Truck driver Paul Baskin fuels the nation

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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LAPLACE — Paul Baskin of LaPlace transports everything from silverware in the kitchen to the shoes on people’s feet. He and other truck drivers across the country fuel America by supplying goods to Walmart, Home Depot and other major retailers.

Truck driving has always been in Baskin’s blood. Recently, he was recognized as the Over-the-Road Owner/Operator Driver of the Year by U.S. Xpress, a Chattanooga-based truckload carrier.

The awards ceremony originally scheduled for March 26 has been delayed due to the COVID-19 response, but Baskin is content to continue performing his essential duty.

“Without the truck driving industry, I don’t think there would be (an America),” Baskin said. “We play a paramount part in that because there is pretty much nothing that you need that a truck doesn’t bring. Whether it comes by air, water, or freight, they can only take it so far, and a truck takes it the rest of the way.”

Baskin grew up as one of 12 siblings. Of that dozen, 11 went on to join the truck driving industry.

Baskin will celebrate 10 years with U.S. Xpress in August. He started working as a truck driver in 1987 and made the switch from local routes to cross-country in 1998. He currently transports everything that needs to go from Point A to Point B except for perishable goods and gasoline.

“I enjoy the solitude,” Baskin said. “I love the things that I see every day. Not one day is the same. As a truck driver, you want to stop whenever you can and enjoy the scenery to stop things from getting stagnant. No one really knows how big and beautiful this country is until they’ve seen it.”

Not many people have spotted snowy peaks of mountains from 50 miles away in the summertime. Few get to drive parallel to the Columbia River in Oregon and see the clouds reflected upside down in the water.

Baskin has seen the building where the TV show “Good Times” was filmed in Chicago. He’s passed the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast and taken his son to Disneyland on the West Coast. He sips water and listens to audio books to dull the monotony of a long trip. Every six months, he listens to the Bible from beginning to end.

“You don’t always have to be in a rush,” Baskin said. “Just enjoy yourself. Truck driving is a way of life.”

Truck drivers are solitary creatures, according to Baskin. “Social distancing” has been his chosen route of life for many years, and he hasn’t faced many lifestyle changes since the outbreak of the coronavirus. However, he does take care to wash his face and hands and sanitize the truck whenever he gets in or out.

Demand has increased, and the Federal Trade Commission has put a lot of truck drivers on emergency mode, meaning transports must happen regardless of how many hours drivers have logged.

“You should be cautious, but don’t stop living,” Baskin said. “You just go from day to day and do the best you can.”

Baskin said he was proud to receive the Over-the-Road Owner/Operator Driver of the Year by U.S. Xpress. The day he found out about the achievement, he called everybody he could think of to share the good news.

“It means they recognize someone who does their due diligence. That’s what I continue to do to this day,” Baskin said. “I don’t want to do anything else. I’m going to retire from this. When I do retire, I’m still going to drive.”

Paul’s fleet manager said the award is well deserved.

“Paul has always been a team player and the most courteous driver to work with,” said a representative from U.S. XPress. “He goes above and beyond to help anyone out, keep the roads safe, and service the customer. He has dedicated his life to the trucking industry. Paul is a huge asset to the team.”