Many drivers on our roads today can claim that they have driven for maybe twenty or even thirty years or more, but how many can make the claim of having been involved in the trucking industry for a lifetime? Robert “Bob” Ewing of Golden, Colorado, one of my mentors, who was actually conceived in a truck, is someone who can. From day one (or even sooner), Bob has been around trucks. Son of Delbert and Mildred Ewing, since his birth in September of 1947, Bob has been around the industry – and loved it.
Bob’s dad Delbert got his start in trucking even further back in time, driving for R.D. Lewis Banana Company. Started by his brother-in-law, R.D. Lewis had the original ICC authority to haul bananas into Colorado. Later, Delbert switched over to Carroll Lines of Pueblo, Colorado, where he began hauling gasoline. Delbert and Mildred ran off and eloped in Texas in October of 1946. Shortly thereafter, while working for Carroll Lines, Bobby was conceived in one of their trucks. Talk about “starting out in a truck” – you can’t go any further back than conception!
Bob grew up around J.A. Sharoff, which was one of the premier trucking outfits in Colorado that started in 1929. Bob’s father, Delbert, was the truck boss at J.A. Sharoff, a company that specialized in hauling meat and eggs. With a fleet of mostly narrow-nose Kenworths pulling reefers, Delbert brought about the classic J.A. Sharoff paint job, which was red with black and white striping. And that’s where Bob’s first job in trucking came from. In the mid ‘50s, Bobby, then just eight years old, would climb into the reefers through the front vent doors and get meat hooks out of the trailer so they could scale heavy loads. Making $0.50 per trailer (not a bad wage for an 8-year-old kid in 1955), Bobby has been working in and around trucks ever since.
In 1965 major flooding hit the Denver area and Bob, still very much interested in trucking, experienced driving a full-sized rig for the first time. At that time, J.A. Sharoff had their yard near 13th and Umatilla in Denver, which sits in a low spot. With flooding approaching and plenty of the city already underwater, J.A. Sharoff was trying to get their trucks out of the yard to higher ground. Delbert put Bob in one of the company’s classic Kenworths, and Bob successfully trucked across Denver to the Denargo Market safely.
Attending college from 1965 to 1969, Bob would return to trucking in the late ‘60s. J.A. Sharoff had shut down and Delbert (Bob’s dad) had begun United Packing of Iowa (UPI), the continuation of the Sharoff company. Running primarily cabover and conventional Peterbilts, in 1969 Bob began driving for UPI until 1971 when he bought his first truck – a 1965 Emeryville cabover International, which was powered by a 262 Cummins with a 4×4 set of sticks, and riding on a rubber-block suspension.
Leasing to North Park Transport, Bob hauled scheduled freight, specialized flatbed, lumber and steel – he even pulled a specialized convertible flatbed that could be turned into a van trailer with panels. In empty form, the panels sat at the very back of the trailer, acting much like a wind-brake. So much so, in fact, he would get better fuel mileage running loaded than empty! From there he would buy a near-new 1972 W900A Kenworth with a 350 Cummins and 4×4. Bob would run this truck, hauling meat and produce, into the southeastern United States. Bob eventually sold this W900A to his father.
In 1974, Bobby, now in his late 20s and having spent many of his years around trucks and trucking, opened Ewing’s Diesel Service – a repair shop in Denver that he would eventually move to Rip Griffin’s Truck Stop in Limon, CO. Aside from decades of driving, Bob has also had significant experience wrenching on trucks. Considered to be among the top Cummins mechanics in the country back then, Bob has rebuilt and “turned-up” more engines than most drivers have ever seen. At one point, using various turbo components lying around the shop, Bob assembled a turbocharger that could produce 60-psi of boost, which was nothing to scoff at in the days of mechanical engines. Running the shop until 1981, Bob would eventually work for his father again at Delbert’s new outfit – Texas Intermountain Transportation (TIMT) – as a mechanic and driver.
In 1984, Bob’s dad Delbert passed away, leaving the company to Bob and his mother. Hauling Coors beer into Texas, Bob inherited a company with five trucks, three lease operators, and eight trailers. Under Bob’s control, TIMT would grow to 38 company trucks, with 5-8 lease operators at any given time, and 54 trailers. In fact, TIMT was hauling so much Coors beer, they became the beer-maker’s third largest hauler, following Coors’ own truck line and Don Digby. With economic changes, however, TIMT would close its doors in 1995. For the next five years, Bobby ran Eagle Express, hauling beer again, eventually building up to five trucks, until selling everything to simplify his life a bit.
Having primarily been involved in produce, meat and beer hauling for most of his career, Bob switched gears completely and began running a dump truck locally for Big R Construction in Denver. Eventually, Bob began pulling a lowboy, and would later do the same for Scott Contracting and, eventually, Hi-Plains Leasing, Inc.
After nearly a decade of heavy-haul and similar types of trucking, however, the constant slinging of chains and straps was taking its toll, so Bobby chose to become an owner operator again, this time hauling milk (an operation I would become part of, as well, until getting my own truck). Bobby still hauls milk today.
It was 2010 when I first met Bob Ewing. Being a lifetime veteran of the trucking industry, Bob was one of the men who taught me how to drive heavy rigs. Learning around lowboys, Bob would teach me to drive from a trucking history I could barely begin to comprehend. It is an experience I’ve always valued, learning to drive by watching and asking questions, much the same way he did when he was younger and riding around in those cool J.A. Sharoff KWs.
Bob represents our industry in many ways. As an Independent, rolling with economic and operational changes, Bob has seen trucking from the days of the ICC and regulation, through the challenging times of deregulation in the 1980s, and on into the modern era of trucking. Growing up around J-Series and Iron-Lung Cummins engines, two-stick transmissions, spring, torsion and rubber-block suspensions, on to the first electronic engines, and now to the modern emissions-mandated motors, Bob’s trucking career has steered him through some enormous changes in the industry. It has been amazing what I have learned (and will continue to learn) from Bob, and other veterans like him.
Veteran drivers like Bobby represent the time in trucking when you did what you needed to do to get the freight delivered on-time and in one piece. Back then, drivers didn’t simply sit behind the wheel – they knew the mechanicals of the truck they were driving and could make repairs while on the road. And, in many ways, that attitude and mindset has been lost in our industry. Today’s newer truck drivers are too wound-up in liabilities and legalities, and they rely more on “certifications” rather than practical experience. One only need to look to drivers like Bob to see what’s changed in our industry over the past five decades.
But, that sort of trucker doesn’t need to disappear. We at 10-4 Magazine would like to tip our hat to drivers like Robert Ewing. To stick at a job for 20 or 30 years is something, but for an entire lifetime, well that is something entirely different. A lifetime in trucking is no small achievement, and we commend Bobby for his commitment to our industry – and for passing his knowledge on to the next generation, so that this old-school type of trucking will not be forgotten completely – not yet, at least.