On recent evening somewhere in the Mid-South, professional driver Tom Kyrk sat at a truck stop with a laptop in front of him and a pair of large headphones covering his ears.
No longer piloting his big rig down the interstate, Kyrk was on the air at the Transportation Network Channel (TNC) from his cab, offering up his thoughts on the day’s biggest trucking industry news.
The driver shortages (or a lack thereof), a lack of big rig parking, the latest trucking legislation — name a topic and Kyrk can opine on it.
TNC is a free, web-based radio streaming service based in Texas, and Kyrk got in on the ground floor of the startup. But the upstate New York native is quick to tell you he’s always a trucker first.
“Different people define this different ways,” Kyrk said while on a recent layover in Little Rock, Arkansas. “I’ll say that until I hang up the keys and get off the road: Trucking is priority one.”
Kyrk is a husky man with a baritone voice that was made for radio. He jokes that he knows a little about a lot of things, but hearing him speak during either “The Morning Grind” or “The Evening Surge” — his shows on TNC — a listener can tell that his thoughts are well researched.
For Kyrk, radio and trucking go hand in hand. He said truckers are often considered knowledgeable because of their “world experiences.”
“It’s because we have a lot of time to think out here on the road,” he said. “Some might call us conspiracy theorists. Sometimes our conclusions are right. Sometimes, the more odd they are the more realistic they are.”
Kyrk said he was first introduced to TNC by a co-driver who was president of the Truckers Christmas Group (TCG), an organization now in its 12th year of helping trucking families who are down on their luck.
TCG is very dear to Kyrk, who, during his November stop in Little Rock, was doing his best to secure Wynonna Judd for the annual online concert sponsored by TCG. (He did, and the fundraising concert was a rousing success.)
Kyrk is a promoter at heart, and it was a short interview on TNC last year as a TCG representative that led to his partnership with the station.
“I was doing PR work right around the time TNC radio got started,” Kyrk said. “They found out about Truckers Christmas Group, so I was on there. They liked me, so they asked to have me back a few times to talk about other topics. And we did that. Eventually, it became a daily thing.”
As it did with millions of people around the world, COVID-19 affected Kyrk and his path during 2020. Just after Tom Kelley, president and founding partner of TNC, was stricken with a severe case of COVID, Kyrk stepped up and basically took over as host for on-air operations.
Kyrk told Kelley he could use his headset and lead shows while driving his truck — and being fed information from the studio through the headset.
“As far as I know, we are the only radio show to ever do (broadcasting) that way, but it worked,” Kyrk said. “I was just driving down the road and talking about topics that were of interest to fellow truckers.”
Kyrk still hosts shows that way, but he prefers to be stopped so he can open his laptop and have a better view of the news and events happening daily.
Kyrk said the goal of TNC is to “build something for drivers that is unique to them. Drivers miss the old days of radio. You get so much information, but also a variety show of sorts. It’s music, it’s comedy, it’s news. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I feel like, overall, it’s a really good program.”
Kyrk said it’s important to have a sense of humor while on air … and in life. And he and Kelley, along with others who are regulars on the network, are always joking around.
“Most of what I do on the radio is … they give me a topic, and I give them my opinion,” Kyrk said. “If I see something going on on the road, I call in and give them the information. Or it could be that I see something … I see smoke, and I call in to them and ask them to investigate it. It could be nothing, or it could be a major accident that drivers need to know about.”
As for trucking, Kyrk said he describes himself as a driver who “delivers extreme white-glove service” to his clients. He can’t go into further details due to security reasons related to his carrier.
Growing up in upper New York State, Kyrk said he remembers being fascinated by the snowplow trucks and farm equipment. He said that early interest likely planted the seed for his love of trucking. He also credits trucking for making his life better.
“Most of the education I have gotten has come from the real world and school of hard knocks (on the road), not college,” Kyrk said. “I think college is great for people, but I also think that you should learn some kind of a trade. Because then you have something you can use later in life if you have to fall back on it. Also, you can do simple repairs around the house. I am a big advocate for that.”
Kyrk has been on the road for 15 years and has traveled nearly 2 million miles. He started out with Stevens Transport after quitting the retail business and enrolling in a trucking school. Now, at 46, he said he knows he won’t be able to drive a truck forever, no matter how much he loves the industry.
“I know there are drivers my age who are having major health issues,” Kyrk said. “I’m realistic that trucking is rough, and your body wears out. Diesel is a bit of an addiction. If you wanna get into trucking, make sure you’re out there for at least five years. At that point, you probably won’t want to leave. Once you get it into your blood it’s very, very, very hard to get rid of.”
Though he now lives in the Pittsburgh area, Kyrk said he considers his truck to be his “home.”
And he doesn’t want to imagine it any other way.
“I try to be the best person and driver I can be,” he said. “People say the brotherhood of trucking is gone, but I think it’s still there. It’s had to change with the times, but the days of helping a fellow trucker on the side of the road are not over. I’ve benefitted from that, and I have been the helper. You just do the best you can do. When you do the right things for the right reasons, you will feel good about it.”
To listen to TNC Radio, log on to tncradio.live. The “Morning Grind” show is on the air from 8-10 a.m. Central time Monday through Friday, and the “Evening Surge” airs from 4-6 p.m. Central time weekdays.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.