National Truck Driver Appreciation Week: September 9-15, 2018
Today, September 9th, marks the beginning of National Truck Driver Appreciation week and the kickoff of one of our favorite Odyssey celebrations. State-to-state, country-to-country or anywhere around the world, not one shipment arrives at its destination without the dedicated and tireless work of those behind the wheel.
Without our drivers, Odyssey simply does not function. In honor of #NTDAW, we will be releasing a daily driver profile on our social media channels for the duration of the week – please take a moment to learn a little more about those driving Odyssey into the future.
We extend our sincerest thanks to our drivers and urge the general public to take a moment, not just this week but throughout the year, to do the same.
Chief Executive Officer
Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation
09/14/2018: Tony Birth
Tony Birth, a 36-year veteran of the professional truck driving world, is a very colorful character. In the last eight years driving for Area Transportation, a subsidiary of Odyssey Logistics, Tony has spent his time making mostly regional short-haul runs from Chesterton, Indiana to Michigan, Illinois and occasionally Ohio, and has always enjoyed the work he does on the road.
“Listen, when it comes to driving, Area gives you the best equipment to drive, and they treat you like a person,” Tony explained to us, “Back at some of the other companies I worked for, the first word out of their mouth was, ‘What’s your truck number’ or ‘what’s your trailer number’, but not at Area. Every time I come in I get asked, ‘Hey, big Tony, what’s for lunch today,’ and we’re always just joking and jiving. Apart from the work, which I still love, you just can’t beat it. These people rolled out the red carpet for me.”
Tony, previously Area’s Driver of the Year award recipient, knows how to get the job done safely and on time. Tony believes that the one thing that people need to understand about driving is that the person behind simply cannot start and stop the vehicle at the convenience of others, or as Tony put it, “You just can’t stop these things on a dime and pick up the change. You can’t do it!”
In the cab, you’ll likely find Tony snacking on graham crackers or other little snacks, but if he’s in the mood to treat himself, he’ll stop and pick up two slices of pizza from Pilot. Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Tony is a huge country music fan, with the annual Country Music Awards acting as the Birth family Super Bowl of sorts, to which they always have front row seats on the living room couch.
In his time off, Tony and his wife will head up the country in Lafayette, Indiana, taking to the country roads on a done-up Yamaha cruiser. “People don’t really know, but there are actually a whole lot of country roads up by Lafayette,” Tony told us, “My wife and I head on up there on the motorcycle and, you know, just let our hair down in the breeze and such.”
We’re happy to have drivers that love the work as much as Tony, and we’re equally as grateful to provide our employees with a quality of employment that makes them happy. Tony left with these remarks, “Area is just one big happy family. Sure, there are going to be some bumps in the road, but this is driving, there always will be. At the end of the day, I’m always just happy to be going into work, and that’s what really matters.”
With ten years of total professional driving experience, the last five of which have been with Linden Bulk Transportation, a subsidiary of Odyssey Logistics, Walter has gained considerable experience on the road, running local and regional short-haul bulk-liquids out of our Houston terminal. As an owner/operator of his own rig, Walter thoroughly enjoys hauling with Linden, a company which, in his opinion, offers the most convenient and lenient scheduling of any organization he’s ever worked for.
“I don’t really have a set schedule, I really just have to be sure I make my loads on time,” Walter explained to us over the phone, “I don’t have to worry about being late or early to work, like I said, as long as I make my loads on time, that’s all I need to do.”
Mr. Joe lives a quiet life in Texas, spending his free time outdoors or behind the oven or grill, hunting hogs, fishing for bass and catfish, grilling beef ribs and baking cakes for friends and family. “I can’t really say cooking is a hobby for me, it’s definitely more than that,” says Joe, “But, I mean, when it comes to fishing or baking, I could wake up, do it all day, go back to bed then wake up and do it all over and I’d be happy.”
And there are days when Walter can do exactly that. “Moving dry freight, lots of drivers have to work banker’s hours, like 7-5 because the receivers are only open during those hours. Moving bulk-liquids, most of my receivers are open 24 hours-a-day, so as long as those loads get where they need to be, I more-or-less make my own schedule.”
Walter spends much of his time in the cab in silence, paying attention to the road and the occasional driver who, in his words, “…could probably use a little education…” regarding how long it takes to speed up – or slow down – a commercial vehicle loaded with 20,000 gallons of liquid. When the drives are a bit longer, Walter will occasionally turn up the radio, mostly to hear old-school instrumental jazz music – just a little something to fill the airwaves as the miles tally up. Walter enjoys eating healthy snacks in the truck, like homegrown tomatoes and fresh grapes, though occasionally even he, like the rest of us, really enjoys a bag of candy.
Overall, Walter loves what he does. The solitude, freedom to work as he pleases and the consistency of the road meshes perfectly with his personality, and he can’t see himself doing anything else.
“If I had one thing to leave you on,” said Walter, “Linden just flat takes care of their drivers.” We’re grateful for Walter’s work every day – it’s strong drivers and wonderful people like Walter who keep America’s freight moving safety and efficiently across the nation every day.
Preston McFarland, a professional driver for 20+ years, works for ADS/Area Transportation, a subsidiary of Odyssey Logistics. Living in Ohio, Preston typically makes runs between Chesterton, Indiana and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, typically sleeping on the road during the work week, but enjoying weekends at home.
This December will mark Preston’s seven-year work anniversary at Area, and in his time there, he has enjoyed the freedom granted by his relatively peaceful schedule. “I can more or less start when I want to and stop when I want to,” Preston said when asked about his favorite aspects of working for Area, “I don’t have a traditional boss like I would in a warehouse or factory, and that’s something that I really can’t say enough about.”
20 years is a long time to do anything, and with that much time behind the wheel, and that many miles behind him, Preston certainly has some of the tricks of the trade under his belt. “I think the key to not gaining weight in the truck is to not eat [larger] meals,” said Preston, “If you eat several smaller meals throughout the day, and try to keep it relatively healthy, you’ll do better keeping the weight off than you would stopping and eating a big meal.” Preston has also found ways of making sure he stays alert as he drives, which has allowed him to maintain a safe record of driving for decades now. “I think one of the hardest parts of driving is as simple as staying awake and alert. Some people think it’s just going to be easy, but after loading up the rig in crazy heat, and stepping up into that cool cab, it can wear on you and get you tired.” He continued to explain how the radio keeps him going on the road, saying, “I like to listen to all kinds of music. I switch it up from stuff from the 40’s and 50’s, rock and country, you name it – sometimes I even like to listen to those old-time radio shows from way back, like Gunsmoke before it went out on TV. Sirius satellite radio might just be the best thing ever invented.”
When asked what he would like people who have never driven a truck before to understand, Preston simply stated that he would want them to understand how difficult it can be to operate a large vehicle. They require more time to stop and are less nimble than the normal cars people are used to driving. Other drivers should be considerate of truck drivers and be willing to share the road.
When he isn’t commanding a big-rig, Preston likes to spend time adventuring, riding four-wheelers around his property and taking vacations to such places as Jamaica and Mexico. Preston is a grandfather now and is looking forward to continuing his work with Area. We’d like to extend a thank you to Preston – it’s because of veterans of the profession such as himself that we are able to promote such a high level of dedication and workmanship across our business.
A driver since April of 2005 and an employee of Linden for the last six months, Rhonda has taken immediately to her new work family at Linden. Starting her career working long-haul shipments of crude oil, Rhonda frequently spent ten or more days on the road at a time, sleeping away from home all but a few days a month, struggling to find the proper balance between work and raising her family. After doing this for years, Rhonda was eventually transferred to making local and regional short-haul runs, which she much preferred, but the oil field her previous organization was working later ran dry.
“The fields dried up, and the next thing you know our fleet dropped from 68 drivers to six in the matter of a few months.” Rhonda explained. After a lengthy search, Rhonda eventually found an opportunity to haul bleach for Linden out of the Houston terminal, and although she’s only six months into the job, she’s loving the work.
“Linden gave me the chance to do what I want to do, which is drive. I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” said Rhonda, “Linden afforded me the opportunity to be home every night, to eat home cooked meals with my family every day, and at the same time make good money and a good living.”
With her newly found free time, Rhonda goes to the gym with her son, making up for lost exercise on the road, which she proclaimed to be the most difficult aspect of life behind the wheel now that her kids can take care of themselves. Rhonda came from a sports-oriented family, with her father pitching knuckleballs for the Philadelphia Philly’s minor-league team during the 60’s, and at the time of this writing, Rhonda will be spending her evenings watching recordings of US Open tennis matches and Houston Astros games.
Rhonda is like many of us, balancing a busy schedule with life’s other challenges and opportunities. When asked what she wanted the world to know about her profession and professional truck drivers, Rhonda stated, “I wish that people would change their perspective a little bit about truck drivers. We’re not just obstacles on the road. I’ve met a lot of great men and women out here – men with grandchildren who brag about their kids on the radio and who offer this country a service that we simply couldn’t operate without; when the trucks stop rolling, everything stops.”
Men and women like Rhonda are indeed what keeps this country moving forward, and the work that our drivers do shouldn’t be lost on us. Next time you do a deep clean around the house, think for a moment on how the bleach in your hand got there – there’s a chance that the hard-working mother down the street is the one to thank.
An endlessly jovial family man, Bill runs regional short-haul loads out of Chesterton, Indiana to states like Wisconsin, Kentucky and Iowa, returning home to his wife and daughter, who recently graduated college.
Bill just loves to drive. His love for the job is second only to his love for family, a family that has had the luxury of a consistently-present father figure for the past 20 years. “I always knew I wanted to balance being a husband, a father and a truck driver,” explained Bill, “For lots of people, living out of the truck works for them, but I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t going to watch my daughter grow up through pictures.”
And so, he didn’t. Working closely with Area’s dispatchers, Bill managed to spend time with his family whenever he needed to. “Whenever I needed to be there for my wife or daughter, there was no question. As long as I did it the right way and didn’t drop it on them at the last minute, they were always ready to accommodate me.” Bill continued to tell us that his daughter, who was a swimmer, always had her father present at her meets. “My daughter swam for 22 seasons, two seasons a year for 11 years – I didn’t miss a single meet until she had gotten into high-level competition in high school and the meets were taking place during the middle of the week.”
With his daughter now a college graduate, Bill is still behind the wheel, doing what he loves to do. In a conversation that we had with Bill following our original interview, he filled us in on something that he had originally been reluctant to share, but felt that now might be the right time after all. At a routine doctor’s appointment just before his 50th birthday, Bill was told that he had developed prostate cancer. Not wanting to bring any negativity to his coworkers, he kept his diagnosis quiet and fought the battle on his own, becoming a cancer survivor on March 26th of this year. “The one thing that made it possible to beat the cancer was early detection,” Bill told us during the conversation, “I’m thinking I want to share this with everyone to encourage having a good relationship with your doctor, and to not be afraid to get things checked out.” With National Prostate Cancer Awareness Week falling in just a few days, September 17th, we figured this to be the best time possible to let Bill tell his story.
Bill has no plans to stop driving any time soon. The man collectively referred to by his fellow co-workers as “Cupcake” will continue his hard work, dedicating his time to be an open-book resource for new drivers and trainees, helping to prepare the new generation to be as good of a driver and member of the community as he is himself. We’d like to thank Bill for the hard work and dedication he puts into the organization, and for being the fighter that he has shown to be. Next time you are the road, be sure to remember that professional drivers like Bill are at hard at work when they are behind the wheel, try to be as considerate as possible.