If you’re in search of a driver who’s seen it all, look no further than Dan Roe. Known by his LinkedIn profile “Dan the Driver Roe” to thousands of social media followers, Roe has been in the trucking business for 42 years, all of them as a driver.
A native of Chandler, Indiana, just east of Evansville, Roe caught the trucking bug early on — and in the same way as many drivers who began their careers in the early 1980s.
“My inspiration for driving a truck stems from those truck-driving songs, movies and television shows from the 1960s and ’70s,” Roe said. “One of my first truck driving jobs was hauling eggs for a family-owned company in Booneville, Indiana, in 1980.”
Just two years later, Roe decided he wanted to be an owner-operator. In owning a truck at such a young age, however, Roe faced a couple of challenges.
“In 1982, I was too young for any carrier to lease me on,” he said. “So, I wildcatted, hauling exempt commodities and trip leasing. My credentials were fake, and everything I did was illegal.”
Fortunately, the statute of limitations on Roe’s early transgressions in the industry has long passed.
“The first couple of years were pretty rough,” he said. “I ended up going broke, so I went back to driving a company truck for the egg company. I was later made transportation manager at the egg company. I was responsible for anything transportation related.”
In 1988, Dan Roe decided he wanted to be an owner-operator again. This time he made it, and he’s been trucking ever since.
“During the 1990s, I thought I wanted to be a fleet owner,” Roe said. “I had a fleet for a couple of years, but I didn’t have the temperament for having employees.”
In 1994, he sold the fleet and purchased his first brand-new truck.
“I’ve been a single owner-operator since 2000,” Roe said. “I’ve had customers ask me to add trucks and drivers, but I won’t do it. I can’t say that I lost money having employees — but I never really made money either.”
As one can imagine, over the decades, Dan Roe has traveled far and wide.
“I have been a nationwide driver,” he said. “But I have had more success concentrating on a certain lane and developing relationships.”
For the past few years, Roe has focused solely on driving between Indiana and Florida. He has homes in both states.
“I’ve developed some great relationships with shippers,” he added. He hasn’t hauled for brokers in several years.
As one would expect after driving for more than four decades, Roe has seen a lot of changes in the trucking industry during his career.
“When I first started driving, it was a different culture. The trucking community was tight-knit,” he said. “Drivers knew other driver’s trucks, talked on the CB radio, traveled at the 55-mph national speed limit, and stayed on the lookout of ‘Smokey Bear.’
“We did things we probably shouldn’t have done,” he continued. “We moved a lot of freight, and we had a lot of fun doing it. All those trucking songs and movies … yeah, we lived them.”
Roe refers to the themes of the songs and movies as “fictional facts,” adding, “We hung out and we partied a lot.”
As far as the trucking industry is concerned, Roe pointed out a few major changes that have impacted his career.
“The biggest changes were deregulation and the sunsetting of the ICC,” he said, referring to the agency that oversaw interstate transportation from 1887 until 1995. “Deregulation was good for the entrepreneur, but bad for the driver.”
Roe has also noticed lots of changes in the trucks seen on the highways.
“First they changed for the better, then for the worse,” he said. “Now they’ve changed for the better again.”
Like many drivers who spend much of their lives on the road, Roe says he has several hobbies to take his mind off work and help him cope with time away from home.
“My hobbies include boating and water sports,” he said. “I can still get out on the water on one ski at age 61. I own a houseboat I keep on the Ohio River. I belong to a national boat club.”
When Roe trailers his houseboat (dubbed “The Roe Boat”) and pulls it from the water, he uses — you guessed it — the same truck he drives all over the eastern U.S.
“It’s not easy balancing the professional and family lifestyle,” Roe said. “You have to prioritize your time.”
Fortunately, Roe said, his wife and sons have always been able to handle domestic issues in his absence.
While being a truck driver does mean spending many nights away from home, Roe wouldn’t trade his career for any other.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to travel the country and experience everything this great country has to offer,” he said.
He’s also been able to make his own career decisions without the direction of a boss. Most importantly, he’s developed relationships with long-time customers.
Roe has advice for up-and-coming drivers. “Learn everything about this industry,” he said. “You have to know it all to be successful.” He adds that knowing how to repair your equipment is vital. “It’s not enough to know how to drive the truck; you need to know how to make the truck go.”
Roe also advises new drivers to develop relationships. “Build relationships with everyone who is important to you,” he said. “This includes brokers, shippers, receivers, mechanics, suppliers, and many more. Be loyal. If you want good friends, you must be a good friend.
“The trucking lifestyle isn’t for everyone,” he continued. “You have to develop an attitude for it. It can be very rewarding, but above all, truckers must take care of their health.”
Attitudes and relationships are important in the trucking business. Perhaps that’s why Dan Roe still hauls eggs for the same family business he drove for after high school. That 42-year relationship, built in his youth, continues to pay off.
Since retiring from a career as an outdoor recreation professional from the State of Arkansas, Kris Rutherford has worked as a freelance writer and, with his wife, owns and publishes a small Northeast Texas newspaper, The Roxton Progress. Kris has worked as a ghostwriter and editor and has authored seven books of his own. He became interested in the trucking industry as a child in the 1970s when his family traveled the interstates twice a year between their home in Maine and their native Texas. He has been a classic country music enthusiast since the age of nine when he developed a special interest in trucking songs.