David Chapman worked as a cook for 18 years, making a variety of American foods before realizing he wanted to see America — not just make its delicacies.
“I like to travel,” he told The Trucker at the Petro Stopping Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas. “And I figured, why not get paid for something I want to do?”
That was 20 years ago and he hasn’t looked back. Chapman, 56, is an owner-operator, driving a 2009 Freightliner Cascadia. He hauls refrigerated freight for RWI Transportation out of Kentucky, staying out on the road anywhere from a month to three months at a time and traveling the lower 48.
He got interested in trucking after watching his brother’s success in the industry. Besides trucking school, he learned all the tricks of the trade from his brother, he said.
“I don’t have somebody watching over my shoulder 24/7. I’m doing my own thing and enjoying the scenery,” Chapman said.
While he prefers being a loner, he does like talking to people while out on the road and driving through scenic states like Oregon.
“It’s got a lot of open space and I don’t like a whole lot of crowds,” he said of the Beaver State.
Being out on the road for so many years means that Chapman has seen both the best and worst of life.
“I’ve seen some really bad accidents. I saw a tanker overturn and explode” while traveling through Arizona several years ago, he said. “I saw it from a distance. I don’t like to see anybody get hurt or killed in an accident.”
Luckily, he said the driver survived with only scrapes and burns.
Anytime Chapman sees an accident, “I want to know if the driver is alright; screw the vehicle,” he said.
Since many accidents happen when drivers are in a rush, he said it’s frustrating to watch “rookie drivers” make those mistakes on the road.
“They need to train them longer than they do, at least three months,” he said, adding the advice that “When you’re backing up into a hole, make sure you get out and look” before causing any damage and “please, take your time.”
When he’s at home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Chapman said he likes to catch up on his favorite action movies.
“I like John Wayne for two reasons — I like his movies … and my dad’s name is ‘John Wayne.’ Well, ‘John Wayne Chapman,” he said, adding that his favorite is 1971’s “Big Jake.”
It’s a fitting actor to admire because just like a modern day John Wayne riding out into the sunset, Chapman said he’ll continue driving the highways, enjoying his career seeing America.