Six Days on the Road
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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

Most people work for someone, they don’t just have a customer to please-they have someone they call boss. There are a few private businessmen but when you’re surrounded by employees can you really be independent? You still have to count on others to perform to further your livelihood. There’s still one person out there, alone behind the wheel of his eighteen wheeler who‘s really his own boss-the independent trucker.

I’m lucky to work with Linda Taggart who brings a ray of sunshine to the workplace. Linda’s husband is Rodney, an independent trucker who answered my phone call while he was somewhere on the road, being his own boss. Rodney drives a maroon Kenworth that’s hauled potatoes in Kentucky and Missouri and given the valley’s hard, red spring wheat a ride to the ports in Duluth. Rodney makes good time by avoiding truck stops instead of speeding. He hasn’t had a speeding ticket since 1989-that’s one and a half million miles watching what’s a half mile down the road. I bought into the trucker myth and asked Rodney if he liked trucker songs, as it turns out Rodney has a satellite radio (but yes, you can tune in Red Sovine or Dave Dudley) which helps pass time. He’s a man who loves his life but would rather spend a little more of it at home which is evidenced by a generous cell-phone plan.

 

I occasionally drive semi but it’s more trucker fantasy camp for me as I do it for fun and pocket money. I had to ask a professional if he like his job. Rodney likes his job but likes the money a little less every year. Much like farmers, costs increase for the independent trucker but income doesn’t keep pace. Larger transport companies receive a fuel surcharge on a per mile basis that eases the sting of costly fuel. Rodney said his older model Kenworth gets better mileage than most new trucks. I asked him why the difference in efficiency and he said “because they’re driven by truckers who don’t have to pay for their own fuel!” Like most truckers, Rodney loves the freedom of the road but it has a set of demands unique for the independent. When you work for yourself you must be a proficient mechanic, salesman and learn to hustle for a return load or lose your profit to a deadhead return trip. If the nation’s interstates are any gauge, we are becoming more coarse and less respectful. There’s still traffic law but there must be driver courtesy and some common sense. Truckers constantly watch for dangerous blind spots but a car driver bent on placing himself in peril is a hard person to stop. The trucks and drivers keep getting better, it’s the traffic that’s getting worse.

Rodney Taggart was on his way home when I spoke with him. After all those miles, all that time away he deserved a good meal and a night in his own bed. Linda had the meal ready but then Rodney was out the door for Duluth with a load of that wheat. “Gotta avoid all that morning traffic.”