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Come listen to a story about a man named Hal who went from law books to logbooks

By Jerry Breeden - The Trucker
Posted Apr 17th 2008 4:22AM

Hal_Howard.jpgSALT LAKE CITY — He would never admit it, but Hal Howard is something of a renaissance man.

The Salt Lake City resident is a retired attorney/teacher-turned-actor-turned-trucker/instructor.

Coming from humble beginnings, Howard knew that life wouldn’t be handing him anything he wasn’t willing, ready and able to achieve on his own initiative. For four years, he ran credit and background checks for a San Francisco bank during the day, while attending Golden Gate Law School at night.

“It was pretty difficult,” Howard said. “It came with a lot of heavy stress. I really had to keep my nose to the grindstone and stay focused.”

He went into private practice in 1969. “I took on a lot of different cases, but my main interest was in real estate law, which I taught one night a week at San Mateo (Calif.) Community College for 15 years.”

He said one of his more interesting cases was one concerning a property easement dispute involving construction of the Trans-America Pyramid, now a familiar San Francisco landmark. Howard represented the taxpayers of that City by the Bay in a long, drawn-out legal battle that ultimately saw him victorious.

The presiding judge granted Howard his legal fees as sole compensation, while awarding the taxpayers more than $500,000 that owners of the building had to pay into the City of San Francisco’s coffers.

The local papers followed the case closely, which gave Howard a tremendous amount of favorable publicity that, according to him, was as good as money in the bank. From then on, articles about him and his courtroom accomplishments appeared regularly on the pages of the local newspapers.

Howard moved to San Mateo during the latter part of his years as a legal beagle. He said he was “starting to get a little bit bored with practicing law. I was closing in on 50 years of age and realized that I had ‘wasted’ my youth on getting an education and on working hard to make something of a success of myself. I felt a real need to do something else for a change, something more interesting and more entertaining. I guess you could say I was experiencing a midlife crisis.”

At first, he dabbled in the San Mateo real estate market. “But that didn’t last long and,” he said, with a slight grin on his face, “believe it or not, I took some acting lessons. I figured, ‘What the heck; there’s not much difference in practicing law and being an actor’. I felt like I could do it.”

He eventually became good enough at his new-found trade that he actually landed a role in a 1986 production for the silver screen.

“I was an extra in ‘Howard the Duck,’” he said, rather tongue-in-cheekishly. “It was sheer coincidence, I assure you, that my name and the name of the title character were the same. Beyond that, there were absolutely no similarities. If you were rent the movie today, you’d have to have really good eyesight to see me. I did, however, have a speaking role. I was one of many who, from among a crowd of people, pointed a finger and shouted ‘Look at that duck!’”

Whether the movie actually laid an egg during its debut or was a gigantic hit is still a matter of opinion, but it did attract a certain following of its own. Mention the title, even today, and real movie buffs will most likely look as if they seem to remember it … or something like it.

Howard said his big-screen aspirations were eventually interrupted by a major dose of realism. He found himself still struggling with the pangs of a middle-age crisis. For some inexplicable reason, he said, he felt the need to see America up close and personal, thus the doors to the world of trucking flung wide open to him.

Getting paid while traversing the nation’s highways and byways more than appealed to Howard. He launched his current career in 1996 with a company called C.H. Dredge, which was bought out by his present employer, Prime Inc. of Springfield, Mo., about four years ago. Today, he’s a driver/instructor with Prime’s Truck Driving School.

He said students undergo 100 hours of actual over-the-road driving time before taking the Commercial Driver’s License exam administered by an independent testing agency hired by Prime and certified by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“I trained 14 new drivers last year,” Howard said. “I’ve had seven since March of this year. I enjoy what I do.”

As a driver with Prime’s Refrigerated Division, Howard said he hauls “whatever the company has going at the time.” He said his favorite route is “the first part of I-70 across the southern part of Utah. I like all those rugged hills.”

Howard said he’s been no further east than Framingham, Mass., and Allentown, Pa. “And I’ve heard enough about New York City to know that I don’t want to go there. I know a lot of drivers don’t like California, primarily because of the 55 mph speed limit, which can be annoying. But I don’t mind going to Los Angeles.”

Howard said that, initially, he was “only going to do it [be a trucker] for about a year, but I’ve enjoyed it so much that it would be difficult to quit now. I enjoy my time on the road and seeing the country. And as an instructor, I get to meet a lot of interesting people.”

Given all he’s learned about trucking the past 11 years, Howard has gleaned a lot about the industry and the people who keep this nation on the move. And who knows? Maybe someday he will come up with a movie script of his own.

The only question is: Is America ready for “Howard the Truck?”

Stranger things have happened, especially in Hollywood.

The Trucker Headlines

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