Driven dads
Editor's note: Through the year we receive many letters and calls about exceptional truckers who successfully juggle life on the road with life at home. As a special Father's Day tribute this issue, we are publishing two of those letters. Join us this June in celebrating all of the truckin' dads who are making a difference.

John Patrick: The story behind the story

By Barbara Phillips
Pocahontas, AR

While reading "Roses and Razzberries" in the December 2005/January 2006 issue, I was surprised to see a "rose" for my dad, John Patrick, for his efforts to build and maintain truck parking spaces. I wanted to give Land Line readers some more background on him.

His concern for truck drivers stems from a former career as an owner-operator.

Dad drove solo for several years, with my mom, Anne, joining him as a co-driver after all three of us kids were grown. They drove team for more than 15 years. Both were members of OOIDA.

In 1987, Dad, along with Mom at his side, was named a runner up for the "Goodyear Highway Hero." This honor came after he was nominated and selected as the state winner for Arkansas in 1986. The honor was partly due to their assistance at a fatal accident in northeast Florida.

In 1989, Dad and Mom were selected as the very first Owner-Operators of the Year for Owner-Operator magazine and ATA. They received an International truck and numerous other prizes. Unfortunately, after only one year, they lost that truck in a fiery crash outside of Idabel, OK, when a car ran a stop light and hit them.

Luckily, neither Dad nor Mom were seriously injured. At the urging of family members, they decided to stay home. They continued to keep three trucks on the road, though, with excellent drivers in each. Eventually, after more than 30 years in the trucking industry, they decided to sell out.

Dad ran for mayor of Pocahontas, AR, less than two years after deciding to stay home. He served in that position for 12 years before retiring. During all that time, he continued to keep his CDL - and he still does. Not being one to sit still, following his retirement he started driving a grain truck part time for a local farmer.

Regarding the gravel parking lot that Dad had built, sadly, the current Pocahontas city administration has leased that lot to a local trucking company and the concrete pads have been removed. Truckers are still able to park there, although many have chosen to park elsewhere.

I had great respect for America's truck drivers, even before I married one. My husband, Jeff Phillips, is an owner-operator leased to Cornhusker Motor Lines of Omaha, NE. We are both members of OOIDA. Being an owner-operator is a new experience for us. Jeff was a company driver for more than 25 years. Luckily, I am able to go with Jeff much of the time.

My prayers go out to all truckers and their families, as I know firsthand how many lonely hours are spent by the drivers on the road and the families at home.

Rocky Simmons: Nothing keeps this 'regular guy' down

By Lori Simmons
Copperas Cove, TX

To others, my father, Rocky Simmons, is just a standard hard-working man, a regular guy.

He's 5 feet 8 inches, 230 pounds. He wears oil-stained work boots that look 10 years old, faded jeans stained with whatever he's run into that day, a blue jean shirt and a baseball cap.

He has made his living driving either a Peterbilt or International truck for more than 20 years. His driving record is spotless. He has pulled everything with the exception of a tanker.

To me, he is an exceptional man. The most significant thing about him is he's done it all with one arm. He lost his arm when he was 3 when a drunken driver ran into the parked motorcycle he was sitting on.

Teased and tormented as a child, he learned early how to defend himself. As a troubled teen, he virtually raised himself as he bounced from one family member's house to another. Finally, when he was 20, he settled down in a small town in Texas to raise a family.

My favorite story about him is how he learned to tie his shoes. He was teased in school, so he went home and locked himself in his room. He didn't come out until he could tie his shoes. It took nearly an entire day. That taught him about determination.

After that, no matter what was thrown at him, once he had a chance to react, he picked himself up and finished the job no matter how impossible it looked.

He started driving a truck shortly after the birth of his son and has been going off and on since then. I say off and on because in 1998 the U.S. DOT started enforcing an old law requiring drivers to have two hands on the wheel, or provide a medical waiver.

In 2000, he was stopped in Nebraska and was told to shut his truck down. Like any person forced to stop doing the only thing they know, he sunk into depression, feeling useless. Being the man he is, though, he never gave up. He picked himself up and started fighting.

For years he tried to obtain a waiver. On one attempt he contacted the head of the DOT, who told my father that as long as he was in office he would never grant a medical waiver. With that response my father contacted the EEOC about being discriminated against. His concerns were never addressed.

Not being able to obtain a waiver prevented him from making a living the only way he knew how, even though he had a spotless driving record.

The next step, and probably the hardest for him, was accepting he was disabled. To him the term "disabled" means you can't, and that goes against how he lived his entire life.

He loved his truck and was willing to do whatever it took to return to it. He found a doctor in Utah who designed a prosthetic to allow him to have two hands on the wheel. He went through many prototypes and rewrote the book many times on outfitting someone with a false arm. My father pushed the designer in Utah to the edge to create a design that would work.

The state of Texas decided in 1995 that he was able to run within state lines without a medical waiver.

With intrastate loads not paying much, and having the temperament of a fighter, my father took on the U.S. DOT. He was going to show them that not only could he do it, but he could do it better than a two-armed person.

My dad is many things. He's determined, proud, strong and dependable, but one thing he's not is disabled. He does a job that it takes most people two hands to do, with one. He drives a standard 10-gear truck. He throws his own straps to ensure his load is tied right.

I have never once seen my dad give up on anything because he didn't have two arms. I have seen him spend countless hours changing the rims on his tires, rebuilding his engine and maintaining his truck through hard work, sweat, tears and blood.

Truckers are a different breed. My father took on the system and won on his own terms. He sits in his truck today, proving that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.