‘I wanted to drive a truck since I was 12’

November 2019

Wendy Parker


“If carriers were required to pay drivers for all the time they spent on the job, it would have an immediate impact on recruiting, retention, safety, compliance and fair compensation.”

Carl Smith, an alternate member for OOIDA’s Board of Directors, went into the Army the summer after he graduated high school because he knew they’d teach him to drive a truck.

“I wanted to drive a truck since I was 12 years old,” Carl said. “I knew the Army would teach me

how – and let me drive one – at the age of 18, so I joined.”

Carl drove truck in the Army, spending three years active duty and three years in the Army Reserves. He left active duty in 1982, but at 22 was still too young to go over-the-road because of insurance reasons.

“The magic age to drive over-the-road and be commercially insured back then seemed to be 23, so I got a local job driving a straight truck for about nine months after active duty,” he said. “But as soon as I was old enough, I was out there.”

And by “out there” he means actively working in the trucking industry. Not all of his years of driving have been in his own truck. He sold his small fleet operation in 2000 and went into sales and operations until 2009. All during this time he continued driving nights and weekends for a regional LTL carrier.

Carl’s first truck was a 1982 International 9670 he bought through a lease-purchase plan with Riss International. He describes Riss as a company truly looking to create owner-operators.

“Riss had a unique lease-purchase program that was very different from the mega carriers’ model,” he said. “I paid a truck payment and insurance and nothing else was deducted. I was also required to take a seven-week business class before being eligible to lease-purchase with Riss.”

His success in that lease-purchase program began a lengthy trucking career that he continues to enjoy to this day. His knowledge and experience in multiple facets of the industry have strengthened his belief that drivers need to be compensated properly for their time.

“The onus should not be on the driver to make up for unforeseen loss of time.” Carl said.

When did you get your commercial driver’s license?

“I began driving in 1979, so when the CDL mandate came in 1991 I was grandfathered into the new standards.”

What kind of freight do you specialize in?

“I pull a chemical tanker hauling hazardous and nonhazardous commodities.”

Why did you join OOIDA?

“I purchased my first truck in 1983 through a lease-purchase plan with Riss International of Kansas City. The people at Riss told us about OOIDA and how they were fighting for the rights of the owner-operators.”

If you could make one significant change in this industry with one snap of your fingers, what would it be?

“Under the present federal labor law that governs compensation for overtime, truck drivers are exempt from those standards. If carriers were required to pay drivers for all the time they spent on the job, it would have an immediate impact on recruiting, retention, safety, compliance and fair compensation.”

What legacy do you hope to leave?

“Sadly, most people are forgotten within a few years of their passing. I’ve strived to instill my ethics, values and faith into my four children. Hopefully they will still be here decades after I’m gone. When people see them, they will see a part of me. If my efforts have been successful, they will be my enduring legacy.” LL

Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker has covered the trucking industry since 2012 after she says she “lost my mind and decided to climb inside my husband’s big truck to travel with him as an over-the road, long-haul trucker.” Her unique writing style that ranges from biting satire to investigative journalism coupled with her unbridled passion for fighting round out a wildly talented stable of writers.