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Trucker to Trucker
OOIDA directors Fred Barnes and Ralph Fries: examples in leadership

Ray Kasicki
OOIDA Board member

Fred Barnes and Ralph Fries are the only board members in the history of OOIDA who have had the honor to be called a Director Emeritus. These men have not looked for recognition, but have worked tirelessly to make OOIDA what it is today. We could all learn from them.

Fred Barnes, 
Kansas City, MO

Fred knew at a very young age what he wanted to do. He remembers standing on a corner in Vienna, GA, watching an old Ford truck go by, and could hear the gears screaming, and right there he knew what he wanted to do. When he was 15 years old, his family moved to Kansas City. When he was in high school he would occasionally get the chance to drive his father’s dump truck, even though he didn’t have a license. When he graduated from high school, he joined the Marines. There he was trained as a mechanic and machinist. When he left the Marine Corps he continued his mechanical training and received his certification from the U.S. Trade School. This gave Fred the knowledge he needed to maintain his equipment, and this training has been one of the reasons for his success. By 1967 he was running three dump trucks and bought his first road truck in 1968.

When Fred’s father was involved in a fatal truck accident, Fred was asked if he would complete his father’s lease. Upon completion of the lease, Fred decided to renew his lease again, and he continued trucking.

In 1973, Fred was at the first meeting of disgruntled truckers that resulted in the formation of OOIDA. He already had a list of the things that needed changed in the trucking industry — uniform weight laws, one license plate, IFTA, bingo cards to name a few. After that meeting Fred was a faithful OOIDA member. He knew OOIDA was the way to make things happen.

Fred waited until 1994 to serve on the board of directors, so he could dedicate more of his time and service.

Today, Fred has two dump trucks, two road trucks and owns one third of a charter bus company. Fred still does most of his own maintenance. He must be doing it right. He just traded in a Freightliner that had 1.3 million miles and never had a pan off or a head removed. He even got 500,000 miles to a set of tires. His secret ... air pressure, air pressure, air pressure. Good maintenance really pays off. We could all learn from Fred’s maintenance programs.

When Fred’s not trucking, he likes playing with old cars, riding his two-wheeler (bicycle that is), and watching old movies (especially westerns).

Ralph Fries, 
Escondido, CA

Ralph’s grandparents came from Denmark and worked their way across America and homesteaded in Brewster, WA, where Ralph grew up. Ralph headed a mechanics’ school before joining the U.S. Navy in 1957. For 20 years, Ralph worked his way to commission warrant officer, serving in Vietnam along the way. His final duty was being director of machinery repairman schools in San Diego. He was a man on a mission. Before he retired from active duty in 1977, he had already bought his first truck and two months later loaded for Bekins.

Ralph joined OOIDA in 1979. He applied for his own authority in 1986 and in 1990 was elected to the board of directors for OOIDA.

Today, Ralph owns a flatbed, hauling containerized household goods for the military.

He’s been semi-retired since 1993, but still gets behind the wheel on occasion to relieve his son. But I think it’s just because he still likes to drive a truck.

Ralph continues to serve on the OOIDA board as well as on the advisory committees of the California DOT, the California DMV and the California Highway Patrol.

Most people who are semi-retired begin to relax, right? Not Ralph. Instead of just sitting around, he has taken a Freightliner conventional down to the bare frame and completely rebuilt everything. But he hasn’t stopped there. He is now doing the same to a furniture van.

A project of the heart for Ralph was his recent involvement with heading up a group of Vietnam veterans who are paying tribute to their fallen comrades by building the U.S. Navy/U.S. Coast Guard Vietnam Memorial Monument and Small Boat Display in Coronado, CA.

He is active in several veteran organizations, including the Military Officers Association of America, Fleet Reserve Association and the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association, to name a few. He is also involved with the OOIDA Scholarship Foundation. He enjoys traveling with his motor home. In his travels, Ralph has been able to trace his family tree as far back as 1698.

Ralph enjoys spending time with his two sons and five grandchildren. Ralph met his wife, Harlean, at a dance in Long Beach, CA, and it was love at first sight. He says he didn’t get to spend much time with his family when they were growing up, so he spends as much time as he can with them now.

These two men know how to be successful truckers and have done their part in making OOIDA successful.