John Phipps: A Salute to Aging Farm Truck Drivers in Aging Trucks

John's World 11/16/19
Not many farmers retire; instead, they pursue different roles on the farm. One of the most popular roles is driving a truck. ( Farm Journal )

I’m taping this on Veterans Day so it’s somewhat appropriate to offer a salute to some other fellow veterans – the old farmers in old trucks. With labor tight, finding someone to haul grain to the elevator for a few weeks in the fall can be challenging for farmers, and the go-to solution is to enlist old guys. Many of them could use the money, and many more of them just need to get out of the house and have something to do. These veterans are matched by old trucks which, like them, may not be as fast as they once were, but still have some life left. While I know there are some farms with new rigs, the vast majority of us are using re-purposed fleet vehicles with a few hundred thousand miles to make the 18-mile round trip to the elevator. Old trucks match up well with their aging drivers. We both have some eccentric disabilities that drivers work around.

I see them at the elevator, climbing carefully and often painfully down to unroll the tarp. I pass people on the scales I went to school with and played basketball against. It took me some time to realize since I was their contemporary, I too was an old guy in an old truck. In fact, counting Jan and I, and a retired funeral director friend, our average fleet age is 73 – the drivers that is. The trucks are just 13-15 years young. Meanwhile, I have a neighbor who proudly passed his CDL renewal at 92.

It is a curious thing that as our time here begins to dwindle, we old guys often have more time on our hands that we ever had before. So here’s my salute to my other fellow veterans without whom the harvest wars would be going even worse than they are. Keep up the good work and be careful. And for all you employers who depend on these experienced helpers, would it kill you to upgrade to electric tarps?