Feature: Is Trucking In Your Blood?

February 2, 2012

truckinginblood

By Sharon R. Hill

Until recently, I’d never considered what forces may have drawn me into the trucking industry.  My own introduction to the industry came after a headhunter found an opening with an ocean carrier who had their own in-house truckers. Twenty-two years later, I’m still at it – with a local intermodal company in Nashville.

But why has the trucking industry been such a good fit for me and so many others like me? Is the answer in our genes?

I made the connection for myself while researching my genealogy. With several ancestors offering cartage services in Northern Kentucky, I believe I have a natural affinity for trucking. Maybe my genes recognize this industry as a sort of comfort zone – a place where I belong.

Throughout the years, I have asked many people how they came to be employed in the trucking industry. Each has a unique story to tell, and I enjoy listening. Frankly, this is an industry that gets in your blood, one way or another.

Just ask Tommy Campbell, an Owner Operator from middle Tennessee. As a little boy, he used to wait for his older brother to come home with his company truck. He would then go out and sit in the truck, fantasizing about being a truck driver himself. Tommy says, “I sat in that truck for hours; I felt an instant connection.”

In The Genetics of Job Choice, Scott Shane, the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University, makes the point that our genes definitely influence our job choice. “If you are like most people, you probably recognize intuitively that your genes -the DNA that makes you who you are- have some effect on what you do for a living.” Further, Scott says that “Subsequent research has shown that genes affect fairly specific dimensions of job preferences.”

Michael Hardison is a long-haul trucker from Columbia, Tennessee who teams with his wife Debbie. He knew at about eight years old that he wanted to be a truck driver – something he’s been doing for the last twenty years. “My uncle drove a truck and I got to go on a couple of rides with him. After that I was hooked.”

So then was it a twist of fate, or just a coincidence, that Michael’s grandparents lived near a driver pull-off spot on the old trucking route Highway 99 that runs through Columbia?

“I remember a tanker driver, a friend of my grandfather’s, who came by about twice a day going to Lawrenceburg to deliver. One afternoon he let me get in the cab of his bright-red Mack truck and I pulled the horn,” recalls Michael.

As a young man, Michael followed his dream by getting a Commercial Driver’s License. “After I finished driving school I convinced my cousin Tony to go too. It gets in your blood, it really does.”

“If surface impressions can be trusted, truckers are a group who would rather drive a truck than do anything else,” writes Joyce Gibson Roach who many years ago concluded that “There is something of the sailor, the cowboy, and the lumberjack in the trucker’s genetics…” (Roach, 1966).

Consider too someone like Paul Flippen, now an Operations Manager in Nashville. Paul might as well have cut his baby teeth “driving around with my father and my uncles.” He delivered his first load of logs to Greenville, Mississippi while still in high school. “Truck driving was just something we all did. I’d grown up around it and I was familiar with it.” For Paul, the transition to long haul driving seemed as natural as learning how to walk and talk.

But do our genes act as super-powered magnets that cause each of us to necessarily stick to a certain predestined career choice? Not necessarily, but it’s easy to agree with Scott Shane and his conclusion that “The odds are just greater for the genetically inclined than for the rest of us.”

Citations

Roach, J. G. (1966). Diesel Smoke & Dangerous Curves: Folklore of the Trucking Industry. 45-53.

Shane, S. (2010, February 16). The Genetics of Job Choice. Retrieved from The American Magazine: http://www.american.com/archive/2010/february/the-genetics-of-job-choice