… more than a dozen trips to the moon and back
During the past 65 years, John Taylor has trucked more than six and a half million miles mostly hauling goods and produce coast-to-coast. That’s more than enough miles to make … more than a dozen trips to the moon and back.

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

OOIDA Life Member John Taylor, Cross Junction, Va., has never drawn a paycheck for anything other than trucking.  

Since August, John’s been off the road recuperating from heart surgery, and the weeks at home have given Taylor time to reflect on his extraordinary career. It’s a career that included more than 65 years truck driving with only one incident: He bumped a light pole in 2003.

It also includes more than 20 years as a board member of OOIDA – a job from which he’s reluctantly resigning.

“OOIDA is like a family to me and it’s hard for me, but I think I need to make way for young people who are keen on communications and technology,” says John. 

Back in the ’70s, John was one of the first OOIDA members. He was president of the Shenandoah Valley Truckers Association and knew truckers had to get proactive in order to survive. He knew that OOIDA was the glue that could get truckers to stick together.

In December of 1992, he was sworn in as a board member, a job he’s held since.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston describes John as an outstanding and very vocal advocate for the interests of professional truckers.

“John has my deepest respect and admiration, and I am proud to consider him a friend,” says Johnston.

Fellow board members use words like “tough and outspoken” and “rock-solid” when they talk about Taylor. Perhaps that’s why he has been described by people like U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia as a role model and successful leader.

As a board member, Johnston says Taylor has given unselfishly of his personal time for many years to advance the interests of the membership and all professional truckers. He’s made numerous trips to D.C. on behalf of OOIDA.  Some years ago, Taylor made national news when he took U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia for a truck trip. And that’s just the short list.

Although John is stepping down from the board, he’s far from ready to say he’s done truckin’. In fact, he’s planning to get back behind the wheel soon.

John has his own authority. And just before his surgery, he’d been pulling a dry bulk tank for H.H. Omps, a family-owned company out of Winchester.

“Well, I wanted to get away from the coast-to-coast produce runs I made for so many years,” says John. “I wanted to spend more time at home. You know, I’ve trucked in every state and up and down almost every highway. The longest trip I’ve made lately is to Toledo and back to Winchester, Va.”

Taylor talks easily about collision control, crash avoidance systems and CARB rules, but recalls when there were few sleeper cabs, no air conditioning, no air ride suspensions or decent seats.

His perspective is extraordinary.

“We talk a lot today about where the next generation of truckers will come from, and I really don’t know,” says John. “It’s always been a hard job, but the world has changed. Now there are so many rules, decreasing pay, so little respect. I don’t know where the next truckers will come from, but there’s one thing I know. There has to be people who want the job, who want to be truckers. We’ve got to get that kind of respect back.”

John says one of the problems with “getting that respect back” is that those who preach it – industry players and truckers, too – don’t even know what it feels like to be really proud to be a driver.

“I remember what it was like. Everyone thought the world of truck drivers, and we didn’t have problems with anyone. Even law enforcement liked truckers. We got along. People respected us, and it made for a great job. People trying to figure out how to make that happen again do not even know what it feels like. It’s been too long ago. That’s the problem.” LL