Donald Clark, of Muskogee, Okla., used to run heavy equipment in the construction industry and drove trucks with his uncles starting back in 1979, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he got his CDL and became a long-haul trucker.
“It got slow and I was tired of the layoffs so I had to make a change,” Clark said. “Trucking offered me steady paychecks. Back in the Jimmy Carter days even truckers had jobs when the rest of us didn’t.”
Long before Clark became a trucker he was signed up to go into the military. That is until his leg was crushed when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle and couldn’t go into the service.
“I lost my house and my job,” Clark said.
He’s been married 25 years to Linda, who had five children when they got together. The couple has two granddaughters living with them, ages 7 and 6, and Clark has so many grandchildren that he isn’t sure, but thinks there are 28.
He’s a company driver for Freymiller where he’s been for 2.5 years hauling frozen foods all over the U.S.
Clark said he grew up in San Bernardino, Calif., but his family mostly lives in Texas and Oklahoma.
“I like seeing different places,” said Clark. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity [because of trucking] to see things I might not have been able to afford to or have time to do. Trucking is not as fun as it used to be because of the legislation, the laws. People aren’t as friendly or polite as they need to be. There are a lot of nice people out there, though.”
Clark’s favorite thing about trucking is that he doesn’t “have to be in tight quarters under a lot of stress with other people. I have my own stress to deal with, but I can usually look in the mirror and fix the problem. For me, if there’s a problem it’s beyond me or it is me. The worst part [of trucking] is falling asleep next to the office.”
Clark gets home about once a month and stays there three to four days so he can spend time with his wife and two grandchildren who have lived with him for most of their lives.
He plans to stay with Freymiller for a few reasons.
“They treat me good,” he said. “I don’t like change. I’m a typical man. They’re pretty good to me.”
At age 48 it’s a little soon to be talking retirement, but The Trucker asked him about it anyway.
“I don’t know what the word retire means,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know anyone who actually has. The days of retiring and sitting with your feet propped up are over.”
Clark said the best thing that could happen in trucking would be to “get some more common sense in the legislation. We’re paid mileage, and they legislate not to drive fatigued but we don’t make enough money to live. The pay structure doesn’t allow it. It is dangerous how we are paid and how it works.
“I believe in free market liberty, but quit using the trucking industry to make up the deficit in their business plan. We are the part that can give.”
“It’s a ridiculous lifestyle,” he continued. “I’ve got two little girls and a wife at home that need to eat, other than that I’d go back and do heavy equipment. I have to keep consistent work with a family.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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