When you start a new job, it’s nice to be welcomed with a clean workspace — especially if the place you’ll be working in a truck that also doubles as an apartment. It makes you feel good, like the people who hired you value you and you’re an important new part of the team. Guaranteeing this experience for new first-seat drivers at PAM is the job of PAM’s dedicated truck chasers, who recover abandoned rigs, so the maintenance team can clean them up and get the back in good working order.
At PAM, most of our drivers are courteous about leaving their rigs spick and span for the next driver and company policy states that trucks must be returned to a PAM terminal if a driver decides to leave the PAM family.
But sometimes trucks break down on the road and, due to repair times, drivers have to move to another unit. There are also drivers who have family or medical emergencies, or any number of other circumstances that prevent them from returning a truck to a terminal or even removing their belongings for that matter. These folks simply don’t get a chance to clean up after themselves.
So, who is left to pick up the pieces and make sure that those trucks are returned to the PAM fleet? Meet Walter Holman (“Walt”), one of PAM’s truck chasers — and one of the best in the business.
How Walter Holman Became One of PAM’s Truck Chasers
Walt was born in the tiny town of Louisville, Miss., but spent most of his life in Milwaukee, Wis., until he was drafted into the Army in 1970 as an 11B (or infantryman, for the civilians.) He trained at Ft. Polk, La., was sent overseas for a year, and returned to the states where he served the remainder of his enlistment before being honorably discharged. During the years that followed, Walt worked for a few different companies, attended Marquette University and earned a business degree, and eventually moved to Georgia. In 2009, he discovered PAM.
“In 2009, I put in an application because I had seen PAM Transportation on the Internet,” remembers Walt. “I had also seen a lot of PAM trucks going down the interstate into Atlanta. I said, ‘Looks like a good place to work ‘cause everybody I see is smiling!’ So I called PAM, filled out the application, and they got me into school in Little Rock, Ark. I finished school and became a first-seat driver. I drove OTR and dedicated for about five years.
“One day, I got a phone call from this fella named Daryl Chappell asking me if I wanted to get into the truck recovery business. I thought about it, my wife and I talked about it, and I said, ‘Sure’, so I came into truck recovery where I’ve been ever since. It’s been a great job. It’s a job that makes a fella feel proud, because you do things other folks wouldn’t normally do.”
Working as a truck chaser is tough but rewarding work. Truck chasers face many different challenges that most drivers don’t. In order to have every possible asset available and working, they must do whatever it takes to get the equipment recovered and do it safely.
“We get trucks in every kind of condition,” says Walt. “Some of the trucks we recover are in such awful shape, no other driver would want to drive them or take them where they need to go. A lot of times there are mechanical issues. No matter where it’s at, we have to figure out how we’re going to get it fixed and moved to the nearest yard. It’s on our shoulders to get the truck there because that’s what we do.
“So far, I’ve been doing this for about five years now and it’s been prosperous, the pay is great, the people you meet are great . . . We gained a relationship with Road Rescue. They know our voice when we call them and they want to help get us out of wherever we are. Because when we call, the trucks are broken down and we’re stranded. Road Rescue plays a big part in our success.
PAM’s Truck Recovery Team
During the time Walt has been recovering trucks, he has been paired up with several other teammates, most of who are near half his age. “All these guys are top notch,” says Walt. “They have no problem picking up trucks. Wherever that truck is, they’ll go try to find it. A lot of times we actually have to hunt the trucks because they can tell us the area the truck is in, but they can’t always tell us exactly where it is. So far, we’ve had 100-percent success finding them.
“The thing I like most is the camaraderie. We’re all good friends and we try to help each other when we can. We travel together a lot to keep expenses down and one thing we do when we get to a truck is we all jump out, get the pre-trip done, everybody helps get the driver’s gear loaded into the truck, and we never leave a driver until the truck is up and ready to go.
Quite often, our recoveries make good trucks for new drivers who will ride with us to meet their new trucks and, a lot of the time, I will spend time with those new drivers . . . Ken and I both do this. We’ll sit in the truck with them and go over the Qualcomm, make sure they’re logged in and ready for their first load.”
Jay Rivas, Walt’s supervisor, had this to say about Walt and the team: “With trucks needing recovery at an all-time low, these guys still go out and do the job without any grumbling of any kind. And what they get in the field is not always peaches and cream. Some of these trucks are broke down and they have to get them to a dealer and go after something else. They get to trucks that are locked up and they take the time to call local authorities to see if they can get access to it. Some trucks we find in some of the roughest areas of town, but again, they get in there, get them, and get out without fail. When other drivers would say it can’t be done, these guys ask, ‘When do you need it done?’
“In the five-plus years that I have been in this position, I can’t remember one truck the guys were sent after that they didn’t find. Pretty remarkable if you ask me . . . All in all, I have the privilege of working with five of the best drivers a person could ask for.”
The expectations are high for those who would become a “truck chaser” (as they’re affectionately known). They must be top tier performers in every way — self-motivated with a high level of integrity and a can-do attitude. Walter Holman exemplifies these characteristics and more.
Because of Walt and his fellow truck chasers, PAM is able to get more trucks — in better condition — back into service and out on the road than ever before.