These team drivers, best friends, and U.S. Xpress million milers have forged an unlikely friendship that travels well.
Professional truck driver Randy Earl is an extrovert who befriends every stranger and always has a story to tell. His co-driver, Daniel Hookman, is an introvert who loves reading, chess, and cooking shows. At 32, Daniel is half Randy’s age, and if you made a list of the interests they have in common, well, trucking would be the only thing on it. But none of that has stopped these two from forging a friendship that thrives as they tackle team driving over long distances.
“Being together on this truck, we don’t ever argue,” said Randy, who hit an astounding 4 million miles of safe driving for U.S. Xpress in 2022. “I do the day shift, he does the night shift, and when we switch we always talk for a little while, talk about what’s going on, what’s ahead of us, where we’ll do a reset. We may only talk 10 or 15 minutes, or sometimes we may talk for an hour.”
Daniel, who hit 1 million safe miles of driving for U.S. Xpress in 2022, was a student driver in 2015 when he met Randy, and he followed the advice he had read in a book about how to be successful when you’re learning to do something new.
“I read that if you’re in a roomful of people, go stand next to the person who has the most experience, and maybe their magic will rub off on you,” Daniel said. “I saw him at orientation, so I just went over there and kind of stood next to him and then he was my trainer.”
But it wasn’t magic that made Daniel such a stellar student, Randy said. From the very beginning, Daniel was determined to learn everything there was to know about professional driving.
“I always have a talk with students before they get on my truck to let them know I’m tough, and I’m going to train you, and I’m going to teach you the right way to do this job,” Randy said. “Daniel was all ears – he listened, he worked hard, and he stills does those things every day.”
In addition to being honored for their Million Miler accomplishments, Randy and Daniel were also named the OTR Team Drivers of the Year for U.S. Xpress for both 2022 and 2021. During the most recent Million Miler celebration, Randy spotted two other Million Milers he has trained over his nearly 34 years at the wheel.
“That was just awesome, seeing those guys again and to know they are having so much success,” he said.
After Daniel finished training with Randy in 2016, he went to work closer to home in Knoxville for a few years. But when the opportunity to team with Randy came up in 2020, he jumped at the chance.
“Trucking means a whole lot to him, and he really understands how to teach people,” Daniel said. “Everybody learns in different ways, and he’s able to juggle different personalities. He’s making sure trucking it taught correctly to the next generation.”
Randy and his wife, Teri, have become like family to Daniel, and he often spends time with them at their home in North Georgia when he’s not on the road. But that isn’t all that often, since the one thing these men have in common is their drive to drive.
“The American economy is huge, and it needs to move all this stuff around, and it’s not the most glamorous of jobs but there is real meaning in it,” Daniel said. “We both find the work really meaningful.”
Randy is working just as hard now as he did when he started nearly 34 years ago, and he figures he might retire at 70. Maybe. Or maybe not.
“I don’t know, I don’t really like the idea of retirement,” Randy said. “I was made for this job. I’m just happy doing it.”