Oct. 28–Finn Murphy, 59, was groomed to be a college graduate. As a child, Murphy had to read for two hours every time he watched a half-hour of television. Murphy’s strict Irish-Catholic parents expected Murphy to graduate from Colby College in Maine, but when Murphy should have been a senior, he quit college to become a truck driver.
Murphy is called a “bedbugger” in the trucking world for being a long-distance mover. According to Murphy, they’re the lowest on the truck driving totem pole. That said, in corporate and high-end moving, which is Murphy’s field, truckers can make up to $250,000 per year.
Murphy’s 18-wheeler will make a stop at Flying Dog Brewery on Monday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. He will discuss his moving tales that were chronicled in his book, “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road.” Murphy is working a book tour into his truck driving schedule to speak at the event, created in partnership with Curious Iguana.
It’s apparent that the stereotype of truckers doesn’t apply to Murphy. The bibliophile has an expansive vocabulary, and a small, compact build that doesn’t suggest he moves thousands of pounds of personal belongings for a living with the help of his crew. Murphy tightly assembles these items in his long-haul truck, transports them on lengthy trips, and places them back in people’s homes. On top of that, Murphy must deal with employees whose companies are paying a premium for a professional move.
In his book, Murphy vividly shares memories of his journeys — from falling through an attic floor on his first moving job at age 18 to evading attempts on his life by a truck driver who wanted to kill him.
Murphy spoke with 72 Hours about the lessons he learned from his adventures.
You were going to offer your resignation on your first day in the moving business after you fell through the attic when you worked for Callahan Bros. Moving & Storage as a teen. Your boss didn’t accept it. What do you think your boss saw in you at the time?
Well, two things. He was a member of my church. I’ve known their whole family. The company was right down the street from me so we’ve known them all back when I was a little kid. That probably helped a little bit. And another thing is you can’t find a lot of people willing to do this kind of work. So even if they do it poorly, [they’ll] still get hired.
Do you think that people will have more respect for movers if the moving process is more transparent? In your book, you said that the biggest conundrum in your field is that people hate movers so much.
Well, they do. We hit them in their personal hotspot. These are all their personal possessions. That makes people nervous. And they’re uprooting themselves and their families and going to a new place. So that adds a whole bunch of stress, too. My job is more of a diplomat than a big guy that carries heavy stuff. Trying to keep people on an even-keel and navigate them through this transition. … That’s what I love about the work.
Why do you love being a long-distance mover?
Because I’m good at it. Because people are all freaked out and nervous when the truck shows up. They don’t know who is coming out of that truck to take all their prized possessions. Some of these guys are pretty rough around the edges. I’ve got crews I’ve been working with for years. We come in, we’re nice and professional, and it helps them. It takes some tact. It’s fun.
You had a lot of near-death experiences. It seems like a lot of truck drivers have near-death experiences. How do you guys handle it?
When I write about being fearful out there, when I’m in the mountains, or when I’m in the ice or the snow or the rain, or going through a city in the middle of the night and its raining … and it’s hard to see and all of the cars are whizzing by you, people think there’s this big guy in this big truck, you know, he’s intimidating, but sometimes we are the intimidated. People don’t generally think that way. If people think that way a little bit more, they might be a little bit more understanding out there. If you’re going down an icy hill in Wyoming and you’re getting frustrated because he’s going so slow, maybe if you thought about how scared the guy is, you might loosen up a little.
Would you become a truck driver today, knowing the economy and the way it is now?
The answer I’d say is no for a couple of reasons. You always read about a shortage of drivers. You look on the back of every trailer on the highway — come work for us, work for us. … But the pay keeps going down. That seems to violate a basic economic precept. If there was a shortage, pay should be going up, but it’s not. It’s flat. And they’re going down. I made more money in 1980 than I do now in real dollars and that’s true for most drivers. That’s one thing.
And another thing is we got driverless vehicles on the horizon here. I don’t know how many jobs there’s going to be in five years. There’s still going to be, you know, the UPS step vans in the cities and that kind of thing, but trucks across the country? I think it’s going to be done by machines.
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