Charlie Swisher has survived throat cancer and a lifetime of driving trucks and while he could retire now he chooses to keep on trucking.
Swisher said trucking gives him something to do. He’s been driving since 1965. A few years ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer and after he endured treatment and beat the cancer he got bored and returned to the road.
He spent seven weeks undergoing radiation treatments for the cancer and didn’t have to have chemotherapy, but two years after overcoming cancer he still suffers with a sore throat.
Swisher said the odd thing is that he quit smoking 15 years ago and then about three years ago he was diagnosed with cancer.
“The worst part is I can’t get my wife to quit smoking,” he said. “She’ll quit when she wants to I guess.”
At 71 years of age, Swisher said it’s difficult to find a job and he’s had trucking executives tell him he’s just too old. He’d prefer them to “be honest” saying that they should just tell him “we can’t get insurance on you.”
Swisher, of Springfield, Mo., drives for Paschall Truck Lines Inc. (PTL), and lives with his wife who also works. They both draw Social Security retirement and even if they could retire he isn’t ready just yet.
“It’s something to do,” Swisher said. “I’m not going to be [driving] too much longer.”
He’s a lifetime member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which he said is a “good outfit,” one that he calls on from time to time and specifically over one issue he had with a company.
[A trucking company] said they needed solo drivers, but when I got there they said you have to lease,” Swisher explained. “[Going there] was a mistake.”
Swisher said he wasn’t happy with the lease and the lack of income after the company held out lease payments and several other things and he wanted out.
“OOIDA helped me get out of the lease,” Swisher added. “I call [OOIDA] once in a while and ask them questions.”
Swisher is worried about CSA 2010.
“It’s going to kill this country,” he said. “The people in Washington couldn’t care less but they will when they go in the grocery store and there aren’t any groceries. Every time the driver gets a ticket the company gets [dinged] and a lot of companies will go out of business.
“If I could change things I’d fire everyone in Washington that has anything to do with trucking or thinks they do,” Swisher continued. “The rules coming out are really going to hurt bad and they don’t care.”
Swisher said his wife used to drive too. They hauled dynamite for 10 years in Alberta, Canada, and got tired of the cold weather. She didn’t want to drive in the U.S. so she quit trucking and now works for a blood bank as a lab technician.
Between them the Swishers have six children, 17 grandchildren and four great grandchildren who live all over the country. They keep in touch over the phone.
Swisher said he’s out on the road five to seven weeks at a time and then gets to stay home one day for every week he’s gone. He doesn’t really have any hobbies but does like to go to the casinos in Oklahoma from time to time. He said he might take up fishing.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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