When Joseph Berry started trucking in 1995 he wasn’t just merely referred to as Joseph. His CB handle was the Concrete Cowboy, an ode to Jerry Reed’s 1979 action movie, “Concrete Cowboys.”
“You used to be able to talk to drivers over the CB,” meeting at the fuel line, chatting during whatever route they were traveling down, he said.
While the days of CB are mostly over, Berry, 56, said he still enjoys talking with his fellow truckers.
“Sometimes I’ll talk to another driver and ask how it’s going … what’s it like over at their company. Just how things are going for them and what they’ve experienced,” he said.
Berry is a team driver leased to FedEx out of Fort Worth, Texas, through B. Keith Transportation, delivering mostly mail in a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.
“Try to be courteous of the other person and not to be too demanding you know,” he said of having a co-driver. “You’ve got to be able to get along.”
He said he travels coast to coast, preferring westward travel, and likes keeping an eye out for wildlife.
“I’ve seen some wild turkeys on the sides of the road in Kentucky. Deer up in Utah,” he said. “I was an Eagle Scout so I kind of enjoy nature.”
Trucking was not Berry’s initial life calling. He began as a landscaper, but switched to trucking when “an old friend of mine talked me into it.”
“Being able to be my own boss and not having someone look over my shoulder all the time and watching every move I make,” he said are reasons why he has stayed so long.
For drivers just getting into the industry, Berry said it’s important to listen to those with experience and to not solely rely on technology.
“Pay attention to what the trainer is saying. Learn [to use] a map instead of relying on GPS. I think drivers are spoiled with GPS,” he said. “… Just stay alert and try not to drive punching on a cell phone like I saw this driver doing the other day.”
Not paying attention or driving reckless leads only to heartbreak. Berry said years ago, he stopped when he saw an accident up ahead on I-40 in Oklahoma.
“An 18-wheeler ran over this car. I stopped in the middle of the road so no one else would run over them. Some other people came over to help because the guy in the back seat was hurt really bad,” he said. He did not know what happened to the man or others, leaving after the police came, but said the truck driver accused the car of “messing with him.” But Berry added it was no excuse to “run them over.”
While many drivers have had choice words to say about Hours of Service, particularly the 30-minute break, Berry said it suits him fine.
“I think it’s great, especially that 30-minute break,” he said. “If you’re tired or hungry, you can stop.”
To pass the time while driving, Berry said even though it sounds “cornball,” he enjoys listening to radio programs that tell a story, back before there was television.
“Satellite radio channel 148. I turn it to the news and listen to the news, it keeps me awake to hear someone talking. The other day I listened to Lucille Ball, and I think it was Bob Hope,” he said. “I listen to country and I listen to old ’70s music, ’80s … I kind of like James Taylor. I guess George Strait; he’s retired but I still listen to his music.”
He hasn’t been to many concerts, but fondly remembers seeing the Beach Boys in 1977 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I was just a teenager. It was me and my ex-wife, she was my girlfriend then, we were in high school. We got lost on the way back. I think we got high off the smell of marijuana in the building,” he said with a laugh.
When he’s home in Arlington, Texas, usually every weekend, he likes the simple things — clean clothes and hanging out with his girlfriend.
“Being in a bed that doesn’t move back and forth and up and down,” he said, is another simple pleasure.
Berry said because being able to afford retirement is a stretch, the Concrete Cowboy will be riding down the highways for many years to come.