Sunday, January 11, 2004

Look Who's Talking: Henry Browning



[IMAGE] Henry Browning has been a truck driver for 40 years.
(Gary Landers photo)
Henry Browning has seen just about everything in the trucking industry over his 40 years as a driver, and even considers himself as a pretty good bellwether for the state of the nation's economy. At 67, the Maineville resident still drives upward of 40 hours a week for Ace Doran Rigging & Hauling Co. of Northside, leasing his 1992 Peterbilt truck to the flatbed shipping company. As federal officials last week changed how many hours a driver can operate a big rig during a day and how long a trucker can be on duty, Browning shared his observations about his industry and the economy in general.

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF and other truckers as a good preliminary indicator of where the economy is headed? If so, what's in store?

Oh yeah. When it's slow or going to get slow, we don't drive nearly as much and you just sit at home. And there is always a slowdown in July and August, when plants shut down for vacations and inventory, and in the past couple of years, it's been slow after that. But this year, I've been working very steady since August. And I haven't had to go to places where I don't want to go, like New York City, which can be the case when things are slow.

HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED in the past 40 years?

There is just a different quality of driver out there that is coming into the industry than we've had in the last 20 years. It's just less respect for the road, and for the job. They just don't drive as good. I call it a generation gap. Another thing that has changed is that these shippers put it on the truck and want it there the next day, no matter where you're going. Just the whole thing has changed, with shipping and receiving and the personnel.

SO WHY ARE YOU STILL GOING at your age?

Well, I could just go home and sit down, but I've tried that, and I'm not very good at it. I just don't want to set down. I mean I don't have many hobbies. My hobby has always been trucks.

WHAT DO YOU THINK about the new rest rule changes?

Anytime the government does something like this, they are taking something away from you instead of giving you something. It's going to be tough on a lot of guys. For example, because lunches count against your time, you're going to see a lot of these guys stopping at McDonald's because you can't do all you need to in 14 hours. But myself, I'm not crazy about fast foods. I like to go in and sit down when I eat and relax, which helps me pay better attention when I get back on the road.

James Pilcher



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