By Greg Markley
On Election Day, Nov. 7, 2000, Americans found themselves in a real “train wreck,” in which the next president was not known until 35 days after the polls closed. Texas governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore had a hair-curling month, as did all Americans and many foreigners.
I was in Albany, Georgia, working for a newspaper and visiting polling places for updates and quotes. Driving on Liberty Expressway, I suddenly felt a jolt and my car spun into the breakdown lane. I was not hurt, but the car had a big dent on the driver’s side. The truck driver immediately admitted guilt.
“I must have just slipped that way a bit,” he said. His insurance company quickly took care of my claim and even extended my car rental for 10 extra days until repairs were done. We tend to forget how valuable truck drivers are in Alabama’s economy and in all our individual lives. They have been a God-send during the coronavirus pandemic.
These drivers are often seen but seldom appreciated. One 18-wheeler driver, representing all others, is Truck Driver of the Year for our state; for 2020 that is Rosko Craig of Silas, Alabama.
“Rosko certainly has a positive attitude and a proven track record over his 20-plus-year trucking career,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Our hats go off to Rosko and all truckers who keep Alabama moving.”
Craig, 50, drives for Birmingham, Alabama-based Montgomery Transport, LLC. He was chosen for the Nextran Truck Centers’ honor for his professionalism and his 3 million miles driven without an accident. Craig said trucking was a childhood dream for him and said that his family is “my backbone. I couldn’t do this without them.”
Truckers themselves, as I learned on Election Day 2000, occasionally cause accidents. Yet, serious ones are rare considering the high volume of mileage they drive. They have a great record, as Mark Colson, president of the Alabama Truckers Association, said at the kickoff of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 13-19, 2020) at the state Capitol.
“Sometimes America’s 3.5 million truck drivers are taken for granted,” Colson said. “But visit any grocery store, business or medical facility in Alabama, and it becomes obvious that truckers move America. The next time you speak with a professional truck driver, ask them how many safe miles he or she has, but don’t be surprised if the answer is in the millions.”
Say there is an accident or breakdown with police present on an interstate. Big-rigs are large and heavy; they cannot switch lanes without a wide berth and require more time than cars or light trucks. Yet, too often and despite the truck driver’s turn light being on, a nearby driver does not let him in until the trucker just makes it. Was the car owner self-centered or careless, fiddling with an electronic device, or lacking common courtesy? Maybe all three!
Commercial truck driving has attracted many songwriters whose lyrics are from sentimental to depressing, and many places in between. “Six Days on the Road,” (1964), penned by Dave Dudley, has been sung by various performers. It starts with these lyrics: “Well I pulled out of Pittsburgh/I’m rollin down the Eastern Seaboard/I’ve got my diesel wound up/She’s running like she never did before.” Do you recognize it from those lyrics? Check it out on the web!
“Convoy” was a huge hit I often listened to in 1975 while driving to my first job as a supermarket clerk. It was written by Chip Davis and C.W. McCall, the first singer of the tune. It starts out: “Ah, breaker one-nine/This here’s the Rubber Duck/You gotta come on me/PigPen c’mon/Ah, yeah 10-4, PigPen/fer shure.” There was a sequel to Convoy in 1976, called “Round the World with the Rubber Duck.” C.W. McCall turns 92 years old on Nov. 15.
Some people feel part of the “magic” of truck driving is lost; most Americans live in cities and all need trucks to deliver their goods. The halcyon days of driving on “open-range roads” are rarer. Still, we can play a role in assisting truckers by following their lead to safety when we see accidents and construction.
What happened to the truck driver who swerved into my car on Election Day 2000 in Georgia? Did he finish his career and retire happily? Did he leave the pressures of driving and get a different job? I don’t know. But so long as he has trucker songs nearby, he is one with the Convoy and his C.B. pals. He is lucky.
Greg Markley has lived in Lee County for 20 of the past 24 years. An award-winning journalist, he has master’s degrees in education and history. He taught political science as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama.