Dave Nemo Publicity Photo 1

Nemo: A driver’s in-cab companion

Oct. 18, 2021
Over the last 50 years, trucking radio icon Dave Nemo has served professional drivers.

“Dave kept me awake while I was driving.” “Dave saved my life.” “I finally found a radio show I could listen to and work to at the same time.” “I’ve been listening to you since 1974.”

Those are just a handful of the messages that professional over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers have left for trucking radio legend Dave Nemo over the years.

For the past 50 years, Nemo has been a friend to professional truck drivers across the U.S. and Canada. Through back-and-forth quips, birth announcements, comedy, music, and personal phone calls, the unstated mandate throughout Nemo’s career—first working with The Road Dog Gang and now at RadioNemo on SiriusXM—has been to keep OTR drivers awake, informed, smiling, and, in essence, alive.

“Driving those trucks all by yourself late at night, weather conditions notwithstanding, you really need a companion in the truck to keep you going, to keep you alert, to keep you engaged—and that’s what we did,” Nemo told FleetOwner.

Even in the days before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, CDL requirements, and deregulation, by and large, the underlying toll of trucking was the same, according to Nemo. And when he first started with Charlie Douglas and The Road Dog Gang in 1972, the show was touted as “a service for the over-the-road professional truck driver,” Nemo said, shifting to his well-known radio cadence.

“We carried that theme of service,” he added. “Trucking is a service industry, and we are a service to a service industry. What we do today is spread as much valuable and critical information—as much information as we can get—in a hopefully entertaining way to keep folks informed.”

Birth announcements have been another service Nemo provided to professional drivers during what he called The Stone Age—that time before cellphones and the internet. Now, Nemo is meeting some of the drivers whose birth he had announced to their fathers out on the road.

“Now they have children, and I think, ‘Holy cow, maybe I’ve been around too long,’” Nemo quipped. “Every once in a while, someone will say, ‘My dad said you announced my birth on your show, and that’s how he found out about me.’”

Nemo’s roots

Growing up glued to the radio, Nemo studied communications in college and was the campus station program director. He was hired for weekend work at WWL Radio in New Orleans in the winter of 1969 and went on to serve in the U.S. Army. At the time, he also was a radio host on AFKN in Seoul, South Korea.

Nemo helped start the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund (SCF) with his friends Michael Burns and Dr. John McElligott. SCF is a charity that helps over-the-road and regional truck drivers and their families in the event of an injury on the road. Today, RadioNemo on-air-host Tim Ridley is on the SCF board of directors.

Nemo also is on the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) board of directors and is more intimately involved with that organization today, supporting it with a monthly program called Traffic Stop.

“Truckers are so close to the gunfire so to speak that they can get powder burns from even talking about trafficking, because a lot of what goes on goes on their property,” Nemo said, adding that the industry has stepped up in a major way to support TAT and anti-trafficking efforts.

“The thing about trafficking in this country, still today, when you tell people about it, they don’t realize you’re talking about America,” he added. “People think you’re talking about another country, but we’re talking about I-70 through Kansas. It’s a major hurdle to get any kind of level of understanding and awareness.”

At the end of the day, knowing that he and his team can make even a small difference in the day and the life of a truck driver means the world to Nemo.

“That makes my life, not just my day,” Nemo told FleetOwner. “Something as simple as an email I got the other day from a listener—‘great show today, have a great weekend’—makes me think wow, he took the time out to write that email. That’s awesome, and that’s truly and honestly the highlight—their response to the show.” 

When asked how he has seen the industry change over the years, Nemo said he’s just the guy standing on the side of the road watching all the trucks go by. But one of the biggest changes he pointed to is the universal regionalization of trucking  and drivers wanting to be home more.

“The industry itself changed, and I think it was because of the change in the overall society,” he said. “In our wonderful world of trucking, we tend to self-isolate a bit. Trucking is a society; it always has been. Trucking is more than just a job or a career, it’s a lifestyle.” 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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