Thursday, November 23, 2017

Rick and Susie Foster embark on ‘whirlwind’ romance, trucking career; work as true team


Wednesday, June 21, 2017
by APRILLE HANSON/Special to The Trucker

When their beloved dog Buddy passed away a couple of years ago, Susie Foster said they did not anticipate getting another dog, but they now have Bubba, a year-old Yorkie mix.  (The Trucker: APRILLE HANSON)
When their beloved dog Buddy passed away a couple of years ago, Susie Foster said they did not anticipate getting another dog, but they now have Bubba, a year-old Yorkie mix. (The Trucker: APRILLE HANSON)

Couple Rick and Susie Foster have had both a whirlwind romance and trucking career. Married 14 years on May 17 after dating just eight months, the two have made a good living from team driving, which requires mutual respect above all else.

“I like it that we’re together [on the road]. I trust him, you know? I trust his driving. I do the night shift and he does the day. You get paid decent money and when all the money goes to the same household it makes a difference,” Susie Foster said.

The couple hauls expedited freight, often from delivery services like FedEx and UPS, throughout the lower 48. They drive a lease-to-purchase 2015 Freightliner Cascadia from CRST out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. If it can be put on a truck, they’ve hauled it, they said. 

At that first meeting in 2002, Susie was a waitress at Cracker Barrel and had stepped away from trucking.

It’s hard to see with Susie’s friendly nature, her smile and willingness to strike up a pleasant conversation, but the St. Louis, Missouri native has carried heavy losses. Growing up the youngest of four children, she was raised by her mother when her father took off.

“We were raised Pentecostal … holy rollers you know. I can remember wearing dresses,” Susie, now 54, said. “My mother never even drove a car, never cared to.”

Trucking was in the family, with her uncle a trucker in Arizona and a cousin who was a produce hauler who would stop by and visit when she was a child. At just 12 years old, her mother died from gall stone complications, something typically treatable now.

She moved in with her oldest sister. A week before Susie’s 18th birthday, her sister Barbara was killed in a car accident.

“Boom and I was on my own. What are you going to do?” she said. “I was just kind of living … I didn’t finish school,” working a variety of jobs to get by. Then, a friend of her brother’s taught her how to drive a truck.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s changed my life,” she said. She got what was then a chauffeur’s license in 1989, hauling mostly Kraft products for Glenn’s Truck Service for 12 years. Susie said she was “burnt out,” hoping to try something outside of a big rig. She worked at a factory, which was “two weeks in hell” and then waitressing because “Girls got bills. I paid my own bills,” she said, adding she was never married before Rick.

That feeling of being burnt out led to the love of her life, Rick Foster.  

“He would come into the restaurant sometimes and we just started talking. When I first met him I didn’t really like him,” she said with a laugh, adding that she was happy with her independence, her “own house and my own life.”

But, things turned around.

“He was just real polite, respectful to women. I asked, ‘Are you good to your mother?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah’ and that he talked to her all the time. That meant a lot to me. Usually if a guy is good to his mother, he’ll be good to his wife,” she said.

Rick was raised in the tiny farming community of Caraway, Arkansas, which clocked in at just 1,279 during the 2010 census.

“Where I’m from, you’re either a farmer or a truck driver,” he said, adding that his step father drove a truck. “It’s just in the blood.”

There were fascinating stories from the road, but also tough ones, like from the trucker strikes in the 1970s.

“My stepdad, one of his best friend’s truck got dynamited,” he said. “I just remember my stepdad telling stories about it.”

Rick didn’t follow in his stepfather’s footsteps right away. After four years of schooling, he worked a variety of jobs. He joined the U.S. Navy, serving four years, working as a store keeper on the USS Mobile.

“Anything that you needed to run that ship it came through me,” he said, anything from specific ship supplies to candy.

He started trucking in 2001 and worked as a truck driver trainer.

“One thing I tell anybody I’ve ever trained, just don’t hit nothing,” he said with a laugh, but also absolute truth. “My best advice for a driver who is just starting, most are coming out of school, is to make sure it’s what you want to do. Do your homework on it. Driving a truck is not a 9-5 job. You don’t work eight hours, then sleep eight hours a night. It’s a lifestyle, it’s not just a job … it’s not a get-rich-quick job. You have to pay your dues, get your experience before you start making really good money.”

It’s a career that takes discipline and the understanding that going home is not going to be an everyday occurrence. But, the 48-year-old is quick to point out, “I don’t want to put nobody off on it because I love it. It just takes a certain type of person to drive a truck.”

Or certain people, which makes Rick and Susie such a great team. Susie said there’s total trust and Rick admits her driving skills are exceptional.

“One time we were going to Kansas City and my wife was driving. There was a six-car pileup in front of her,” he said, adding she had to maneuver around all of it. “I’ve never seen anybody ever drive that good. She’s a way better driver than me.”

The couple are usually out on the road about three weeks at a time. When there’s a layover, which is few and far between, Susie Foster said they take advantage of local shopping, maybe a fun activity like a water park and just simply staying at a hotel and ordering room service.

For 12 years, they had a driving companion in Buddy, a Chihuahua that showed up at their house on Halloween night, no collar and ready to have a family. They searched for the owner to no avail and instantly they had a furry friend.

“Buddy was real friendly; he liked everybody. He wasn’t afraid of other dogs. He thought every dog was his friend,” and enjoyed life on the road and standing with his feet on the steering wheel while parked, pretending to man the big rig,” Susie said. When he died two years ago, they did not anticipate getting another dog, but they now have Bubba, a year-old Yorkie mix.

“He’s got a lot more energy … His new thing lately, he’ll get up there [on the passenger seat] and look out the window while I’m driving down the road,” Susie said. “I take him on big walks and it gets me some exercise. I don’t want to just hole up at the truck stop and sit for 30 minutes.”

When the couple parks the truck for about 10 days at a time, they are at home in Chilhowee, Missouri, enjoying their house out in the country. Susie said she hopes to retire in about four or five years when the house is paid off and work locally, while Rick continues to hit the open road.

This is the plan of course, but as the two can attest, life can change in an instant, like it did for them in that Cracker Barrel 14 years ago.

Susie said she will work a few more years “unless I get that winning Powerball ticket in my pocket,” adding she never plays the lottery, but this time, she felt lucky. “It only takes one to win, right?”  

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