Sunday, April 22, 2018

Trucking freight to grocery stores good for driver in this economy


Wednesday, March 10, 2010
by BARB KAMPBELL

Steve Morse has a pretty good gig. He’s drawing full Social Security and his company keeps him rolling up the miles.  (The Trucker: BARB KAMPBELL)
Steve Morse has a pretty good gig. He’s drawing full Social Security and his company keeps him rolling up the miles. (The Trucker: BARB KAMPBELL)

Morse file:
How long driving: 41 years
Company driver for FirstFleet
Hauls: Dry freight for Kroger
Drives: 2010 Volvo
Birthday: Oct. 3, 1943

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Steve Morse, of Collegedale, Tenn., has been driving trucks for 41 years. But that’s not the only career he’s had.

Before becoming a truck driver, Morse was in the Navy where he served as a stevedore — someone who loads and unloads ships. He was in the military for a total of six years, both as active and reserve. He didn’t see any battle and just missed having to serve in Vietnam. Right after he got out of the military his unit was sent to the war.

When he was not loading and unloading ships, he served as a yeoman as part of his construction battalion unit.

After serving in the Navy he did a four-month stint as a bank teller. He then worked as a machine operator for Reynolds aluminum before landing in his first truck driving job, which he did because of the money and because he likes to travel.

“I do a lot of sightseeing now but I don’t get to get off the highway,” Morse said. “You don’t go down the same highway 1,000 times and not see something new. And I love to talk to people. I don’t talk on the CB because I get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. I call them CB Rambos — always wanting to start a fight. When they try to start one with me I tell them I’m too old to fight and too fat to run. But I do stop and tell them don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”

Morse’s job hauling dry freight takes him to Kroger stores where he said there is very little waiting to load or unload.

“Ninety-nine out of 100 trailers are already loaded,” he said. “We are in and out in an hour if we do have to wait. I just back to the door at the stores and they unload.”

Morse is married with two children at home ages 17 and 15 and a grown daughter, age 43, from another marriage. He has one grandson who is 12. He used to get to see his grandson often in Richmond, Va., until his route changed and now he doesn’t see him very often.

Morse said he used to carry food on his truck to eat, but now he just prefers to get out and stretch his legs. He eats two meals a day and only drinks water at restaurants to avoid the high price of iced tea or coffee.

Soon he’s taking a six-week vacation to Alaska with his sister. They will drive his Subaru and travel close to 12,000 miles, he said.

Morse could vacation all the time but he has reasons for not taking more time away from trucking.

“I make sure my kids don’t do without,” he said. “I’m retired. I’m drawing full Social Security. I’m 66. My two kids are home-schooled and they both start college next year. They will attend the Southern Adventist University. By being home schooled they grew up together. My wife is a school teacher and she taught them.”

Morse said he mostly works to keep insurance for his family, but the treatment he receives from his company, FirstFleet, makes it easier to work at his age. He’s been with them for six years.

“My company is a good company,” he said. “I like working for them. They treat us good. They treat us fair. It’s the best trucking job I’ve ever had.”

Morse’s truck is fitted with Qualcomm so he has to follow the latest Hours of Service rules, but with his company it’s probably not much of an issue.

“The new [HOS] rules are not that bad,” he said. “They force you to lie. No truck driver can sleep 10 hours in bed.”

Morse spent some time driving tour buses, including four years as the driver for country singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

“Back then you didn’t have these elaborate tour things,” he said. “We’d have them, the instruments and the band all on one bus. Larry Gatlin and others used to travel with us, too, on the same bus. That was quite a job. I liked that job. They were good people to work for. It’s hard to work for rich people. Sometimes I’d find myself spending like they did.”

Morse loved the job, but had family issues that pulled him away from it.

The Trucker wondered what got Morse interested in trucking.

“I’ve always wanted to drive,” he said. “I told my mom that. She said two people not worth a darn are truck drivers and sailors. I was both of them.”

Morse said that there are some things that happen out on the road that should never happen.

“Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous things,” he said. “They need to make car drivers stop. People text me now and I pick up the phone and call them. I talk on the phone at night. It keeps me awake. I do a majority of my driving at night. I sleep two hours if I get tired.”

Morse said he doesn’t usually drive 11 hours. But he did say the rules have him on more of a schedule and that it pushes drivers. He gets home at least twice a week which is a lot more than most drivers.

Hauling food has served him well.

“People are buying more food because they are not able to afford eating out,” he said. “Instead of eating out they get stuff at the store and make hamburgers.”

Morse walks for exercise when he gets a chance. He said that gives him something to do besides sitting around watching TV all the time.

“If I completely retired I’d probably be a couch potato,” he added. “I’d try to do a little traveling. The price of fuel is going up. That’s going to slow a lot of people down. I don’t think I’m ever going to quit trucking.”      

Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at barbkampbell@thetrucker.com.

 

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