Billy Randal’s fight for justice began when he was indicted for evading the draft during the Vietnam War.
Raised in the Bronx, Billy galvanized factory workers as a labor organizer when he was a teenager. He always had an affinity for the plight of the American working class. Billy has an unapologetic fire for change that rages even when no one wants to listen. He is a self-defined renegade.
Thirty years ago, he climbed into the driver’s seat of a truck and fell in love with the open road. Through his front window, he watched the sun rise over the Carolinas, trekked through a snow covered Donner Pass, and parked beside the Mississippi River more times than he can count. “I love the road. I like seeing things. I like meeting people that I'll never see again, enjoying the camaraderie with them for a few moments. I enjoy the beauty of life, even though it's hard.”
Billy drives in silence as he spends days behind the wheel and crosses hundreds of miles. Shifting gears in his 12-speed truck, he listens to the rumbling of the engine, a kind of meditation, as he sips his fourth cup of coffee. His truck is his home, his place of work and his place to relax. The Dunkin donut he picked up in the morning that remains wrapped, is often his dinner. “Come on my girl,” he said, as he shifted gears approaching Baltimore at rush hour.
Most of Billy’s time is spent alone. “There is a presence out here,” he said. “You can call it an angel who protects us.” He wishes the civilian drivers around him would value the sacred concrete, as he does. For him, driving is a lifestyle. “I will die in this truck,” Billy said.
Phone calls from truck drivers around North America interrupt his solitude. Billy co-founded the 'Trucker’s Movement for Justice', an organization of drivers, mainly owner-operators like him, who aim to improve working conditions. They hope to establish nationwide grievance protocols to address wage theft and establish minimum hourly wages and overtime requirements. Billy is also passionate about advocating for access to bathrooms for truck drivers in Texas oilfields.
Billy rooted the movement in the Seventh Generation Principle, an ancient Iroquois philosophy that the decisions we make should result in a sustainable world for seven generations. “There has to be a sustainable economy,” he said to support truck drivers’ quality of life. “One that is in harmony.” Drivers sustain the American economy, but many owner-operators struggle to survive. Some are unable to retire. “Drivers deserve dignity and respect,” Billy said.
How does it feel to be 72?
"I'm proud of all of the years that I've been on this earth and in this world. But I also recognize and have for about the last two decades, my journey is coming to an end. The road is still very clear and it's in front of me. And I need to recognize is so many people have told me over the years, the decades, it's time for me to slow down and be ready to hand off to the time or the walking stick. I say I prefer the walking stick, to younger people because my time is almost here."
What do you look forward to?
"One last battle. And that battle is coming up. One last battle and then I'm going to look out at a pretty sky. And say, you got to be done with me now. I did what you wanted. Now let me come home. One big fight after a series of skirmishes. That one big battle may lead to many more. But the fight is in me. The spirit to fight is there."
What is your biggest concern?
"The future. There is none. I don't see the future. For the young men and women growing up. You got to be born in. The future's been taken away. I don't care where you are. I don't care if it's in China, Argentina, Canada, talking about where is the future of resources.
I think the future has to be one where there’s a much more co-operative approach to live sustainably. There is no road. We have to make the road, one step by step. One person at a time."