said. “One doesn’t affect me as much:
• “Loading and unloading. Dry box, flatbed, nobody cares about the driver’s wait times. You can sit for hours and not get paid. It’s the only profession I know of.
• “More of a uniform way of controlling getting tickets. State by state, town to town ticketing. If I’m going 75 mph in a 65 I won’t argue with you. But if it’s left to the officer’s discretion, such as traveling too close, it’s tough.”
When queried about what’s good about trucking, Dauphinais’ reply was quick.
“I like the open road,” he said. “The so-called freedom that you have. I have a TWIC and there’s a computer chip on it — some say we can be tracked with that. There’s cameras everywhere. But you don’t have a boss over you all day long.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.