By Henry R. "Hank" Good, OOIDA senior member, Monticello, NY
As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a trucker. I was probably the only one in first grade who already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and who followed through on my dream. It’s a decision I never regretted. I’ve always been proud to be a trucker and of my profession, and conducted myself in a professional manner.
I took my Class 1 road test on my 21st birthday and I’ve been trucking ever since. I almost immediately knew I wanted to own my own truck. Less than three years later I bought my first truck, a used 1974 Kenworth K100 and became an owner-operator.
That same year Kenworth came out with the new VIT 200, later to be called the Aerodyne. The truck became my dream. Five years later on July 23, 1981, that dream became a reality.
I ran a steady run from New York to California and back twice a month for Carretta Trucking. I also competed in several truck shows each year with my truck and became an original “Trucker Buddy.”
By the early ’90s my truck, which by then I called “Hank’s Highway Hilton,” and I had been featured in many magazine and newspaper articles and on TV here and internationally. I did several tours in Europe and, after each one, I went right back to hauling freight for Carretta Trucking.
While in Europe in 1995, things were not going good for Carretta. I arrived home and was ready to restart working for them, but they went out of business. I knew that, to find a good company that would give me a lease for my trusty old 1981 KW, I would have to totally restore it. I started to look for both the financing and a company to call my new home.
Just as the financing and help from past sponsors for a restoration was coming through, I was involved in an on-the-job (non-driving) accident that required two surgeries. I wasn’t letting this stop me, and I pushed on.
Fifteen months later my truck was totally restored and looked better than when it was new. A month later I was cleared by my doctor and returned to trucking.
Less than a year later, I had more medical problems that included a hip replacement. My main goal now was just to get back on the road.
As I still had some savings left and my credit was still good, I started to look for a nice used truck that I could turn into my next “Highway Hilton.”
I finally found a W900-L that I really liked. It had all the options I was looking for, was low mileage and well-maintained, and was at the same Kenworth dealer who had restored my old truck 10 years earlier.
I was soon ready to go back on the road but ran into another major obstacle. All these big fleets think that us older drivers have early-onset Alzheimer’s and that we forget how to drive a truck after a few years off the road.
Anyone who had wanted to be a trucker as long as I did and had driven a truck as long as I did, doesn’t forget what had become like first nature.
I didn’t give up. I made some more calls and was politely turned down. One big company even emailed me that they would rather have someone with just one year experience than someone with 39 years experience like me. Others didn’t even reply.
Now, after eight years off the road, I’m driving the “Highway Hilton II” – or “Hank Two” for short – for Gully Transportation. The new truck is already acquiring the famous decor that Hilton No. 1 had. And I also have a new passenger these days – my dog Bear.
As for the first “Highway Hilton,” it has a million and a half miles and is still running strong. It was restored while I was recuperating, and these days it’s just for looks. LL