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‘Come, Work for Me’

By on July 1, 2019

So Began His 50-Year Career

When the phone rings at the RoadKing editorial office, we never know who might be on the other end. Is it a driver who has a story idea? Maybe someone who wishes to comment on an article he or she read? Or perhaps someone who wishes to register an opinion about an important topic of the day?

All calls are welcome. Recently, one came in from the Fuddruckers restaurant at TA Sparks, Nevada. The caller was Sonja Petterson. She and Robert, her husband of 38 years, had just finished a delicious lunch and wanted to discuss his 50-year career as a professional truck driver. Having just picked up a copy of the current RoadKing magazine, they also had some Road King memorabilia from 1976 that they thought might be appreciated by the current RoadKing staff. At age 81, they were hoping these items would be preserved for others to enjoy in the future. They were right! 

How It All Started

Robert’s career started innocently enough. After he was laid off from a prior job in 1965 with a family to feed, a friend, Vinny Riccardi, said, “Come, work for me.” Robert replied, “I don’t know how to drive big rigs!” Vinny became the teacher. His family owned J. Riccardi & Sons Trucking on Staten Island, New York, hauling for U.S. Gypsum in 14 states including materials for the World Trade Center completed in 1972. That’s how a 50-year professional driving career began. “I’m forever grateful to Vinny!” said Robert.

In 1976, an unexpected family circumstance caused Robert to move to Sparks, Nevada, where his sister and brother were living. When he started driving for the Miller beer distributor in northern Nevada, Vinny said, “I knew you weren’t coming back.” In fact, Vinny was right. Robert stayed for 24 years and stayed in good shape loading and unloading cases of beer, wine and liquor with a hand truck up and down the truck ramp. His first year of retirement was short lived because the cost of his Cobra health insurance was being raised significantly.

Going Back to Work

One of the staff members in the Nev-Cal Transportation Services office saw Robert’s application. She had worked with him at the Miller distributorship and told the boss, “Hire this guy; he knows how to bake!” He told me later, “I didn’t know if you could drive, but I heard you could bake.” Nev-Cal hauls ship containers over Donner Summit on I-80 to and from the docks in Oakland, California. Robert stayed 13 years, receiving a Two Million Mile Safe Driving Award in 2008.

In January 2015, at age 77, Robert decided, that 50 years was enough driving and chaining up. He’s discovered his delayed retirement at home with Sonja is good. He enjoys sleeping late, watching childhood heroes in old westerns, as well as watching news, football and boxing. The one thing he misses the most is Senior Softball, which he was forced to give up due to a hip injury. 

Trucking was good for Robert, and he was good for trucking. Thanks for sharing the memories, and thanks for passing along the Road King memorabilia. 

Trucks Robert Petterson has Driven, 1964-2015

  • 1950s Whites and Mack B61s (duplexes and triplexes)
  • 1960s Brockway (best driving, comfortable, with Fuller Road Ranger 15-speed (only used 10)
  • 1970s International 6-speed “Snoopies” (short, rounded nose) and Mack 5-speed direct
  • After moving to Nevada in 1976
  • 1970s International 10-speed Road Ranger
  • 1980s International American Eagle 10-speed
  • 1990s Various Peterbilt models
  • 2000s Peterbilts with 10-speed Fuller Road Rangers
  • 2008-15 Peterbilt 357s with 10-speed automatics

About Warren Eulgen

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