Brett Harpe

Interview by
Published on
January 4, 2022

In this episode...

Brett Harpe has driven professionally for decades and at FreightWorks for two years. He and his wife and driving partner Jerri know the rigors of the road and daily blessing of being part of a caring, compassionate FreightWorks driver community. He shares about his near death experience, the joys of driving with his wife (he calls her his “best friend”) and tips for safe and efficient driving on America’s busy highways. He and Butch also discussed the Mid America Truck Show (MATS) and plans FreightWorks has to flag the company flag, build industry relationships and also recruit drivers. Donning a FreightWorks cap while dressed in blue jean overalls Bret reminds us every driver has a story, our team reflects great diversity and yet in the end we’re a big family! He also makes it a special point to honor God who he says “guides each mile along the way.” You’ll be inspired by his story.

Brett Harpe

Brett Harpe has driven professionally for decades and at FreightWorks for two years. He and his wife and driving partner Jerri know the rigors of the road and daily blessing of being part of a caring, compassionate FreightWorks driver community.


I would tell them I've been driving a truck since 1988 so that's like 33 years I owned i was an owner-operator for all the years up until uh 2017 and then I come here in 2019 after my illness and

even as companies I work for as owner-operator and everything freight works is a top-notch company and they've treated me and my wife as well or better than any other company we've been with

life by the mile delivered by freight works is your 30-minute weekly podcast adventure you'll hear the hearts soul and passions of those who keep America moving to join us we're ready to roll

it's an exciting new year 2022 and we're looking forward to life by the mile delivered by freightworks i'm your host butch maltby uh today we've got a guest brent harp we're gonna keep going behind the scenes in this coming year of drivers here at freight works we'll have outside experts that are talking about trucking and logistics and more and more through the course of the year just give you the opportunity to come to understand this dynamic industry we call american transportation so brett welcome thank you it's great to have you here great to be here and uh you know we'd love to get behind the stories of people and the names of people so brett you and your wife jerry are over the road uh drivers professional drivers for freight works but your story started a lot earlier than that so let's go ahead and start at the beginning how did you get your start transportation i understand it wasn't with trucks initially it was no it was working on river boats on tow boats on the river and i did that for eight years with a company called american commercial barge line in jeffersonville indiana so you'd go up and down the ohio river and the mississippi river in the mississippi and also i've been from the mississippi river up there the canal to houston texas also really yes okay yeah okay now because a lot of people won't know about tugboats and i'm one of them uh tell me a little bit about how they're screwed how they're snapped there is uh six deck members uh that pick up and drop the barges go through the locks and do all the daily things uh that associated with that and then you have a captain who actually runs the boat and a pilot who works with him they work we work six hours she has six hours on six hours off okay uh we have there's one cook and then there's also two engineers on the boat and you were saying the cook is kind of like everybody's mother everybody's mother now what kind of food would you eat what kind of food didn't we everything i mean they just uh just like home just like mom cooked just you got a home-cooked meal on it homemade pies and cakes and cookies and chicken and steak and fish i mean just anything you can think of isn't that something now those have to be massive engines uh the normal boat is back in the 80s there uh i understand they're bigger now uh was uh 5 600 horsepower for two engines when we had triple screw boats uh they had three engines on the lower mississippi river and they would push 40 barge toes and they were 10 500 horsepower 10 hundred horsepower and you're pushing those barges that's correct right and there's a real skill to that isn't there very much of a skill yeah i mean because you're not you're not really attached or you are no you're not well the barges and the boat are attached but i mean that's it and but the captains of those boats are so skilled because every time if the river's a different level the current is always different always changing so they've got to know have a special feel for how that water and that current is so they know how to maneuver and also on the lower mississippi river which is basically from alton illinois all the way to the gulf coast it's all free running river there's no locks no dams no nothing so you could be in 50 foot of water one moment and in two foot of water the next moment and it's always changing yes and that's so it takes a lot of skill so you did that for eight years and then what happened you became an older operator i became an owner operator where'd you go to uh truck driving school i did not go to i went to uh the school of hard knocks okay so you were back in the day where you could uh how would you do how did that work well like i said i knew some friends who uh worked for park who were released to perkins furniture transport and i went with one of these gentlemen i rode with him for four days uh and then i went and bought a truck and got in the truck and left and i've been doing it ever since and that's you know it reminds me a little bit of the story of freight works where josh farmer the founder and the president bought a truck online bought a truck on ebay and then it's like okay what do we do now right yeah so you became an owner operator you did that for a while i understand from a prior conversation that we had that you enjoyed the freedom of that and and then you had some health issues that came along and but at some point you made a decision i guess a couple years ago two years ago to come be part of freight works how did you hear about great works uh actually from another freightworks team uh ken and patricia stiltz that's how we we've been friends with them for probably 18 years okay from other we all work together at previous companies and things like that well and is it is it true that having a driver that's a friend refer a company is pretty powerful i mean that's real powerful yeah because if your friend's happy and they know what you like you've got a pretty good chance you're going to be happy well that's one of the reasons why i love that you're wearing that freightworks cap there because uh it shows people the company that you're with let me let me ask you this in your early days of trucking did you did you ever uh have like tell me about the first time that you backed up what what was that like it was real scary most people don't realize how big a truck is and what it requires of a professional driver to navigate it what was it like when you backed it up well it was real scary because you're like well what am i going to hit what am i you know am i going to do this and uh so much different you know than anything else i was used to backing uh fishing boats and things like that but never nothing that big well funny over the years the longer a trailer is the easier it is to back up okay so now when i go home and i get my little 14-foot boat out to go fishing it's like please don't watch me back up i can't do this that's right it goes everywhere yes sir and uh but uh now back in the 53-foot trailer uh it's real simple uh as a matter of fact in my home uh i i live on a corner on a corner lot in the city and i could park a tractor trailer in my yard and uh we had a garage built well 20 years ago now and they almost moved it too close to the edge of the street because on the corner there is a light pole okay with wires okay so you got to navigate that i have literally six inches to back that tractor trailer to clear it okay and that's all i have but you've done that many times like many times i could do it in my sleep now isn't that something yeah now you're an over-the-road driver and uh but you you have the the pleasure of the company of your wife that is yeah so talk a little bit about jerry's uh journey here well jerry started with me uh we've been married uh we'll be married 26 years we'll be married 27 years in may that is so good we have been in a truck i taught her to drive uh in 1997. what was that like well it was it was different uh she went to a quote-unquote truck driving school it was two weeks long and really they uh helped her get her cdl okay and beyond that that was about it but but the the rules of the road and just the subtleties and the new one all of that you were able to help her with well then i then i took her under my wing and uh took her and i just let her drive when she was comfortable and because i was an owner operator and and uh so i i picked and choose loads that uh so she could get into it and ease into it and what kind of loads were you doing when you were an owner operator i would i hauled furniture okay that's what i always done uh mostly as uh well in my early years in the later years uh jerry and myself we went we transformed into hauling ammo and explosives for the government you did we did yes sir okay so you got your hazmat yes we had all that and uh and we hauled them on explosives and people don't realize going down the interstate that there are trucks that are filled with explosives that's right they don't and radioactive material we hold that also and uh so we did all those things and then before i got sick right before we was an old romper we actually stepped in had our own authority for almost a year and we were actually hauling furniture once again okay and uh so obviously i would her and i we love home furniture you know i had the opportunity one time uh brett i think i heard you talking to her in the driver's lounge one time and i'm gonna say this what really impressed me in that moment is that you were just so sweet and kind and caring and and and you remember me saying something to you yeah i do i was sitting over the corner working and you were on the phone with her and it just really struck me a couple of things that you really loved her oh yeah and and you were just taking the time to be kind because we know that one of the great courses you drive together but we know that it's a stressful vocation and you seem to have been able to cultivate your relationship talk a little bit about her and i we're not just husband and wife we're best friends and uh as i said i was very sick in 2017 i was in the hospital for eight weeks then i was home in bed for several several weeks after that and she actually they wanted to put me in nursing home she said no she kept me home in bed took care of me and she went out and got a job first in a little small filling station convenience store and then later at walmart so that we could keep the lights on and do those things because all of her income was gone and she did that as well as take care of me when i couldn't take care of myself you know what folks i want to say this because it deserves the amplification and accentuating what brett just said if you want to know about the core of what makes america great it's it's this it's not people sitting home waiting for a check a stimulus right right it's people that believe that you take responsibility for your life that you uh have faith in god that you know he's going to guide you and direct you as you as you call out to him and i love these stories of resilience because to me what they say is is it says that uh your heart's been proven through oh yes as well that's right and and god too i mean because the first night i went to the hospital when they discovered what was wrong with me a doctor had taken me apart couldn't put me back together and told my wife your husband's going to die i can't fix him but you know god brought us through it and he took us through some very tough financial times also and so we're very thankful for god and he he's he's great that's all i can say well you know what the light of his life and you brett shines through even in this moment that we're having this conversation and we're grateful we say it often folks uh freightworks is a diverse family there are people of faith and people that aren't necessarily of a faith commitment but the foundations and the bedrock of this enterprise are clearly things that grow out of biblical truth all right so let's get back to your story okay so you started driving and uh how many miles do you think you've done through the years oh i have no idea it's just the odometer just keeps going just keeps going it just keeps going yeah uh have you had any um memorable times with weather weather yeah can you do you have a story where you thought you know what i really need your help here god because this is a serious like daughter pass or another pass or many times on the passes but yeah uh i i've got older and i'm not as brave as what i was okay when i was younger so now i don't i don't like to throw chains i don't like to do those things and we got all the technology to keep us safe so i'd rather park because i found out over the years that you can put the chains on and you can go but sometimes by the time you trudge through all that if you just sit back and relax been safe a little bit rested relaxed a bit uh and they would open up the road and you would probably make it just as quickly and safer now let's talk about this because uh you know folks and by the way real quickly subscribe to this channel if you haven't subscribed yet hit that button click the button subscribe and push this out to other people that you believe may be interested in the kind of stories that we tell let's uh let's talk about this you know i've heard from a number of drivers that are good solid freightworks drivers that one of the most important qualities that you need to have when you drive is patience it is can you talk about that for a little bit well you have to have patience because you're out there on the road with so many people who are not used to driving in snowy conditions and bad conditions uh and we all had to learn sometimes as i did but we have new drivers now and sometimes they think that trucks big and heavy and they can do things with that truck but oh i couldn't do that well they think it's just gonna that it's just gonna push right through so sometimes it's uh pretty dangerous just with some new drivers uh trying to uh go whenever they really should be parked you know and uh so those are real scary moments i i know what i can do and what i feel comfortable doing but i'm always scared about what's the guy past me doing right right and you have so many different variables as a professional driver that you have to deal with and of course uh just a couple of months ago here maybe a little less than that there was that incredible situation where a driver got 110 years sentence for what happened up in colorado and and they're still debating about some of that but i mean it's a huge piece of equipment i mean most trucks are going to weigh about what at least 90 000 at least 80 000 pounds and most people that are out there driving pedestrians that are real john q public they don't realize how long it takes to stop a truck right they'll often pull in they don't understand talk a little bit they don't even understand i mean yes we have placards and say well you got flammable but these people uh the public the normal public to them that don't mean nothing to them they don't know what that is they don't know that they're flying by you and if they crashed into you you could catch on fire or have a dangerous spill that's nothing to them only to first responders and people who understand what a placard is knows what that really actually stands for and that's a little bit scary with what we do a lot of print works also do you drive at night no i don't do a lot of night driving my wife is the night driver she is yeah and and i know i believe i know the answer to this question already when she's driving and you're curled up ready to sleep you're okay to sleep right absolutely okay because i one thing i hear from over some over the road teams is that it takes them a while until they're completely confident that everything's gonna be okay but you you feel great don't i do now our very first trip we ever made okay tell us about it give us give us my wife give us the details we were released to a company called general electric transportation and uh now mind you my wife never been nowhere in a tractor trailer except the school which that was no highway driving very little city driving and so here we are and we get a load from our town in tel city indiana okay there was a general electric plant there then where is that in relationship to indianapolis or i am we're about 150 miles south of indianapolis okay we're down by i-64 okay and 70 miles to the east is louisville kentucky about 60 miles to our west on off i-64 is evansville indiana and about 150 miles south is uh nashville tennessee okay so you're right there yes right right on the ohio river we uh we are in the middle of the national forest there's 10 000 people in the whole county yes that's something okay get back to your story so uh anyway so here we go we're headed we get a load from our hometown going to far texas where's that that is what down by brownsville way down to south texas all the way down all the way down and everybody they said now when you get there be sure and don't miss your turn they said everybody misses this turn to go to this uh warehouse and if you miss a turn you're going into mexico i mean because it's right on the border and i said well we're not gonna we're not gonna let that happen so we're going and we're driving and we get to texas and uh i can't hardly sleep it's my first i i mean i trust her but still all the trucks making noises and i'm just not used to sleeping with the truck moving yet and so i'm wore out we get down there and what do we do we miss our turn you missed the turn and i'm i'm looking up there's the borders middle of the night so i do what we shouldn't do but i did it anyway because there was no traffic i did a u-turn right before the border crossing and uh went back up found the street turned and we discovered the reason everybody was missing the street because there was no street sign

okay so we went we got unloaded we got reloaded and uh it's this point has been a couple days I hadn't slept much and my wife said well I'm gonna drive and I said okay I said you just stay on 35 because we were going back up 35 towards Dallas fort worth I said so when you get up that way I said you let me know and I'll make sure you go the right way and she said okay so I'm falling asleep and I'm sleeping and a little while later several hours later but I'm still worn out my wife says

hollers at me and she said I think we're lost and I said well are we not still on i-35 and she said well yes and no she said there was construction and the lights were blinding and she said I got off the ramp and I thought I'd get back on the ramp but it was closed and now this is before the days no GPS no nothing yeah just this road map so I asked her where we were and she didn't know where we were so I had no idea to look at a map to find one, yeah you didn't know the reference point no I had nothing so I was lost in texas so I get behind the wheel of the truck and I go up in this town and I'm driving looking for a place to turn around so I could try to go back and get on the interstate

here again i had to do one of you terms well then as i'm coming back through town i see a city policeman we was actually in austin texas austin austin yes sir okay and uh so then i knew what to look at on the map and figure out how to get around and then you got back then we got back to where we was going but that first trip heard i still joked today it was far texas and it was a far trip well you know what and texas is like its own country it's big you know let's let's shift gears here for a minute uh and and talk about the mid-america trucking show and uh you know we're so thrilled that freightworks is going to have a team there we're actually going to be doing podcasts life by the mile delivered by brightworks make sure you subscribe please hit that subscribe button but you know for people that are uninformed uh or have forgotten talk a little bit about what that event is well it's a lot about there's lots of vendors there they sell everything for trucks and actually truck vendors you know freightliner peterbilt kenworth everybody's international everybody's there got booths trying to sell trucks and they're big boos big booths yeah and all the trailer manufacturers are there uh and i mean there's people there selling oil filters oil randy mcnally is there i mean so many people but they also have uh a pride and polish contest for these guys that got the big fancy trucks uh with all the chrome and stuff and uh that's interesting and uh then a lot of food oh lots of good food and i understand that you have people that cook on barbecues out there oh yes in papa john's parking lot at night that's a stadium that at papa john's stadium there's truck parking there everybody parks and they actually have a shuttle that goes from there to the show every day and so ta usually has a shower tent there so you can get showers and they have all kinds of food and entertainment in the parking lot at night and so it's just all about trucking and they have seminar business seminars going on all day long about different aspects of the trucking industry people who want to become independent contractors with their own authority all these kind of things oh ida the uh owner operator independent drivers association they have two or three booths there uh to help people and they don't just help owner operators they also help company drivers you can buy sure to them sure as well and uh so anything related to the equipment to the logistics any of the support industries and uh ver yes and also i mean there is isles niles and isles of trucking companies with recruiting base yeah recruiting driver right right yeah and you know i as we go one of the things that we're planning to do is to do a number of podcasts while we're there and of course network with some folks that where we already have strategic relationships people like c'mores and dole and and others but it's it's huge right it's just really really huge and you'll be there i'm gonna be there right and you know what we're counting on is we're counting on you going and and uh and letting drivers know why this might be a good place for them to come in i actually have a friend who is going to be coming here to orientation uh on the 11th of uh january that's wonderful what's his name his name is ken mcmahon ken mcmahon yeah he's from florida how did you get to know him i met him and me and my wife met him in ontario california at a chapel about 19 years ago and we've uh of course we've seen him there many many times and over the years we stayed in touch and and things and uh so he's coming on board with freight works that is so wonderful now you know what folks we often say this there are many many trucking companies across america freight works is not perfect but it's a company committed to keep its promises to do business the right way to give you the home time that you're looking for to make sure you get good miles to give you equipment that's safe we're so excited about the peterbilt order that we have coming in and as as as a driver you've got to be looking forward to that i'm looking forward to that i i definitely am now what let me ask you this question what is it with some drivers that they just become so married to a particular brand like i've heard some people say i don't want to drive those foreigns i'm a freightliner guy okay but that goes to my own i used to be a mike man before bob oh bought him out yeah and so now i don't consider him michael mcnamara it's a volvo right that's that's that's what i'm talking that's what i'm talking and then there are some drivers there's some drivers when you talk to them they that you know they're old school it was before you had electronic logs and they it's not it's not a truck to them unless there's a lot of chrome a lot of lights and it's all american that's true but that chrome doesn't make no money that's quote it looks good but it doesn't make much it doesn't make money uh i will say it's going to take me some we drove a bomb over here and uh i opted to get in a freightliner an older truck because i like a manual transmission okay because i feel like in the ice and snow i have more control okay and uh you know i saw a youtube recently of course when i came into uh doing these podcasts working on communications for great works i told josh i don't know anything about this industry but it's great because i learned from people like you i saw a youtube video where somebody was talking about their principles for shifting a 13-year transmission and it had like four million views right that's a lot of people curious about that are there any kind of tips or hacks or things you just get a knack for it over time and uh and your muscle memory starts to it does yes you don't even have to think about what you're doing it's just you can do it in your sleep literally you know and uh so i mean so i me you know that's one thing i'm gonna miss is that but you know all things you know the new technology and but i will say whenever we were driving a volvo i did like the automatic transmission we were in california and you're in a big back up in a traffic jam uh it sure made your leg not so tired exactly exactly yeah now brett you know we're coming uh coming to our exit here conversationally shortly let me ask you a quick question it's obvious you're a person of faith and in that truck going across america you must have a lot of opportunities to communicate with your maker i do and uh just talk a little bit about some of what uh is impressed on your heart through these years of of driving because we want to we want people that are people of faith to have that opportunity i always uh every morning when i wake up and see a beautiful sunrise and sun and and even beautiful sunsets and things like that i think well isn't it so wonderful how god can do these things and give us such beautiful things to look at and admire he's our creator that's right and he could have made everything black and white but he did he made himself colorful could have made one bird one animal but he didn't he gave us the beautiful creation that so many drivers have the opportunity through the windshield that's right uh to see which is such uh such a blessing i take just uh 30 seconds and somebody's watching this and they're a driver and they're kicking the tires and saying you know what i may want to make a change in this new year what would you tell them about freight works and i haven't we didn't script this at all no one scripted this yeah so what would you say to them uh i would tell them i've been driving a truck since 1988 so that's like 33 years i owned i was owner operator for all the years up until uh 2017 and then i come here in 2019 after my illness and uh even as companies i work for as owner operator and everything freightworks is a top-notch company and they've treated me and my wife as well or better than any other company that was so good and i didn't we didn't pay you to say you did not pay me to say that right and uh you're taking a trip here again soon you know we pray for the drivers and uh it's our hearts cry that uh everything be done safe and in order and that's the commitment of the company you know we uh you have the opportunity to uh pick between the gifts that we we always have a gift for any guest that comes so you get to pick between a uh a hat a freight works hat or a mug so everybody's gonna wonder what i'm gonna take the yeti mug okay i am a hat guy but i like them well and you know what it is your choice and uh so on the one side here it's got the freightworks one logo and on the other it's light by the mile it's great for your sweet tea it's great for your coffee and we already know from that cap that you've got on that you're a great ambassador for the company and uh as you and brett and jerry uh you brent and jerry continue to make your over-the-road trips just know it's with a family back here that uh loves and cares and is committed to you yeah i know they are they are very committed i really stand behind freight works and i know that framework stands behind the drivers that is so good so folks this has been life of the mile delivered by breakworks make sure you subscribe to the youtube channel this is on podcast platforms everywhere push it out to other people and tell them that this is an opportunity for them to learn more about the colorful exciting and so vital work of america's truck and logistics enterprises i'm butch maltby the host and we look forward to seeing you twice a week here in 2022


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