The Open Road
Derek Trucks

The trucker behind (Derek) Trucks

It’s just after 10:30 on Friday evening and truck driver Rick Keiner waits patiently outside the sold out Keller Auditorium in Portland, OR.

As a cool breeze blows through his long beard, Keiner notices me peeking around his 2016 Kenworth T680.

“Can I help you?” he asks.

One moment earlier, I was one of 3,000 people enjoying an evening of soulful blues music with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, featuring the husband-wife guitar team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.

Now I’m face-to-face with one of the most important pieces of band: the driver with Janco LTD responsible for transporting the gear for the 12-piece ensemble.

The rock 'n' roll trucker has long been of interest to me. I’ve had mixed success engaging them in conversation over the years. I often think they expect me to ask for a backstage pass.

Rick Keiner (left) with TTB keyboardist Kofi Burbridge in 2016.

On this night, however, Keiner is willing to chat. The U.S. Navy veteran calls South Carolina home, but the majority of the last quarter-century has been devoted to the music business.

“Work at night, sleep during the day,” he said in explaining one reason why he enjoys his job.

It takes some prodding, but Keiner confesses he spent about 14 years on the road with the Allman Brothers Band.

That isn’t a huge surprise, as Derek’s uncle is Butch Trucks, a founding member of the Allman Brothers. Derek joined them in 1999 at the age of 19, and remained until the band’s retirement in 2014.

Derek and Susan formed their current band in 2010, and have been touring extensively in recent years. Keiner has been with them just about every step of the way.

That means months away from home at a time, including the current stint that has kept him on the road almost continuously since August, he said.

On this night, he estimates it will take about 90 minutes once the concert concludes to get every piece of equipment packed up. That will be followed by a drive on Interstate 5 to Seattle, meaning an arrival around 4 a.m.

While the bus drivers who transport the band stay in a hotel each night, Rick says he is happy to get his rest in his sleeper. He suggests the two-night run in Seattle means he will be provided a room the following night. I get the sense he feels more at home inside his truck.

Though I have countless music questions, I ask about the electronic logging mandate after seeing an ELD in his truck.

He believes it will hurt many across the industry, but places much of the blame on time wasted by shippers being unprepared to receive deliveries. Keiner volunteers he still uses paper logs, but says that will change by Dec. 18, when the mandate kicks in. He adds the way tours are structured, running out of hours is not usually a concern.

Before ending the conversation, I ask about the reaction he gets from people. He speaks fondly of most musicians, saying they understand the large number of workers it takes to pull off a successful concert tour.

Count me as those with an even greater appreciation of those roles after spending a few minutes with Keiner.

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