All That's Trucking

Lessons from the '60s

June 27, 2012

Randall McCauley drove his first truck at age 8, a 1940s GMC hauling hay on the farm in Barbour County, W.V.

McCauley was inspired by a driver who piloted a B-61 Mack with precision.

By age 12, he was hauling livestock for his uncle, and by 15, he was working for a neighbor hauling logs over the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia in an F-8 Ford with a homemade sleeper.

McCauley has owned a small trucking company in West Virginia since 1978, and he believes we could learn something today from his experience in the '60s.

Inspiration in a Mack Truck

McCauley's inspiration in the '50s was a driver by the name of Clyde Phillips Jr. In high school, he would watch Phillips maneuver his B-61 Mack by the old school house, listening to him shift gears with the precision of a fine artist. In 1999, Phillips and his 1973 cabover Pete retired with no chargeable accidents with 1.2 million miles and brake drums, rears, transmission, radiator and manual steering all original equipment.

"Driving ability at that level translates into profit. He was an inspiration for me to learn to drive with pride, precision, and perfection," McCauley writes.

"I have always believed that a good driver deserves the same respect as anyone at the top of their profession. The trucking industry is so vital to America that we must recognize the drivers out there that are at the top of their game and, just maybe, inspire more drivers to pursue the talent that Clyde had."

After high school, McCauley landed a Teamster job that paid $2.92 per hour, and at age 21, he was training and teaching driving techniques for a trucking company out of Chicago. Within five years, they had set up a relay system that got drivers home every day.

"Needless to say, we had some of the best drivers in the industry," he says.

That was the '60s, but McCauley thinks it could serve as an example for some of the industry's current problems.

Return to Relays?

"With our current driver shortage and our everlasting problems with 'steering wheel holders' or 'stupids-at-70,' a disaster could happen any second," he wrote in a letter. "I would like to point out the many benefits and better working conditions of a relay system in which drivers would be home every other day, have regular working hours and have a normal home life.

"I believe there would be a tremendous increase in quality and quantity of road drivers. Trucks today are like motor homes. But there are so many talented professional drivers out there that do not want to live in a truck, no matter how nice the truck or how much the job pays."

He's not the first to suggest fleets look to alternatives to the long-haul mode of operations, such as more slip-seating, or using two drivers in back-to-back work shifts using same truck.

Slip seating, the practice of using two drivers in back to back work shifts using same truck, is already a growing trend at private fleets.

"Equipment itself may be operating 22 hours a day," said Gary Petty, president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council, in a Stifel Nicolaus webcast earlier this year. "This is for large operating fleets that want to make sure the equipment is getting most use in 24-hour basis."

And while the equipment's getting more use, the driver's getting home more.