For professional driver Richard Jones, building a successful career in trucking is all about attitude — a very positive attitude.
Jones, who drives for NFI Industries, shrugs off many of the issues that make other truck drivers’ blood boil, such as four-wheeler traffic (the bane of many truckers’ existence), a lack of convenient and safe parking, and sometimes-lousy truck stop food.
“You have to put things in perspective,” said the Brooklyn, New York, resident.
“A lot of people are just not used to being around big rigs and don’t understand how we work,” he explained. “Or they are intimidated by the size of the rigs. I don’t think anything they do is intentional. Things happen. The sound, the size — it can be intimidating.”
No matter what type of situation he faces while in traffic or working with shippers and receivers, Jones is as cool, calm and collected as they come.
He’s also curious by nature, he says, sharing the events of the day he decided to become a truck driver.
“I needed to kill some time one day, so I went into this trucking business to talk to them because I was curious,” he said. “They told me it was a good opportunity to see the country. So, I said I would take a chance, take a course and do that.”
Jones did exactly that. At first, he says, he thought he could put his CDL in his back pocket to use one day as a “backup plan” for his career.
But then he was bitten by the trucking bug.
“(Going into it), I didn’t know I liked trucks — but I did. I liked working outside,” he said. “I just made the decision to go and pursue it. I met a lot of interesting people along the way who taught me a lot. I had a really great trainer that I liked.”
After earning his CDL, Jones worked for Covenant Transport for 12 years as a long-haul driver. From there, he was hired by his current carrier, NFI, where he has driven for another dozen years.
During his nearly two and a half decades behind the wheel, Jones says, he has seen a lot of changes in the trucking industry. While he met most of those changes with his usual cool, calm demeanor, Jones admits that transitioning from paper logs to electronic logging devices (ELDs) was not his favorite experience.
“It was a challenge,” he said — but it was a challenge he met.
As for other changes in equipment and technology, such as the increased use of automated transmissions in tractors, Jones says they don’t really bother him.
“Stick shift versus automated” is a hotly debated topic among truck drivers, especially those who have been around a while. They prefer standard-shift transmissions every time.
“I do prefer sticks, too,” Jones said. “But I have been getting used to the automatics, and they are very good.”
Earlier this year, Bobby Ralston, CEO of The Trucker Media Group, had a chance to ride along with Jones and get to know the man behind the wheel of the big rig.
“It was a great experience,” Ralston said. “I was impressed with how hard he worked. He is in great shape. He moved a pallet jack faster than anyone (else) could, and they had to stand out of his way.”
Another thing about Jones that Ralston quickly noticed was that the NFI driver is well-liked and respected.
“Everyone loves him,” Ralston said. “At every stop, everyone knew him, and they were excited to see him. It seemed to be the joy of their day when he arrived.”
When asked about some of the the bigger issues facing truck drivers today, such as a lack of parking for big rigs, Jones said he has developed different techniques to handle various situations.
“You try and get all the information you can if you are familiar with your route,” he said. “That is one thing.
“But if you’re going to new places, you try and do some homework about those places,” he continued. “With all the technology now, you can see the place before you go. You need to figure out how you get in and out. You have to develop a plan.”
Jones says he has run into many helpful people while out on the road, and he firmly believes that the brotherhood of trucking is still strong.
He recalls a time when his truck was stuck in frigid weather, and he was in dire need of assistance.
“I was in 25-below weather, and my truck froze up,” he said. “Someone came up, and they got out of their truck and took the time to help me. They saved me.”
Another time, Jones says, he was lost in a cornfield in Nebraska and thought he’d never find a way out — and it was getting dark. Today, many years later, he laughs as he remembers the predicament.
“Suddenly this voice came over the CB and said, ‘Honey, you lost?’ And I told them I was,” he said. “She told me where to go. It was so dark, and I couldn’t see. I was grateful to hear that voice out of nowhere.”
When it comes to being successful, whether as a trucker or simply as a human being, Jones says it’s all about paying it forward.
“I try to think that way,” he said. “We are a big group — a big family out here.”
In addition to driving his regular route, Jones says he sometimes trains new drivers for NFI. He’s always careful to educate his trainees about the “certain decorum” that the carriers’ drivers are expected to have — safe, professional and courteous.
When it comes down to the bottom line, he says, it’s all about following the rules, being considerate and maintaining the tradition of helping others when you can.
When asked what advice he has for newer drivers, he shared the following:
“Monitor your surroundings, and as you get more years under your belt, you will notice more hazards,” he said.
“Just be a professional. You have to carry yourself accordingly. And you have to keep your mind open as far as learning things. It makes everything better,” he continued
“Attitude is everything. It makes you a better driver. It makes your job easier,” he concluded.
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.