This month we are honoring Mark Howell as the Roane Transportation driver of the month! We met with Mark to ask him about his truck driving career, his experience working for Roane transportation, his personal life, and much more. His passion for truck driving was obvious throughout the interview and he feels blessed to be able to support his family doing a job that he truly enjoys.
How did you start your career in truck driving?
As a kid, I grew up liking trucks. I loved watching trucks on the road and doing the arm pump to make them blow their horn. Back in 1994, after high school, I got the opportunity to go to truck driving school. If you find something that you like to do for an occupation, it’s like you never have to work a day in your life and I really enjoy what I do. My grandfather and my uncle were heavy equipment mechanics and had wreckers, I started out helping them with that.
How long have you been driving for Roane Transportation and what has your experience been like?
November will make three years; I started back in 2019. I’ve loved working for Roane, it’s really a great place to be. They are family-oriented and if I need time off for something there’s never a question about it. This job works well for me because I need to be home every weekend and I didn’t expect them to make that happen, it’s really hard to find that. Roane gives me plenty of time at home which is great because me and my wife are raising our grandkids. All in all, Roane is a great company to be with—good money and good home time.
Tell me about your position, and what is your typical day is like?
I am an over the road flatbed truck driver. I typically load up my truck the day before so I can leave from my house with it already loaded. I’ll deliver that load, unstrap or remove the tarp, and they come out and unload. I usually carry 2 or 3 loads a day and I get the information about where I’m going on my phone ahead of time which allows me to plan my day and be more efficient. It saves me time and it saves them money.
With the currently high demand for truck drivers, why should someone choose to work at Roane Transportation instead of another company?
I’ve worked for two other companies and what separates Roane from the rest is that they are there for you. If you need home time for anything they work with you. If you have any questions during loads, an emergency comes up, if there’s something wrong with the load or it’s not safe, they are there to support you. They have great equipment, and they take great care of their equipment. The tires and brakes on their trucks are well taken care of. I wish I had found Roane back in ’94 when I started driving to be honest with you. They’re great people to work with.
What is your favorite thing about truck driving?
I enjoy spending my days outside, I am not an inside person; I tried plant work at one point years ago and I didn’t like being inside all day. With truck driving I’m out here in the elements, it gets hot and I get sweaty and tired and it gets cold and you’ve got to bundle up. Driving in the snow and the rain is just part of it.
I know I have a boss ahead of me, but in a way, I am my own boss. I can regulate when I make deliveries, I call the shots on if the roads are too bad to drive and I can pull off.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
A lot of cars and trucks on the road just aren’t concerned with safety. There isn’t respect for drivers like there was years ago, some people will just try to run you off the road. Another thing that can be challenging is staying patient when there are other trucks unloading or loading ahead of you. Sometimes you have to wait on 10 or 12 trucks ahead of you, but like I said earlier, if you find a job that you like, you can get past stuff like that.
What is your favorite form of entertainment when you’re on the road? Favorite music, audiobooks, podcasts etc.
I have Sirius XM radio in my truck and I listen to the Enlighten channel a lot, it’s Christian music. I also have the Bible on CD so I turn that on and listen to it sometimes. I just think about the Lord and the peace he has given me throughout my days.
What routes do you typically drive?
I’m kind of regional, I run mostly North Carolina, South Carolina, and back to Tennessee. So, I’m home 2 or 3 nights out of the week and I’m back home for sure by Friday so I can take the weekend off. Sometimes I go to Virginia or Georgia, and I can make just as much money driving in this region as I would going out West and it costs more to eat and live out there than it does here.
If you could drive cross country with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I’d love to have the opportunity to ride cross country with my wife. We’re really busy with the grandchildren right now, but one day that would be awesome.
A lot of truck drivers have nicknames, do you have one? Is there a story behind it?
Yes, they call me “Preacher”. I pastored a church for 11 years and I never asked for the handle, they just gave it to me and I took it—there’s far worse things to be called.
Where’s your favorite place to stop to grab a bite to eat while you’re on the road?
Years ago, there were a lot of Mom and Pop places you could stop and get a good meal and good hospitality. Everything now is just fast food which is not good for drivers. It’s convenient, but in the long run it’s not healthy. I would say that my favorite place to eat is the Iron Skillet at the Petro Truck Stops. Since I’m home every other night, I better say my wife’s cooking though! I’d prefer that over Iron Skillet or anywhere else.
Is there a specific city or area where you experience the worst traffic/worst drivers?
There seems to be a lot of construction on the roads right now but I’m a seasoned driver and I just take it as it comes and try not to get bent out of shape about things. There are areas that are less driver-friendly and places where roads aren’t updated. Pittsburg is one of those places that is rough for truck drivers, it has low underpasses and a lot of light-weight roads where you can’t drive an 80,000 lb. load.
Are there any misconceptions that you think people have about truck driving?
Yes, I could make a whole list for this one. One bad apple doesn’t mean the whole bag is bad but that’s how people look at it. Years ago, we had more respect for each other and drivers looked out for one another—if someone was broken down on the side of the road, you stopped to help them. The biggest misconception is that drivers are nasty and we smell and we want to run you off the road. Like I said, it’s easy for people to see one bad apple or have one bad experience and build their entire conception of truck drivers off of that. If they only knew how many times, we have avoided wrecks and how often we prevent others from getting into wrecks, they wouldn’t treat us the way that they do. A lot of people just don’t understand our job or how hard it is to stop on a dime or make wide turns at red lights. They make it hard for us sometimes and everything would be so much easier if they worked with us.
Tell us a little about yourself—where you’re from, family, what you like to do in your free time etc.
I grew up in Pikeville, KY and I currently live in Rutledge, TN. I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Brenda, for 32 years. We have 3 children, and 7 grandchildren that were all born in the last 6 years. Having grandchildren is awesome, they’re my pride and joy and I love every one of them. In my free time I like to spend time with them, take them to church, read and spread God’s word. I like to preach and just tell people about Jesus. I am an Evangelist, so I talk to people, sometimes on the job, and I do tent revivals. I go where the Lord leads me, we set up the tent and we have church under there. We just try to reach people and show them that there is hope.
Drive with Roane Transportation
At Roane Transportation we know that drivers like Mark Howell are the heart of our company and a crucial part of the economy. We put our drivers first, offer industry-leading pay, great benefits, top-of-the-line equipment, and home time is always a priority. If you are in search of a lucrative career with a company that truly values you, click here to learn more or apply now!