Owner-operator Eddy Howard has been a trucker since graduating from school in 1974 and got into the business because his father drove trucks and taught him how to drive.
“I always wanted to be a trucker,” Howard said. “I was the only kid in high school to drive a truck to school — a Mack.” But when asked, he said he never took a date out in the Mack truck.
Howard and his brothers used to run a wrecker company. One brother still runs wreckers and the other brother owns wreckers. Howard got out of that because he wanted to travel the United States.
He lives in Shorter, Ala., and runs flatbed loads for Alabama Carriers in a 1988 Peterbilt. He mostly hauls pipe and steel to all 48 states and has been an owner-operator his whole career.
“We run legal,” Howard said. “The law says 14 [hours maximum working per day] and that’s all we can run. When I get tired I stop and go to bed. I get all my loads through Alabama Carriers. They are a very good company. I really enjoy working there. They treat you fair. There’s no forced dispatch. It’s mandatory you have to run legal. I get paid every time I turn a load in.”
But even with that times are tough.
“I’m not making enough,” he said. “The expenses are so high and the rates are not high enough to cover.”
Howard’s got a house with a shop where he can work on his old Pete that has 2.4 million miles.
“I do everything to it — truck and trailer — everything,” he added.
Howard has one worry that he expressed about his truck: if rules and regulations were to demand he get a new truck he would be in trouble because he wouldn’t be able to work on all of the computer systems in new trucks.
“I’ll just do the best I can with what I’ve got,” he said, “I can’t afford to go buy a new truck. This is my life — this is it. I personally think [the government] is trying to get the owner-operators off the road, especially with the older trucks. I get stopped a lot. I guess they just pick out my truck.
“And at roadside inspections they always seem to find something — a light out, an air hose that’s rubbed. I was put out of service once for working 15.5 hours in a 14-hour day.”
Howard travels with his dog, a blue heeler named Three “because my last dog was named Two,” he explained. Three is five years old and has been traveling the country with Howard since he was six-weeks-old.
“He knows a few tricks,” Howard said. “He knows the difference between ‘on’ the truck and ‘in’ the truck, which he later demonstrated to The Trucker with ease. He also plays dead when Howard points his finger like a gun at him, although that trick might need a little bit of work.
Howard said he’s been in four or five wrecks since he’s been driving a truck. One of them, back in 1981, almost caused his death and put him off of work for six months. He fractured his skull, broke his right foot in three places, broke his pelvis on both sides, and skinned him up. Howard was parked on the side of the road after just missing a collision and someone hit his truck and him. It was determined that he was at fault along with the driver that hit him so both were ticketed and filed on their own insurance.
The Trucker queried him on his favorite thing about being a truck driver.
“Different places to go and different situations you get into,” Howard responded. “Sometimes it gets very challenging.”
On the other hand he dislikes trucking because “The laws have gotten so strict it’s ridiculous,” Howard said. “Split-speed limits are very dangerous.” And the safety equipment he is required to wear: steel-toed boots, orange vests, long pants, safety glasses, hard hats, etc., he said was a bit much. Most of this is required because he goes to job sights, but he added that with the stuff he hauls, such as big pipes, it wouldn’t matter much what a person was wearing if one of those fell on someone.
“To me they just keep putting this on us,” he said. “What — are they afraid the sky is falling? You have to have rules, but start enforcing some of the rules we already have. Some of these people in cars — don’t tell me they don’t know we can’t stop on a dime. It’s a lack of respect.”
Howard added that CSA 2010 is “so unfair” because every speeding ticket he’s gotten he has fought and “I’ve beat every one of them, but it still has my score up real high. It’s not about safety — it’s about money. We’ll have to pay higher insurance rates because of that.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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