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I Love Trucking: More than a job, driving is a way of life
For some, driving is more than a job. It’s the definition of who they are. They live and breathe trucking, and often want to share that passion with the rest of the world. Thousands of drivers fit that description, and we talked to a few.
Sharing the joy
Steve Adams, May Trucking Company
If you love trucking and social media, you probably already consider “Trucker Steve” a friend.
With 29,000+ Twitter followers and 10,000+ on YouTube, Stephen Michael Adams has built a social media empire just by sharing who he is.
“The ‘Trucker Steve’ brand actually started by mistake,” he says. “One day my son Stephen said, ‘Dad, what’s it like being a truck driver?’ So I made a video for his preschool class.”
Steve posted the video, not expecting much of a reaction.
“The next thing I know, millions of people had watched it!”
“I got hundreds of emails saying, ‘You’re telling my story! When my kids ask me how hard it is to be a truck driver, I just send them to your videos.’”
Trucker Steve now has three employees helping him manage his brand and he’s working on an Internet miniseries: “Trucking On.” It focuses on all things trucking, from health problems to “trucker porn” (custom trucks).
No matter what the project, Steve’s mission is the same: helping truckers live better lives.
“I lost my son, Bryce, in a tragic accident at the end of 2010,” says Adams. “The last conversation I had with my son before I went back out on the road, he said, ‘Daddy, why aren’t all truck drivers happy like you?’ “I didn’t have an answer for him. He said, ‘Maybe you can make all truck drivers happy.’ And I thought yeah, me? One truck driver?”
But that’s exactly what Adams did, as so many tell him.
“I’m going through a truckstop in Mobile, Ala., and this guy comes running out in front of my truck yelling, ‘Stop! Oh my god it is you! You’re the guy from the Internet!’”
The man explained how seeing the Trucker Steve videos turned his life around.“He said, ‘I was selling drugs and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. I saw your video and I thought if this young dude can be happy and take care of his family through trucking, then I could do it.’”
Those are the kinds of stories that keep Adams smiling.
More time for trucks
Steve Haberland can point to the exact moment he chose trucking as his career.
“I was about eight years old,” he recalls. “My dad was a truck driver and he came home with a Driving Expert pin in recognition of seven years of safe driving. He gave it to me and I thought, ‘someday I want to have a pin too.’”
A few decades later, Haberland earned entry into UPS’s Circle of Honor, reserved for drivers who have 25 years of safe driving on the road. At a ceremony to celebrate the achievement, he proudly wore his dad’s old pin.
“We lost dad a couple of years ago, and I wore that pin to his wake,” Haberland says.
Trucking plays a part in plenty of other milestone moments for Haberland. He won the New York State Truck Driving Championship in 1982, then went on to compete in the nationals. At his wedding 16 years ago, he and his bride traveled to their reception in a Mack CH. “She loved it,” Haberland says.
When he retired six years ago, they moved from upstate New York to Wyoming, near Yellowstone Park. Though technically retired, Haberland took a trucking job on a local project that kept him in a driver’s seat. But once that was done, he was at a loss. A longtime a member of the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS), Haberland decided to start a local chapter. He was the president, but he was truckless.
“I was going through withdrawal,” he says. “I missed that MH Mack I drove when I was with UPS.”
So he decided to get one. Always a fan of old trucks, he had been too busy working to indulge in restoration projects. But with retirement came free time. It took him two years to find a 1986 Mack MH that he liked enough to buy, and then some more time to get it looking good and running well.
Pretty soon, he had a small collection of old rigs, snapping up a classic Diamond T and a 1946 Dodge. He brings the trucks to various parades and events, and organized an ATHS show near home.
“I’ve always loved old trucks,” he says. “And now that I’m retired, restoring them has turned into a full-time job.”
Frank Ardellini, Top Priority Safety Consulting
The first time Frank Ardellini started a rig he was in diapers.
“My father worked for a trucking company,” says Ardellini. “And when I was three years old, he put me into an R-Model Mack Day Cab. He was putting air into the system through a glad hand on the front bumper. He told me to watch the gauge on the dashboard and press the button when the needle went up to 90 pounds. He signaled through the windshield, and I tried to push that button but I wasn’t strong enough,” says Ardellini. “So I slid down in the drivers seat to get some leverage, and I pushed that button with my foot. The truck started up and I went berserk.
“I was hooked from that very moment on.”
Ardellini has been driving for 36 years, and it seems to be in his blood. His father started driving when he was 17. Ardellini’s two brothers also drive, as do a few cousins in Canada. No surprise, then, that his son started trucking at 18.
“It has been a wonderful career,” says Ardellini. “I truly enjoy my independence out here on the road.”
“My father will tell you the biggest mistake he ever made was putting me in that damned truck,” he continues. “But I’m grateful. I never got out of it.”
Driving through the glass ceiling
When Janice Johnson Bernier started driving, she wasn’t worried about blazing a trail for other women. No, her concerns were a little more routine.
“They didn’t have showers for women. My husband would have to stand outside the door while I went in and got a quick shower. I’m glad those days are long gone.”
Bernier drove for 44 years before retiring in December 2012. She and her husband now divide their time between Center Hill Lake in Tennessee and other points of call around the country. She hasn’t quite let go of driving, you see.
“We own a 36-foot Montana Fifth Wheel, so we’re going to travel and enjoy our retirement. I drove a long time and enjoyed every minute of it, so I want to keep on going.”
Bernier got into the profession after marrying a man who owned a trucking company. She began riding along with him. Then she started driving the occasional load. When he died in 1978, she kept running their company, and in 1992 took over driving a company truck full time.
“For me, it was the tankers,” she recalls. “I just always liked driving a tanker. But other than that, it’s the people — you can meet people while you’re doing your job, make a great living, see places, have a family. You can have it all.”
She made a point of taking advantage of her travels, becoming an active and interested tourist in her own country.
“If I saw something along the way that looked interesting, I didn’t say ‘oh, maybe one day.’ I did a U-turn, went back and saw it.”
She also made sure trucking was fun. “If you just take it as a job, pretty soon that’s all it is,” Bernier says. “All you’re doing is sitting behind the wheel. If you’re not enjoying it, you shouldn’t be driving.”