“When I got into this industry in the 1980s, I wouldn‘t tell people I was a truck driver - I‘d just say I drove for a living. But as time has gone on, that‘s really changed. Driving a truck is something to be proud of. We know what we stand for out here, for without us, everything stops.” -Wayne Crowder, relay driver for FedEx Freight and a captain with America‘s Road Team.
Talked to Wayne a few days ago, and man, what a charge I got from my conversation with him! This guy really, REALLY loves driving big rigs for a living. Not only did he dream as a kid about being a truck driver when he grew up, Wayne frankly admits that his driving career actually surpassed his boyhood dreams - a very rare thing these days.
“I never dreamed driving a truck could be this great,” he told me. “I grew up on a farm a bit of a motorhead, really fascinated with trucks and trucking. More than that, though, as part of the Road Team I‘ve given lots of speeches to kids and competed in truck driving championships. I‘ve really lived the glamorous side of trucking - the last few years have been awesome for me. I just wish every driver could be a lucky as me to experience these things.”
(Wayne Crowder, speaking to the media as part of his Road Team captain duties.)
However, as quoted at the start of this blog entry, it wasn‘t always so for Wayne and his brethren. When he started driving almost 25 years ago, truckers had a very different - and very negative - image. As a result, he kept his head down and talked little about his career choice with others outside the industry. Not anymore, however.
“I tell kids today that from them in this room, one day there will be doctors, lawyers, maybe a few astronauts, maybe even a U.S. president - and truck drivers,” he told me. “Because driving a truck - like being a doctor - is a necessary profession. We‘re needed. That‘s why there are so many trucks on the road in the first place, it‘s just that people don‘t realize why we‘re there.”
Wayne‘s also a big believer in sharpening the professionalism among drivers - which is why he‘s a big supporter of the National Truck Driving Championships (NTDC), an annual event organized by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) that‘s free to the public. He talks about why this is such an important event in his own words below:
(Wayne explains in his own words the importance of the annual truck driving championship.)
As part of his Road Team duties, Wayne spends a few days a month talking to fellow drivers about the importance of image and safety for the industry, while educating the motoring public about safe driving practices and the importance the trucking industry.
And he‘s definitely got the chops for it, accumulating 1.3 million accident-free miles over his two-plus decades on the road along with a host of trophies. He‘s taken home honors as Rookie of the Year at both the state and national level, won first place in his division at the Kentucky State Truck Driving Championships in 2004 and 2005, plus earned the title of National Grand Champion at the 2004 NTDC as well. He was also named Kentucky Driver of the Year in 2007.
(Want to see how tricky it is to win? Then check out Warren Lewis and his championship run at last year‘s NTDC.)
“People just don‘t realize what it takes just to get the chance to compete at the NTDC,” Wayne explained to me. “You must have been accident-free for at least a year before you are allowed to compete, then you must work your way up through local and state competitions before reaching the national championship.”
Events like this also put a driver‘s skills to the test among his and her peers, too - not something taken lightly, Wayne noted. “I also learn something new every time I compete, elevating my ‘game‘ in terms of driving skills and safety management to the next level.”
(Here‘s a slideshow from the 2006 National Truck Driving Championships, to give you a flavor of what the entire event is like.)
Not that it‘s all fun and games for Wayne, though. He lives in Lanesville, IN and operates a Volvo day cab, pulling doubles, between Louisville, KY, and Hebron, IN. Married with three children, Wayne said that while trucking provides a good living for his family, driving and his Road Team captain responsibilities do takes time away from them on occasion - and his other hobbies of fishing and line dancing.
Still, it‘s a career he wouldn‘t trade for the world. “I tell people I don‘t work in an office as my truck is my office,” Wayne told me. “It‘s great - I am out on the road, doing what I love, with no one looking over my shoulder. Frankly, I don‘t think I‘d like working in an office.”