Bob grew up on some pretty mean streets in Philly. He now lives in Laurel Springs, NJ. He talks tough, with that wise guy-East Coast way of talking, and you know immediately you’d rather have him for a friend than an adversary. He broke into trucking as an owner-operator. His first truck was a 1942 International K-5 straight truck. He spent most of his trucking years pulling a tanker and hauling hazardous materials. Bob makes no bones about what he likes and what he believes in. For instance, he likes Mack trucks. In fact, he had five trucks at one time and I think they were all Macks. In 1986, he was proud to have his new Superliner Mack on the cover of Land Line. He’s a life member of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, having joined in August 1984. When Bob believes in something, he goes to bat. He does more than just “believe” in stuff. He wades right in. He is a member of the OOIDA board of directors and is involved with the industry on many issues. For example, he believes in rigid training for truckers and is a former vice chairman of the Professional Truck Drivers Institute. A detail maniac, he worked with PTDI to produce the first manual created to teach truckdriver training. And speaking of driver training, Bob used to be a truckdriving instructor and I’ll bet he was one teacher young drivers never forgot. One thing no one will ever forget was the day he climbed into an idling truck and a huge explosion blew him right back out the way he went in. This explosion has made it hard for him to breathe ever since and for years has wreaked havoc with his digestive system and immune system.
When Bob was a young lad, he was an amateur boxer and this may explain why he is somehow able to get up every time he’s knocked down. By 1975, Bob returned to trucking and was hauling chemicals and other bulk cargo. Because of his experience with trucking and hazmat (and his perfectionist attention to detail), Bob has been very involved with hazmat training and response for years. When hazmat rules were developed, he served as OOIDA’s representative. Years ago, he appeared on the Geraldo Rivera show, discussing “toxic backhauls,” the practice of using reefers to haul food one way and chemical or biohazardous stuff back. Bob vehemently criticized practices that could contaminate a load and thus poison thousands of unsuspecting people. Geraldo wanted someone from OOIDA on the show and most guys would be a bit nervous about it since he liked to chew you up right on the show. Who from OOIDA could handle Geraldo and get the message across? Yep. Bob. About the same time, he represented truckers by presenting OOIDA testimony on the floor of the U.S. Congress. I have to add that this trucker from New Jersey was pretty darned effective. The lawmakers were discussing at one point the practice of hauling medical waste in reefers. Those who claimed a plastic-lined reefer trailer was sufficient protection had their say. Plastic was spread out on the floor and purported to be tear resistant. When it was Bob’s turn to speak, he waved around a sample of this super-duty plastic and demonstrated how tear resistant it was by easily poking his finger right through it. The first time I met Bob was in 1992 at the “zero-base review” hearing in Washington, DC. I was there representing a small organization of truckers from Ohio. I showed him my statement and he made a few suggestions on how to present it. He invited me to have supper with him that evening and then to sit in the next morning on the discussion of problems in updating the DOT handbook. Needless to say, I was a bit impressed. But what really impressed me that day the most was to come later. At this hearing, there was a woman from Texas who was a professional trucker. She testified that the number of tickets a driver gets really has no correlation to safety. She cited the miles she had driven and said she had never had an accident. To prove her point, she gave the committee a handful of tickets that had been issued to her. The safety groups in attendance really reacted to this, as well as the law enforcement officials and insurance companies in attendance. While some chastising was going on over the tickets, a single person began applauding in recognition of the point she had made. The rest of the truckdrivers there joined him and gave her a standing ovation. This guy, by himself, turned this crowd around, when no one else would stand up. Pure attitude. I have learned a lot from this guy, but that day he taught me you have to stand up for what you believe in, even though you are the only one willing to do so. Through the years, I have learned even more about my friend Bob. To the words that describe him, I can add “amazing.” Bob writes poetry. Beautiful, scripted poetry. He’s even published a book of his poetry. In fact, he has served as president of the New Jersey Poets Society. So you can see it’s kind of hard to describe Bob because he’s such a paradox. His longtime fiancée is a special woman named JoAnn, who describes him as a “stubborn Irishman.” To his family, she says, he is an “ultimate humanitarian.” He sees an elderly woman carrying heavy bags of groceries down the street in the cold. He stops to give her a ride home because he has seen her before, collecting for the Salvation Army on the street corner. I was talking not long ago to another trucking friend, Bob Esler, who knows Bob well. They met in the early ’80s, participating as test drivers during the FMVSS 121 Brake Test in East Liberty, OH. “He’s a walking encyclopedia on such items as chemicals, drugs (legal and otherwise), and driver training and safety,” says Esler. He pretty well nailed it when he said Bob has the “grit of a bull dog, blended with an Irish heritage with the street smarts to back it up.”
There are many people that work for the OOIDA and they all do great work for the association, but this guy stands out as one of the best. He’s Robert E. Driscoll, general vice president of OOIDA, a good friend to have and a great ally.