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At the Truck Stop: Driver is living his childhood dream, with his kids

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At the truck stop: driver is living his childhood dream, with his kids
Gaylon Walker is spending a good part of the summer spending quality time with his children, bringing them along so they can see what dad does when he’s away from home driving a truck. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

Do teachers still have kids write essays about “What I did on my summer vacation”? If they do, Gaylon Walker’s kids will have it made.

It was about 8 a.m., and like a lot of his fellow truckers at the Petro Truck Stop off Interstate 40, exit 161 just east of Little Rock, Arkansas, Walker was getting ready for a day on the road. He approached the food counter with a spring in his step.

“I hope you’re ready for me,” he said to the woman behind the counter, “because I’m hungry.”

She stood ready. He kept ordering, and the way she kept loading up the container, he was lucky the truck stop didn’t sell their meals by the pound.

She set the brimming container near the register. On second thought, Walker said, his son Kollin is sleeping in the cab, maybe he should get a little bit more.

“You’re just remembering you son is with you?” the woman asked. No, that’s not it, Walker explained. He’d been ordering for both of them, but it’s easy to underestimate the appetite of a 15-year-old boy.

School let out for the summer a few weeks ago, and Walker is letting his kids see what dad’s job is all about.

Actually, it’s all still pretty new to Walker. He has been a professional truck driver for just a bit over a year now. Before that he had worked at a Kroger distribution center back home in Houston.

“I was a truck unloader,” he said. “I worked in the freezer for about five and a half years, then I started unloading trucks the remaining time I was there.” It was a setting that constantly reminded him of a childhood dream.

“I’ve been wanting a truck since I was for 4 years old,” Walker said. “I saw the opportunity at 37 years old, and I took the opportunity.”

Of course, the dreams of a 4-year-old child are free from adult realities that can put a damper on those dreams. But he came into trucking with an adult perspective. The first company he worked for wasn’t so great, he said. But that’s to be expected.

“In the trucking industry, you might have to go through two or three companies before you find that one company you’re going to stay with,” he said. He feels like he’s found one he can stick with. About a month ago, Walker signed on with John Christner Trucking. “I’m buying a truck through them. It’s a good program.”

His goal is to eventually have his own business with three or four trucks, and if all goes well, leasing them through Christner.

Having the maturity to know that living out his dream was going to take some getting used to, Walker said he’s adapted to life on the road in his first year. One thing he realized very quickly is that you burn a lot more calories unloading trucks than you do driving them. Don’t let that gigantic truck stop breakfast fool you, he’s careful about what he eats.

He gets one meal a day at a restaurant or truck stop. The rest of the time, he keeps a well-stocked fridge. “I’ve got salads, I’ve got apples, oranges, bananas, oatmeal” and a few more fun-food type snacks to keep him full on the road.

With 10 hours a day behind the wheel, whenever he has a break, he makes it a point to walk “at least a mile, mile and a half a day” to make sure his legs stay strong.

Of course, the biggest adjustment has been the time away from his wife and five kids.

“I call them when I’m on the road, every day,” Walker said. “They video chat with me, make sure I’m all right.

“They’re OK. If anything is needed at home as far as money or my expertise they call and talk to me. And when I’m there we have as much fun together as we can.”

Walker is usually out on the road three weeks at a time, and now that summer is here, he’s bringing the kids along on an adventure. His eldest daughter, Danaijha, just graduated high school and is busy getting ready to join the Navy, so Kollin got to go first. Right now they were running a load of pork from Washington to Alabama, through the Rocky Mountains.

“He loves it,” Walker said. “He’s been taking a lot of pictures.”

Kollin’s been out with him for about three weeks. Once this run is over, they’ll head back to Houston, 10-year-old sister Dia’ana and 7-year-old brother Darius will get to ride with dad. Kid sister Daphne, who’s 4, will have to wait a few years. She’ll stay home with mom as she tends to the family’s barbecue business back in Houston.

Once the kids are back in school, all he needs to do is bring a little bit of the family’s secret family recipe pepper sauce with him and he’ll feel like he’s right at home.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MrBigR504

    June 30, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Yep, high hopes and empty pockets! Good luck with that dream. You’ll be lucky if you can finish paying for the one you’re driving! You better keep the doors closed and keep it moving because if you do manage to pay for it via “leas purchase”, its gonna have high’azz miles and you’ve paid waaaaay to much for a damn fleet truck!

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The Nation

Transportation Secretary calls on industry to ‘Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking’

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trucks on highway
The Department of Transportation wants to train the transportation workforce, including professional truck drivers, on the issue of human trafficking. The DOT anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this program. (iStock.com/WendellandCarolyn)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has announced a series of efforts to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector. Secretary Chao was joined by leaders from Congress, state governments and the transportation industry responding to this call to action.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to working with our public and private partners to fight human trafficking on America’s transportation system,” Chao said.

Among the initiatives announced by Secretary Chao is a renewed focus on the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking” pledge to train the transportation workforce and raise public awareness on the issue of human trafficking across all modes of transportation.  Secretary Chao is challenging the transportation industry to commit to “100 Pledges in 100 Days.” The Department anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this initiative.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, affecting millions of adults and children in the United States and worldwide. Victims are of every age, race, gender, background, citizenship, and immigration status. Some are trafficked within their own communities on various forms of transportation, while others are transported to new locations.

To amplify counter-trafficking efforts, Secretary Chao established an annual $50,000 award to incentivize individuals and entities, including non-governmental organizations, transportation industry associations, research institutions, and state and local government organizations, to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry. The Department will review applications and determine the individual or entity that will most effectively utilize these funds to combat human trafficking.

Secretary Chao also announced $5.4 million in grant selections through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative. Twenty-four organizations across the country will each receive funding for projects to help prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation. A list of the selected projects is available online.

To support the Department’s counter-trafficking efforts, the DOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking completed a report in July 2019 that recommends actions the Department can take to help combat human trafficking and best practices for states and local transportation stakeholders.

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The Nation

Former NASCAR driver and Talladega’s iconic trucker John Ray dies at 82

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Former nascar driver and talladega superspeedway’s iconic trucker john ray dies at 82
John Ray whose diesel big rig sporting the giant American flag became iconic during the track’s national anthem performances, has died. (Courtesy: Talladega Superspeedway)

TALLADEGA, Ala. —John Ray, whose big rig sporting a giant American flag became iconic during Talladega Superspeedway’s national anthem performances, has died, according to a news release. The former NASCAR driver was 82 years old.

Since 2001, Ray had driven his gold, brown and chrome Peterbilt with a large American flag down the Talladega frontstretch prior to the start of races.

“National anthems at Talladega Superspeedway are the most iconic, and it’s because of our great friend John Ray,” said Speedway President Brian Crichton. “What he brought to our fans can’t be duplicated. He was an incredible, passionate man who supported the track and all of motorsports with everything he had. His spirit will live here forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ray family.”

For more than 40 years, Ray was a member of the White Flag Club, a dedicated service group of local businessmen from surrounding communities that assist during race weekends.

In 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks and the tragic passing of his longtime friend Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ray, along with then Talladega Superspeedway Track Chairman Grant Lynch, looked to boost the morale of a country, and a fan base that had gone through tough times.

“I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back,” said Ray, who lived down the street from the track in Eastaboga, three years ago. “It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale.

“I never thought it would become the heart-felt moment that it has over the past some-odd years, but I’m glad it has become a tradition that means so much to the fans and the Talladega family. It represents such a sense of pride that we all share together as a nation and as a community. It is my honor and privilege to do it,” added Ray, who eventually gave up the driving duties of his big rig and handed them off to his late friend Roger Haynes, and last year to his son Johnny.

That wasn’t Ray’s first time at the 2.66-mile track. Ray, who owned “John Ray Trucking Company” since the early 70s, actually set the world speed record for a semi-truck and trailer around the mammoth track at 92.083 mph in 1975 — in a powerful Kenworth.

“We were testing brakes for a company out at the track,” Ray said. “One thing led to another — and there I was truck, trailer, and all — making my way around the track, trying to set a speed record. It was something else.”

Ray drove in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1974-1976. He competed in eight races, four at Talladega (where his best career finish was 22nd in 1974), but an accident at Daytona in 1976 ended his driving career. He continued as a car owner and essentially gave one of the sport’s greatest legends one of his first opportunities: 10-time Talladega winner Earnhardt. It would be Earnhardt’s third career start.

To read the full release, visit Talladega Superspeedway’s website.

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The Nation

Dependable and daring truckers recognized for driving excellence by National Carriers

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Dependable and daring truckers recognized for driving excellence by national carriers
Reggie Ely, left, and Ernie Garcia have been chosen by National Carriers Inc. as Drivers of the Month for November and December. (Courtesy: National Carriers)

IRVING, Texas — One is steady as a rock. The other’s a risk-taker, but both are Drivers of the Month for National Carriers, Inc.

The company named Ernie Garcia and Reggie Ely as the award winners for November and December respectively. Each receives a $1,000 bonus and a chance to win a $10,000 Driver of the Year prize at NCI’s annual banquet in Arlington, Texas.

Garcia, hails from Lytle, Texas, and has been trucking for 40 years, the last nine of which have been with NCI. He focuses on delivering freight throughout the Southwest.

“I’ve worked with Ernie for four years, and he always keeps a pleasant attitude toward life and work,” said his driver manager, Barbara Armstrong. “He’s committed to knowing his lanes and providing on-time service to every customer.”

While Garcia keeps steady, his fellow winner, Ely, says, “Give me a challenge!” Joining the Elite Fleet in 2018, he quickly established himself as a can-do driver.

“Reggie does whatever I need him to do. He drives safe, but never shies away from a demanding delivery,” said Mike Holloway, his driver manager. “He even loves running deliveries to New York City!”

“I try to do things that challenge me and make me feel like I’ve accomplished something,” said Ely. “I wanted to be a trucker who would deliver anywhere. I was scared the first couple of times I went into New York, but it got easier and easier. I just had to face my fears.”

Of course, any driver taking on a challenge needs a great team backing him. “I think a driver is only as good as his driver manager,” said Ely. “At my last job, I went through many dispatchers. My driver manager, Mike, knows his job and has been my only dispatcher at NCI, and I’m grateful for him.

“What makes me a successful driver?  Good equipment, good freight, and a team effort. I had no idea I could be treated this great by a trucking company,” concluded Ely.

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