Company driver for P&B Trucking
Drives: 2006 Volvo
Hauls: Mostly dry freight
Route: 600 mile radius of Decatur, Ind.
How long driving: 35.5 years
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Trucking has gone downhill, according to one trucker who has been driving 35 and a half years — and it’s not just regulations it’s the people.
“I believe in courtesy,” said Terry McMillen. “I totally respect each and every driver out here. Trucking has gone downhill. You can’t trust the other driver; they have no courtesy.
“Back in the day — back in my era — the old truckers took us under their wing and taught us. Today they are rushed through a school and if the weather is bad one day they stay in and do paperwork instead of driving.”
McMillen thinks drivers should train for five years in their home state before they are allowed to drive elsewhere.
He is a company driver with P&B Trucking out of Decatur, Ind., where he hauls dry freight in a 600-mile-radius of Decatur. McMillen has been with the company two months.
McMillen said drivers don’t get any breaks.
“I always get a ticket,” he said. “I never get a warning. Rules and regulations aren’t like they were when I started. Cops respected us, looked out for us. We are now the outlaws. Laws have come down on trucking. We are supposed to be professionals, but we are not treated as professionals.”
Part of getting treated like a professional is to act like one, McMillen agreed.
There are a lot of drivers who hate their jobs,” he said. “I appreciate my job; it’s part of being a professional. That’s part of my job. I think the cops ought to think about that too. I think they are taught in school that we’re the outlaws. Do we judge all cops as bad? No. They shouldn’t judge us all as bad.”
McMillen used to run all 48 states. He did that from 1977 to 1994, as well as Canada, but gave it up when he said “the laws and regulations changed. They get worse all the time.”
He was married from 1988 until 1996. He then raised his daughters alone after the divorce. They were only 4-years-old and 6-years-old at the time. When they were young he had to work a job that would get him home nights.
“I dedicated my life to my children and never tried to get remarried,” he said. “I hauled flatbed locally while raising them. I was home every day and in 2004 I started running a 300-mile radius from home until I got laid off from Ashley Furniture.”
Now he hauls egg cartons and potato chips, which are both light loads, he laughed.
“I only get home on weekends,” McMillen said. “This is no life. If I ever get a wife I want to be there for her. I enjoy the road. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. It’s in my blood. My dad drove a truck. My brother is a truck driver.” That’s two brothers out of five that are truckers in his family.
“Dad died in a truck wreck with a four-wheeler,” he said. The 81-year-old man in the car was trying to commit suicide and McMillen’s dad avoided the wreck but rolled his truck several times in the process and was killed. Two weeks later, according to McMillen, the man did the same thing. That’s when they found out he was distraught over losing his wife and wanted to die.
“In 35 and a half years I have never been in an accident that was my fault,” he said. “I’ve been in some bad wrecks.”
McMillen said drivers need to stick together more and that “back in the day,” when he first started driving and a truck broke down, five or six guys would demand to help. Now they won’t even answer you on the CB, he said.
“We should back each other at all costs,” he said. “It’s time we started sticking together. Still, today, I drive as I was taught and it hasn’t changed. I’ve had [other drivers] cut me off and do things to me. Sometimes they apologize and they appreciate my patience and it’s just a part of my job. I’ve got patience. I’ve got courtesy. I don’t get into anything on the radio. That’s part of being a good driver.
“As far as wages go, we are all underpaid for the occupation we are doing. They ought to make it where everybody gets the same. If they want a professional they should pay for a professional; then drivers will have more respect for their jobs and who they work for.”
McMillen said they shouldn’t pay drivers hourly, they should pay them fairly.
“There needs to be some kind of system where it doesn’t cost a family man his living doing the best he can,” he added. “… anyone as far as that matters; not just a family man.”
Mcmillen said he likes the current Hours of Service rules, although he didn’t think he would at first.
“I think it’s safer than the old rules,” he said. “I back whoever thought this up. I drive 11 hours most days. I think everybody out here has to. I maintain 600-650 miles a day. If they allowed us 13 hours [to drive] I’d take it.”
Mcmillen explained that trucks today are better with air-ride seats and air conditioning and that drivers don’t get beat up and tired like they used to, which allows them to feel like driving more hours per day. Back then, he said, after 10 hours a driver was worn out and now he thinks they should be able to drive 15 hours.
“I enjoy my job. I love what I do,” McMillen said, and added that he’ll definitely retire in trucking. “I’ve got too many years wrapped up to give up now. I’m proud I got to be there and learn from the old school. I have no regrets from being a trucker. It’s just the harassment that ruins it and drivers whose hearts aren’t into it.”
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.