Career is a childhood dream come true for Pate
By Barbie Porter
Jack Pate has a lot of time to contemplate philosophical questions and societal problems. The Daggett Truck driver has collected more than 3.6 million accident free miles on his way to earning the title of Highway Man of the Month for August and American’s Best Drivers Driver of the Year team for 2021.
“There is a lot of time to think out there; solve all the world’s problems and more,” the 55-year-old said.
A major problem facing the nation has been consumer good shortages, as containers brought stateside by ships sit at docks, waiting for drives like Pate to take the load so that it can be put on the shelves at a local store.
Pate said rumors swirl as to what is happening. He noted driver shortages have been an issue for a long time, so he doesn’t believe that is the reason cargo is sitting on ships for extended periods of time. He said there are truck drivers at the docks that want to accommodate and help relieve the bottleneck of goods. However, he suspects there may be issues with requirements of who can transport the goods, and whether or not the company, or driver, must be part of a union.
Pate called to
the open road
As a child, Pate knew his calling. Either he would be a police officer or a truck driver. In his early career he leaned toward the law. After joining the Army he became a military police officer. Enjoying the job and after years of service, he decided to end his career with the military and pick up on the streets of his native state of Ohio. His eye-sight (without glasses) dipped below minimal requirements set by the police force, essentially removing the career as an option.
A marriage and a move brought Pate to the lakes area. He took a job at a factory where he spent his days unloading trucks. Being a personable person, it wasn’t long before he befriended the drivers. During the chats with the kings of the open road, he felt a pull towards the childhood dream that he hadn’t thought about for several years. Before diving into a new career, he learned about the job and the companies that were hiring. With respectful undertones, Pate said the “old timers” handed him a wealth of knowledge.
Before sitting behind his first big rig, he even knew who he wanted to work for—Daggett Trucking. Pate explained there are many fantastic trucking companies that are hiring. He recommended doing research about the company, their policies, trip length and other details a driver may consider important before applying. For Pate, it was Daggett Trucking that had check marks next to all the important items – they were willing to train him, the company was family-owned and they offered east coast trips.
“I grew up in the east, and I enjoy the fast traffic where you have to stay alert,” he said. “I was talking to a buddy that drives on the west coast and he said he hadn’t seen a car for forty miles. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by cars the past forty miles.”
Since Pate began driving truck in 1997, many changes have modernized the industry. What was once a job reserved for those who are stick-shift savvy, is now open to all as automatic transmissions are common in the big rig. The driver’s cabin is state-of-the-art now as well. When putting in a full work day, the seat cushion can make a world of difference when it comes to maintaining physical health.
“With air ride, it is like driving a Cadillac compared to the old spring seats,” he said.
The amenities of the cab have also improved. Pate noted the sleeper has always had a bed. Years ago, the amenities were minimal. In the last decade or so, most sleepers were outfitted with fridges, microwaves and a T.V. While it may be as small as a New York City apartment, Pate said it provides a home away from home while on the road.
That doesn’t mean the road doesn’t get lonely. Years ago, before cell phones, the communication line was the CB. The mobile radio allowed him to speak with other semi-truck drivers, as well as those who had a CB radio in their car. Now, everyone has a cell phone, and the CB has virtually went the way of the dinosaurs.
Automatic transmission, increased comfort and technology helping drivers navigate their way have made the profession more assessable, and the pay makes the career lucrative. The time on the road, however, may be an obstacle for some. Pate recommended anyone considering the career first take a look within and ask if they are OK missing moments with family and friends.
“There are no two ways around that,” he said. “That is the way of life for us. It can be tough on relationships. For me, I think I’m still married because I’m gone all the time.”
Jokes aside, Pate said if one (who is 21 or older) can manage missing moments here and there and enjoys solitude of the open road, the next step would be to talk to drivers and get feedback on companies and consider what would be preferred routes.
With traveling being his daily life, Pate said when he takes a vacation, it is usually a week at home or a short jaunt to Duluth, Minn. However, by the end of the week he gets the itch to get behind the wheel.
“Even if I retire, I figure I’ll still drive a bit,” he said. “I have been thinking more about taking two weeks off , but I’d still have to be driving somewhere.”