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“I guess those are good problem to have.” To combat the shortage, Stabler said,

owners like himself are going to have to rethink how they structure drivers’ jobs. More and more prospective drivers are rejecting the idea of being away from home for weeks at a time on long hauls. “I think these days of real long haul runs

where a guy is out two or thee weeks, I think that’s over,” Stabler said. “I think we’re going to have to be more regional in our approach. Our drivers, a lot of them don’t care how long they’re gone but a lot of them want to have a family. My drivers only spend a couple nights away from home and they’re off on weekends.” Stabler, a father of two college aged

daughters, recalls hearing a tale from an older driver who, while on the road in the early 1960s, found himself missing the birth of his younger daughter just 80 miles away. The driver called for permission to go home for the baby’s arrival and was denied. “Times have changed,” Stabler said. “I

think that basically is they way I’m going to answer that question is we have to structure our business around our employees and their personal lives. We have to make them want to enjoy going to work. Trucking is a hard job. It’s not physically hard, but truck drivers complain about the stress of being on the road. I hear that a lot.” Stabler also hears a lot about the general

image of the truck driver, something he wants to improve. While conducting the MCM’s “Share the Road” program at local high schools, Stabler said that frequently more than 50 percent of the students he talks to agree that they would describe drivers as “creepy.” Stabler blames the image on negative

film and television portrayals, but he said the industry can help itself with a few tweaks to drivers’ dress codes. “That would be so easy to change,” Stabler

said. “We’ve just got to get the word out to our drivers. They’re the face of trucking. They’re the ones that make it all happen and it’s an honorable profession.” That’s one of the reasons Stabler, who

counts Sunday school teaching and working with youth as one of his few hobbies, has spent the past 10-plus years visiting the high schools to teach students how to interact with trucks on the road. “I talk to them about driving around

large trucks and just kind of share my story with them,” he said. “It’s a great program and we all need to be proud of trucking. It’s the backbone of our economy. It’s why this

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country is as great as it is. We need to be proud of it.” When not at work, where he spends a

great deal of time, or teaching Sunday school, Stabler helps out on the 100-acre farm he and his wife Alane own at Miles City. His daughters Alissa, 22, and Rachel, 21, are respectively attending Montana State in Bozeman and Dickinson (N.D.) State. Stabler and Alane have been married

since 1986 and though he can’t remember exactly how they met — which somehow does not cause him grief on Valentine’s Day or any other “remember-when-we-met”

occasions — Stabler does recall one of their first dates was to a Jerrel family Christmas party. “She’s been with me ever since,” Stabler

said. And yes, it had to be asked, Ken Stabler is

a football fan. “I’ve heard it every day since 1972,”

Stabler said of the former Oakland Raiders quarterback with whom he shares first and last names. “I had one guy at South Carolina even take my autograph. I said ‘I’ll give it to you, but I haven’t made a dime playing football.’ That’s my standard answer.” RW

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