First Deaf Truck Driver in Maryland Advocates for Deaf Community
By S. Alexandra Tuttle
I first met Charles “Chas” Wirick over two years ago when he came to a Legislative District 18 meeting. During this event, I noticed that Chas had a device with him that recorded everything. At first, I was taken aback as to why he was using it, but I quickly learned that he had been profoundly deaf since birth and could not read lips. Most importantly, I soon discovered his reason for attending that meeting.
When I was a clinical social worker for a housing agency that included public and low-income housing, I encountered many people who took advantage of a wide range of social services. While some needed them, a great many others really did not, but had no interest in doing or wanting more for themselves. I believe to this day that this particular county housing agency encouraged more dependence on government than almost any other agency.
In Dr. Paul Kengor’s book, Principles of a Reagan Conservative, he writes about one of the former president’s key principles – the belief in the individual: “(T)o a conservative, surely a Reagan conservative, every individual is special, unique, a potential producer with value and new dreams and ideas, who adds to the world…” Reagan’s focus on belief in the individual stands in stark contrast to what we see in today’s “Progressive” Democrat Party.
During my interview with Chas Wirick, I asked him the following questions:
What made you decide to come to that first Legislative District 18 meeting?
I wanted to see what types of programs might be available to help those who are disabled to become more independent and less dependent on government. Meetings help me to understand how to advocate, not only for myself, but for others as well.
I had not seen you for a while, but then started seeing you on Facebook – with a big smile and a ‘big rig,’ behind you. Can you tell me what you are doing now?
I decided a while ago to become a truck driver. In fact, I am the first deaf trucker in the state of Maryland. It was a long process. My persistence paid off!
It took over two years to convince the DMV to let me test with the ASL. I showed them that one woman sued the Florida Motor Vehicle Administration, and she won. This step will remove barriers for the deaf.
What are some of the challenges you face on the road? What is your typical work schedule?
The most challenging thing I face is parking. Some areas will not allow you to sleep there if the lot is full. My typical work day runs 9-12 hours. Additionally, most people who work at the weigh station are not used to deaf truck drivers. With the police, I indicate that I am profoundly deaf, cannot read lips and that we need to write back and forth. They need to be able to inspect the truck – that is no problem. In my travels, I hope that I am making a difference and educating people about what I and others can do in this field.
On your Facebook pages, I often see that you have come up with tips to adjust to life on the road.
I use a GD-350 watch, and the vibration wakes me up in the morning. I can’t hear the communications that warn me an hour ahead about service requirements.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I get to visit different states – so far, 14 states, for work. I particularly enjoy driving through New York City. Driving trucks allows me to dream big.
What suggestions would you have for those considering this field who may have disabilities?
I would encourage them to find something they enjoy. There are a lot of deaf people, who would make good drivers. There is a trucking shortage. A federal law was passed in 2014 that provided for the deaf to be able to drive trucks and not be discriminated against. I want more states to get educated about this. For me, it has been a gift to be able to fulfill my dream.
What is your ultimate career goal?
I plan to be on the road for at least another year. Although my ultimate goal is to do outreach to the deaf community to mentor and train them to become truck drivers, I am happy to help anyone at any time. My mission is to assist independent deaf truckers all over the world in order to reduce their dependence on government systems.
My boss tells me I will be in the Hall of Fame one day.