NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — At age 14, William York dropped out of school for the express purpose of riding shotgun to his truck driver brother.
“I went along so I could sit beside him and keep him awake,” York, 63, said during a recent interview with The Trucker at a truck stop on Interstate 40.
But after a few trips York decided he wanted to become a truck driver himself and started his career driving a cabover International 4000.
Without, of course, a driver’s license.
“Driving a big rig down the road was an adventure,” he said.
It wasn’t long before York had his first encounter with law enforcement.
“I was driving in the middle of the night carrying a load of cattle to a packing plant and got pulled over in a small town in Tennessee (his home state),” York said with a chuckle. “The policeman asked for my license and of course I didn’t have one nor did I have any type of identification. He looked at me, scratched his head and walked around the truck. He came back to the driver’s side and said, ‘I’m going to let you go, but I never want to see you again.’”
Eventually at age 18, York was able to get a chauffeur’s license, the precursor to the commercial driver’s license.
“You could get a chauffeur’s license if three drivers with a chauffer’s license signed for you,” he said.
In 1992 York was one of many drivers with chauffeur’s licenses who were grandfathered into the new commercial driver’s license program.
For a long while, York was an owner-operator, but eventually he became a company driver and now works for Cargo Solution Express of Fontana, California.
“I still have my old Peterbilt 379 sitting out there in a pasture at my home,” he said.
Like many other drivers York says the public’s perception of the trucking industry needs to be changed.
“You never hear about the trucking industry unless it’s about a story of a wreck caused by a trucker in which four or five people are killed,” he said.
What’s more, York said, passenger car drivers don’t understand how to share the highway with a big rig, especially when it comes to passing and then cutting in front of a big rig.
But he’s also concerned about truck drivers such as those who don’t know what to do when a steering tire blows out.
“Many them will slam on the brakes, and that’s the worst thing you can do,” York said. “You just need to ease off the gas.”
He’s also concerned that driver trainers sometimes don’t have much more experience than the trainees.
“Recently I was talking with a trainer and asked how much solo experience he had, and he told me about eight months,” York said. “Well, the trainee had three months driving experience so there was less than a total of one year’s experience in that cab.”
When interviewed, York was wearing a jacket emblazoned with speed racing emblems.
“I’m a big fan of speed racing,” York said.
And, apparently, a big fan of hammering down the pedal when on the road.
York said his rig will run up to 80 mph on cruise control, but “I know how to handle speed. I may run 75-80 in the middle of the night when there’s nobody out there but me and the Lord.”
Like other truckers, York is not a big fan of electronic logging devices, pointing in particular to problems associated with parking because often he will have to go to two or three locations before finding a spot, all the while having to stretch the limits of on duty time.
“When I pulled in here last night, there were only three spaces left, so I was able to park,” he said.
Reserved parking also frustrates him.
“I pulled into a lot recently where the only spots left were reserved places,” he said. “I went ahead and pulled into one of them. The attendant told me I had to move, so I told him to wake me when the person who reserved the space got there. He never came.”
York, who takes medication to control his high blood pressure and sleeps with a C-Pap, says he will work three more years until he can take Social Security.
So, let’s do the math. Sixty-six minus 14 equals 52 years in one profession.
Not bad for a person who was only supposed to be in a truck just to keep his brother awake.
Lyndon Finney’s publishing career spans over 55 years beginning with a reporter position with the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1965. Since then he’s been a newspaper editor at the Southwest Times Record, served five years as assistant managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and from November 2004 through December 2019 served as editor of The Trucker. Between newspaper jobs he spent 14 years as director of communications at Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest healthcare system. In addition to his publishing career he served for 46 years as organist at Little Rock’s largest Baptist church.