LAS VEGAS — The Truckload Carriers Association Owner-Operator of the Year Steven Recker has been driving his whole life and doesn’t plan to stop until he his physically unable.
As winner of the 23rd annual Truckload Carriers Association Owner-Operator of the Year contest, Recker, who is leased to Warren Transport, Waterloo, Iowa, received a prize package worth $25,000, but besides that he says he got to meet a lot of great people, like Steve Sturgess, executive editor at Newport Communications, whom he has read over the years and highly respects.
“I was very proud to be picked,” Recker said, adding that in 2006 he was also chosen as the Iowa Motor Truck Association Driver of the Year. “It’s been a very great experience. If it hadn’t been for Warren, this would not have been possible.”
When queried about how it felt to be honored in such a way, Recker laughed, and then told how when he was in Las Vegas on the stage with the other two top owner-operators they called his name as the winner and he didn’t hear it.
“I figured this other guy was going to get it,” he said. “They announced the grand prize winner and I didn’t hear my name. My safety director pulled me over to the podium. I’m very proud of my safety record and I’m glad it paid off.”
What Recker didn’t mention was that he had been a top 10 finalist for the TCA contest four times.
He also contributes money to and attends functions for the Boy Scouts, Camp Courageous of Iowa (a respite care and recreational facility for individuals with disabilities), and Special Olympics. He has also volunteered hundreds of hours to help those in need, such as hurricane and flood victims and those affected by a serious electricity outage in Iowa a few years ago, according to information received from TCA.
Warren Transport’s president and CEO, Robert Molinaro was pleased that Recker won and also that he is a valued driver for the company.
“It takes a very special individual to stay the course in this profession,” Molinaro said. “The balance of being a bread winner and a successful family man is achieved through individual character. … Steve’s work ethic, ‘Let’s do it and do it right,’ is a trait of Steve’s, whose large frame of over 6’3” is matched by the size and goodness of his heart.”
Recker said he has driven close to 3 million miles with no wrecks and no speeding tickets in “forever.” He said he did get an overload ticket recently because he failed to check the weight of his load and it was a little heavy. He mostly hauls farm machinery on a double-drop trailer. His runs usually take him to the Midwest. His favorite places to drive include the Northwest and parts of Canada, but he doesn’t mind the Midwest because it usually easier for him to get home from there.
Recker said he’s been driving for 36 years, and was 17 years old when he started. He’s also been driving for Warren a long time. His home is in New Hampton, Iowa.
“I’ve been here [at Warren] for 25 years and they have been very good to me over the years,” Recker said. “I lost a kidney to cancer and they were good to let me off when I needed to be. It’s just like family. There’s not anybody down there at the office that won’t talk to me; from the president on down. The president is out in the shop every morning. I plan to stay here until they boot me out.
“When I find things that work I stick with them,” Recker said. “I’ve had the same mechanic for 30 years; my accountant for 24 years and I’ve been with Warren 25. I pretty much keep it that simple.”
Recker’s cancer, a 10-pound tumor on his kidney, was something his brother had at the same time on his kidney, but Recker’s brother’s cancer spread to his arm and back and he had to undergo radiation. So far, Recker has only had to have the kidney removed and has been healthy otherwise.
He lives about 70 miles from the Mayo Clinic where the surgeons have never seen two brothers with the same kind of tumor at the same time.
Recker says that his family has been through a lot with both he and his brother having cancer, so he tries to get home as often as possible. Back home he’s got his mom and dad and brother and three sisters. Recker has a girlfriend now, and was once married for 10 years, but doesn’t have children. His girlfriend, Karen, lives in the city about 13 miles from his home on two acres of the family owned farm land.
Recker lives within a quarter mile of his brother and his parents who all live on the same farm property that Recker’s grandfather once owned and his desire to be a trucker was in part because he didn’t want to help with the pigs every day.
“Trucking’s pretty much all I’ve done my whole life,” Recker said. “When I was a kid — I grew up on a farm — I had an uncle and a friend who drove a truck. My uncle let me ride with him when I was a kid. That was much more interesting than doing hog chores back home. I feel blessed that all through school this is what I wanted to do and I got to do it. A friend asked me if I was ever going to retire and I said no. I will drive as long as I am physically able.”
Recker gets home pretty much every weekend, he said, especially in the summer so he can help his brother on the farm as he deals with some of the issues of his cancer that slowed him down and keep him from being able to lift.
He also works around his acreage where he planted 100 trees, including Colorado blue spruce and evergreen. On the farm they grow corn and soybeans and his brother’s full-time job is farming.
As with many people who survive cancer, Recker says it’s changed his life for good.
“I learned to take better care of myself,” he said. “I’ve lost about 70 pounds.” He’s done it by staying away from the buffets, walking more, adding that he has an old treadmill at home that he already burned one motor out of. He also eats more of the right type of food.
Recker said if he talked to anyone who wanted to be an owner-operator he would make sure they understand that it’s a business.
“They will haul stuff for nothing and then cry because they don’t have any money left,” Recker explained. “With the new rules, it’s going to be interesting what is left out here, really.” The rules he specifically meant were CSA 2010 and Hours of Service.
“Hours of Service is not so bad for me,” Recker said. “I don’t like once you start 14 hours if you feel tired and want a nap you can’t. [Yet] they preach about driver fatigue and safety.”
However, the main issue, what he calls a pet peeve, is urine bottles that people throw in parking lots and those who leave their truck in a fuel island and then go take