Ask almost any professional truck driver when he or she was hit by the trucking “bug,” and they can point to a specific time and place.
For Herschel Evans, now 53, that time and place were the days, long before he had a license to drive a truck, when he would drive a long-nose blue Peterbilt tractor to the local dairy bar to grab a hamburger for lunch.
Born and raised in downtown Atlanta, Evans’ first inkling of the “bug” was a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a heavy-duty truck mechanic.
His father was an early advocate of the DIY concept.
“My father never paid anyone to do anything around the house,” Evans said. “He did the plumbing, the electrical work, carpenter repairs, truck repairs. You name it — he did it.”
Friends would drop by the Evans’ home with their big rigs, asking for help with repairs, and the younger Evans would help his father with the fix.
“I was putting clutches in trucks before I was old enough to drive,” Evans said.
He first encountered those long-nose blue Peterbilts while working for a company called General Truck Leasing. One of his duties was washing the trucks — which required driving them around the terminal yard.
“I got fairly good at driving,” Evans said. “It wasn’t legal, but I thought it was the coolest thing to be in one of those big rigs, drive up to the local hamburger joint and go inside to get a burger. Since then I’ve always been fascinated with big trucks.”
Evans got his real break in becoming a driver when General Truck Leasing bought 30 new trailers to lease to a customer.
“It was more economical to let the low-grade employees that hadn’t been there very long deliver the trailers to the customers, so I was tasked with taking the trailers to the customer and doing the in-service on the new equipment,” he explained.
Equipped with a Class 5 license (CDLs were not part of trucking then), delivering those trailers eventually led Evans to a part-time, two-day-a week job with another company, delivering freight in metro Atlanta.
Not yet ready to give up on his desire to become a mechanic, Evans hired on at Ryder Truck Rental, starting out in the business as a fuel/wash man and working his way up to mechanic.
But the thrill of driving that blue Peterbilt into the parking lot at the hamburger joint never left him.
Evans eventually shifted to the driver’s seat at Ryder, and in 1994 he joined Holland, part of YRC Worldwide (YRCW). He now has logged over 3.1 million accident-free miles as a professional truck driver hauling freight as a City C&P driver. He also serves as a trainer at Holland.
While Evans is known today for his driving, he is just as well known — perhaps even more known — as a trucking advocate and a leader in the industry.
In 2011, Evans took over an intercompany truck-driving championship and transformed it into the Safety Drive for a Cure. He’s been involved for 33 years with Atlanta Ride for Kids, a nationwide motorcycle charity ride. He and his wife, Holli, are active participants in both events, which benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Evans has been a member of the American Trucking Associations’ America’s Road Team, and in 2017 was presented with the Mike Russell Trucking Image Award for representing the industry through his role as an America’s Road Team Captain and for creating the Safe Drive for the Cure competition.
In 2018, he received the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Driver Excellence Award.
Evans’ accomplishments extend to state and national truck driving championships, too. He was the 5-Axle National Driving Champion in 2008 and 2011, and he has won several first-place awards in state competitions.
In addition, Evans was one of two drivers chosen by TravelCenters of America as a 2020 Citizen Award honoree in recognition of his work both on and off the road. The award recognizes professional truck drivers who demonstrate traits that elevate respect in the truck-driving profession, including good citizenship, safety, health and wellness, community involvement and industry leadership.
As part of the honor, honorees select a TA, Petro or TA Express location to be name after them. Evans has chosen the Petro Atlanta site.
“When I talk about our YRC team, I often say that we’re just ordinary folks with extraordinary determination,” said Darren Hawkins, president and CEO of YRC Worldwide. “Throughout Herschel Evans’ career in this great industry he has exhibited ‘extraordinary determination.’ He leads by example in working safely and providing excellent customer service, and always brings his best game when competing at truck driving championships or hosting a trucking fundraiser for charity. All of us at YRC are proud of Herschel and his accomplishments.”
Evans said he is humbled at being chosen a Citizen Driver by TA, adding that he simply does what he thinks is right.
“First of all, I’m a Christian,” he said. “If you’re able to help someone, that’s what you ought to do. I don’t have a boatload of money, but I can put muscle in it, I can put a little sweat into it. I can help make someone feel better about their situation.”
One cause that is especially close to Evans’ heart is the Atlanta Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which will receive the $2,500 cash award he received for being named a Citizen Driver.
“That’s always been a wonderful feeling, to be involved with raising money for kids who have a brain tumor,” he said.
To say Evans takes pride in trucking is an understatement.
“I’ve been all over the United States, from Maine to San Diego to Portland to South Florida,” he said.
Being able to interact with people in all levels of trucking, from mechanics and drivers to dispatchers and executives, has been a thrill, he said.
“There’s just something about trucking. It’s appropriate that we’ve been described as the ‘salt of the earth’ people,” Evans said. “It’s a skilled job, and not everyone can do it. If you want to do it safely and do it for a number of years, you have to dedicate yourself to knowing what you are doing. You have to know the rules, the laws, to know your equipment. The industry is full of all kinds of good people.”
Those good people include Herschel Evans.
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.