Career truck driver and vet Jon Osburn loves to talk, and it’s a good thing. As driver of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Spirit of the American Trucker vehicle and an OOIDA ambassador, he goes to truck shows, truck stops and conferences across the country, putting him in contact with truckers far and wide.
This 65-year-old 2016 Citizen Driver Award winner says he could retire now, but why? “I’m actually having fun … we visit a lot of the truck stops; I enjoy the heck out of being with people,” especially when the weather gets a little cooler.
When The Trucker caught up with him, Osburn had been stopped in Wilcox, Arizona, and was “working my way West” to his hometown of Boise, Idaho.
“I actually haven’t been home since July 9 but my wife Vicki, who’s retired, sometimes just shows up,” he says, usually with “a hint” that she’s going to be there. OOIDA publishes the Spirit Truck schedule on its website ahead of time, so she knows where he will be.
The ‘Spirit Truck’ is a 2014 Western Star 4900 EX chassis, with a Detroit Diesel DD16, 15.6-liter engine, with 600 HP. The trailer is painted in red, white and blue and turns heads.
And at one past Mid-America Trucking Show the truck’s trailer, parked at the Papa John’s lot for drivers, served as a place to get out of the rain and near-freezing temperatures.
Osburn has been driving the truck, built from the ground up through fan votes on social media channels, for the past five years.
When he’s at a truck show or other trucking-related event or venue, truck drivers come in to talk, vent and sometimes want to use his computer to send an e-mail or an angry letter or comment to somebody. “A person can come in the truck and vent and I’m able to just let it roll off me and go to the next person and say ‘Hi,’” he says.
Osburn was introduced to trucks and heavy vehicles during 20 years of military service during which he was an Army National Guard Combat Medic and then served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman. He did three tours of Vietnam.
His dad was a county coroner, and Osburn says he got an emergency medical card age at age of 16. “On my first [ER] call I delivered twins. They used an ambulance from the medical examiner. I was fascinated with Army medics and pharmacist mates in World War II. And I got paid for delivering twins.”
The next call was not so great. “It was four fatalities, kids I went to high school with,” he recalls.
After getting out of the service and having what he called “a midlife crisis,” Osburn decided to get into trucking, and had a successful career with Mayflower, hauling household furniture as well as “special stuff” like NASA equipment.
Then he organized and operated the Medical Education and Resource Vehicle or MERV, for truck drivers. “Dave Nemo and Dr. John thought it up; I did that until we lost our grant money,” he says. From there he happened to be the lucky driver who landed the Spirit Truck job.
Osburn chose a TA in his hometown to be renamed in his honor. It’s now called the TA Boise J.D. “Doc” Osburn Travel Center.
“A big part of what I do is defend TA and Petro,” he says. “Truckers talk about how expensive the truck stops are. I ask them, ‘You know what it costs for one parking space at a truck stop?’” When they say “no” he tells them to look it up.
Osburn has 2.75 million accident-free miles and 20 years of accident-free driving. Like other Citizen Driver Award winners, he’s involved in many community and charity projects including but not limited to the St. Christopher Truckers Fund, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Truckstop Ministries and the Mary Johnson Scholarship fund. He’s also an EMS trainer and in CPR, search and rescue and emergency medical dispatch training and a lifetime member of OOIDA.
Osburn says he was humbled by the nomination to be a Citizen Driver and at actually winning the award, counting it as one of the best things that have happened in his life. As to his fellow winners, “I’m in a rarified crowd,” he told OOIDA.