Editor’s note: This is one story in a series about local businesses in the City of Fairborn. This feature puts a face to the names of those that have been part of the community for many years – some of those best-kept secrets.
FAIRBORN – Howard Trucking Company started in 1955 Herman Howard traded his one car for a dump truck. As Howard’s business grew in mid 60s, he bought more trucks and began signing contracts including one for the South Maple overpass construction, K-Mart shopping center.
Jerry Howard, the current owner, started at his dad’s shop by pushing the broom; his brother, Larry Howard, drove the trucks; Danny Howard did office work and Kenny joined the Marine Core. The trucking business was a family affair.
“The running joke was you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Howard in the trucking business,” Jerry Howard said.
However, tragedy struck the business when Larry, one of the Howard boys, was killed in a trucking accident 1976, and again when Herman Howard passed away in 1982.
“That was hard because he was Howard Trucking so we decided to close the business,” Jerry Howard said. “It wasn’t the same as when dad had the company, but we did keep the real estate. I wanted to do trucking on my own – driving as an independent, doing what my dad did.”
He bought one old truck and started driving across country until 1989, when he started J.A. Howard Inc. in which he hauled goods in 48 states from 50 to 1,500 miles. As the business grew, he had to learn office paperwork; Jerry Howard could drive and park a truck at 10 years old but when it came to the mechanics but the paperwork business, he had to learn.
Jerry Howard said people would ask him what he did for a living, and he would explain that he owns a truck company. For his off time he started collecting old trucks; that began 25 years ago. He has trucks ranging from 1946 to the 1970s. His favorite is an 1954 autocar truck called Midnight. He rebuilt, restored and travels to truck shows around the country from New Jersey to California, and wins awards.
“Midnight is old and mighty, black and shiny and my favorite of all of my collection,” he said.
Jerry Howard took his 49 Peterbuilt to Yakama, Washington, despite its age.
“It has been updated mechanically to keep up with the newer trucks,” he said. “My trucks have the old look but some modern updates.”
He feels that trucks have changed over the years, as they have gotten nicer and better, but with that more rules and regulations that come into play. He knew his business needed to change with the times to stay in business. The cabs and equipment are modernized, and power steering is now included. He said he can’t believe how truckers ran such long hauls with the short bunks and no air. These days, they have some of the comforts of home.
Gas mileage has improved, but the price of gas is more expensive; high cost of fuel hurts truckers and their income, even with the newer streamline trucks the 300 gallon fuel tank can cost up to $1,000 per fill up.
However, although trucks have changed, CB Radio has not, as no cell phone will tell you which lane to get into when there is an accident or what exit ramp to get off during traffic back up. The CB Radio also allows truck drivers to have someone to talk to while driving down the road, as it helps pass the time keep company on the road.
For the last 15 years he has held an open house truck show. He feels that it is a lot of work, but he likes to let the public come and see his collection of trucks because individuals may not see them anywhere else. He also participates in car shows and parades in Fairborn. His trucks have a sign display that tell the story of the truck as if it was talking to the public.
“I sit down and think of the history of the truck and what the truck needs to tell people that are viewing it as the story is as important as restoring the truck itself,” he said. “People enjoy reading the stories and years ago truck songs were popular, especially on the one about the trucker and his truck so in keeping with that part of the past I continue to write the story of his trucks today.”
Jerry Howard loves Fairborn and feels it’s his town and supports it many ways, from the Senior Center Float displayed on his truck, to the passing out candy to the kids seeing their smiles as they listen to the horns blow from the big rig. When citizens need something moved, hauled or stored he tries to help out the community and businesses.
“I am here and when people need something moved I would like them to keep me in mind,” he said. “I like to serve my community and if I am needed I want them to know they can could count on me cause when you help others and they appreciate it, it give you a good feeling too.”
He said he’s not planning on retiring as long as he is able to do what he loves, which is driving and collecting trucks.