By Ron Watson, Jr.
“I don’t need the money, but I get to travel again and it’s great. When you drive 4 million miles, it’s hard to put the brakes on.”
Rodney Rodenberg (RAR Express)
When Rodney Rodenberg looks back at over four million miles of a shipping career, he can’t help but laugh.
The new CitizenShipper part-time hauler – who once drove over the road shipments coast to coast – now gets to retrace some of those old highways at his own pace.
“It’s great driving the roads I used to have to hustle over, only now I’m a professional tourist,” he said this week from his home in Elkader, Iowa. “I get to help somebody out by taking a load when I travel, earn some gas money, but most importantly see my grandkids.”
With a brood of grandchildren spread over Texas, Georgia and Virginia, Rodenberg has hauled several loads between those states, including a mini Ferris Wheel and a 40 ft. Cabin Cruiser.
The Marine Corps veteran and second-generation trucker is all about family and the road. His father drove loads for 30 years.
“When I got out of the Marines in 1970, I worked a few other jobs and said ‘the heck with it, I’ll be a truck driver’. Back in those days there weren’t any truck driving schools, so I asked my dad to put a good word in for me somewhere.
“He said: ‘Nope. Nobody helped me. You’ll have to do it yourself.’ And I did.”
But his father’s good name did offer a helping hand in the end.
“I finally found a spot after a local guy saw my application and said ‘You’re a Rodenburg, you can drive a truck.’ So I showed up four hours early my first day to get a head start.”
And his trucking career began at Sammons Trucking Corporation out of Missoula, MT., at first between Iowa and Chicago. Then Pennsylvania and Maryland were added to his manifest.
“That’s when I first got the bug and found that I just loved to drive,” said Rodenberg. “I worked for a few companies after Sammons, then they deregulated the trucking industry in 1980 and I had my own rig for a few years.”
1983 saw a seasoned Rodenburg working as a driver trainer at KLLM Trucking in Jackson, MS, and earned a spot in the company’s prestigious ‘Million Miles Safe Driving Hall of Fame’. Several years later he lost the eyesight in one eye and had to retire.
“I kept trying to quit, but when that happened I knew something was telling me to get off the road.”
So he worked 10 more years in Amarillo, TX, as a corrections officer and HVAC technician before heading home to Iowa. By that time the first of his grandkids were arriving and eventually he had seven good reasons to get back on the road.
“I don’t need the money, but I get to travel again and it’s great,” Rodenburg said. “When you drive four million miles, it’s hard to put the brakes on.”