United States of Work

Meet Steve, 55, professional driver

Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar Feb 18, 2020
Steve Fields Paul Andrews
United States of Work

Meet Steve, 55, professional driver

Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar Feb 18, 2020
Steve Fields Paul Andrews

We talked to 10 people who roughly represent the 164 million-person U.S. labor force. Ten stories, one question: “Is the economy working for you?” Meet Steve.

  • Name: Steve Fields
  • Occupation: Professional driver, YRC Freight
  • Based in: Kansas City, Missouri, but makes regular day trips to cities like Des Moines, Wichita, Omaha and Sioux City.
  • Daily commute: Depends
  • Age: 55

The numbers on Steve:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics would categorize Steve’s job as “production, transportation, and material moving” along with butchers, sewing machine operators, furniture makers and taxi drivers, to name a few. One in 10 workers in the U.S. labor force work jobs in that category.
  • Steve, like 2 out of 10 workers, falls into the category aged 55 and older.
  • Like nearly 50% of workers over 25, Steve doesn’t have a college degree.

Steve Fields has been driving professionally for 35 years, with most of those years spent at YRC Freight. It’s a good job — he’s never missed a Christmas or a Thanksgiving with his family and says the benefits are great. Currently he works what’s called a “turn bid,” where he drives between Kansas City and places like Des Moines, Wichita, Omaha and Sioux City, all in a day. From where he sits, he can always see an upturn or downturn in the U.S. economy before he starts hearing about it on the news.

What kind of training did you have to do to get your job?

I never received any formal training, but my grandpa drove a truck and I rode with him on many occasions.

When you were a kid, what job did you think you were going to have when you grew up?

I always thought I wanted to be a conservation agent (game warden). That just didn’t work out.                             

What’s the one tool you can’t do your job without?

The one tool I need to do my job is me. Kinda funny answer, but I need to take care of myself and be rested and alert when I climb in that truck.

What’s the hardest part of your job that people don’t know?

Hardest part of my job is keeping safe. Drivers these days are so distracted with so many different things and they don’t think twice about what can happen if they are not rested and alert.

What was your first job?

My first real job was in a cabinet shop, building cabinets and such. I was asked to go out on the truck to deliver a really big cabinet one day and that sort of turned into a daily routine. I’m kind of a big guy and I was strong back then (lol). Next thing I know, I’m driving their trucks and going in long runs to Florida, New York and other destinations. Back then, you could get a chauffeur’s license and drive a commercial motor vehicle. I loved being away from the shop and out on my own, without a time clock or a boss. I had to be self-motivated, make my deliveries and stay on schedule, but could break and lunch when I wanted to.

Click the media players below to hear how Steve’s story evolved:

February 2020 ^
April 2020 ^
September 2020 ^

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.