On Oct. 23, 1992, a company driver for All Freight Systems named Ruth Jones entered the eastbound scales at North Platte, NE. A highway patrolman crossed in front of the vehicle and climbed right up on the step and instructed her to get her driver’s license, medical card, registration and logbook. He explained they would be doing a “Class 4” inspection. She asked what that involved and was told it included submitting to a urine test for drugs and alcohol right there on the spot.
“My husband had been telling me for months this was coming and I knew it had been talked about,” she said. “But I was sure that sooner or later, someone would put the brakes on, since it was so obviously unconstitutional.”
Jones said she felt shocked and sick to realize this was actually happening, and happening to her. “I hadn’t done anything that could lead anyone to believe I was drunk or on drugs, but it didn’t matter,” she said. “Eenie, meenie, minee, moe. I was it.”
When she asked the officer if he had any reason to think she might be drunk, or on drugs, he explained that this was a “random” test and a reason did not matter. She refused to take the drug test.
“I had been told that the penalty for refusing was 90 days in jail and a $500 fine,” she said. “I fully expected to be taken to jail. I was scared to death, but I wasn’t going to roll over and play dead for this.”
After she refused, she learned she wasn’t going directly to jail.
“I was issued a citation for ‘failure to obey a lawful order.’ Before I signed the citation, I requested that the officer detail what I failed to do, which he did. Then I signed. Then I was free to leave,” said Jones.
She said after her knees quit shaking, the rage came. “I got mad, and very, very determined.” She called the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in Grain Valley, MO. She wasn’t sure how she’d be accepted as she was not an owner-operator or a member. She was received warmly and she was assured the organization would support her in her refusal. She became a member that same day. She went to see the deputy prosecuting attorney in Lincoln County a week later. “Per OOIDA’s advice, I had taken a drug test at my doctor’s office the next day (which was negative),” Ruth said, “in case it became necessary at some point to prove my innocence.”
She spoke to the deputy prosecutor at length about her strong feelings on this matter. She signed papers to plead not guilty, and a court date was set for Dec. 9, 1992. The deputy prosecutor indicated it had not been decided whether or not to prosecute this case and Jones was told to call in two weeks.
Many phone calls later, on Dec. 7, the charges were dismissed “in the interests of justice.”
What happened to Ruth that day in 1992 set in motion a commitment to truckers’ rights that lasted the rest of her life. She was one of the fewer than a dozen truckers nationwide who said “no” to the U.S. government’s experiment to see if truckers would forsake their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to random roadside urine tests. Ruth not only said, “no, not as long as the flag still flies over this country,” to Nebraska enforcement, but she said “no” again to truck enforcement in Utah less than three months later. Her association with OOIDA became a driving force in her life. She was a plaintiff in their case, suing the U.S. government over this outrageous and unconstitutional program. Soon after, the government quietly ended their unconstitutional project.
Ruth Fledderman Jones was born in Louisville, KY, on Dec. 2, 1948. She attended college in Kentucky and later, took additional courses at the Fort Scott, KS, Community College. She earned her class A CDL in 1979. On her first job driving, she drove 48 states for M. Bruenger, a freight company out of Wichita, KS. While driving for Bruenger, she met Dee Jones, another Bruenger company driver from Conway, AR. In 1982, she began driving for Westport Trucking out of Olathe, KS, but it wasn’t long before she and Dee began driving as a team for Miller Trucking out of Stroud, OK. On Dec. 16, 1983, she and Dee were married. In 1986, they settled in Fort Scott. In the spring of 1987, the Jones’ began driving for All Freight Systems out of Kansas City, KS.
Ruth was an extraordinarily well-spoken individual and able writer. She was already an award-winning short story writer when in 1995, she was coaxed from the road by OOIDA’s Todd Spencer. In March, she took a job at OOIDA headquarters with Land Line Magazine as a staff writer. She brought to the magazine the same dedication and zeal she gave to OOIDA. In June of 1996, she and Dee moved to Lone Jack, MO, so she could be closer to the Grain Valley, MO, office. Despite her full-time job as senior editor at Land Line, Ruth never gave up her CDL and frequently hauled loads for All Freight, both alone and with her husband.
Ruth was a member and director of the Truck Writers of North America. She was a member of the National Association of Show Trucks, and she and Dee were active participants in NAST competition with a black/teal customized Freightliner (“Lost in the Fifties”) owned by All Freight Systems.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer in July 1998. Through the treatments and surgeries, she continued to work as Land Line’s senior editor until earlier this year. Even then, she contributed both copy and advice from her home.
Ruth Jones, age 52, passed away June 8 at her home in Lone Jack, MO. Ruth is survived by her husband, Dee, their six children, Arlington W. (Chris) Price III of Joliet, IL; Sandra Auldridge of Odessa, MO; Sherry Jones of Conway, AR; David Jones of Conway; Stormi Davenport of Wichita, KS; and Misti Ryan of Odessa, and 15 grandchildren. She is also survived by her parents, Bud and Helen Fledderman of Louisville, KY, and a brother, Harry Richard Fledderman Jr. of Louisville.
The family suggests donations in Ruth’s name to the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA), 11132 Ventura Boulevard Suite 401, Studio City, CA 91604-3156.
by Sandi Soendker