The Press: Truckin' with Overdrive

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Goons threw acid on the owner of a truck stop outside Detroit for displaying the magazine. A stopover in eastern Ohio was blown up for featuring it on a newsrack. Gunmen shot out the gas signs of a stop in Indiana and threatened worse if the display rack did not go. When it comes to circulation, Overdrive magazine has had some unique problems. They are the price that the muckraking journal, which calls itself the voice of America's independent truckers, has had to pay for documenting corruption in the trucking industry. In the past three years alone, the 14-year-old monthly has printed more than 20 carefully researched articles linking criminal figures to abuses in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' pension fund. Last month, when James Hoffa disappeared, reporters automatically turned to Overdrive for an explanation. In its latest issue, out this week, Overdrive concludes that the Mob did Hoffa in.

Diverted Funds. In a racket-infested, violent industry, maverick Overdrive (circ. 56,000) speaks with high-tonnage authority. The chief author of the exposes is Jim Drinkhall, 35, the magazine's top investigative reporter, who specializes in the Teamsters' infamous and huge Central States $1.5 to $2 billion pension fund. Drinkhall roused a federal investigation in 1973 with articles showing that a $1.4 million Teamsters pension-fund loan, ostensibly given to a plastics company in New Mexico, was really used primarily to finance the Chicago syndicate's purchase of wiretapping equipment. He also revealed that the Tonight Show's Ed McMahon and an associate misused some of a $1.5 million Teamster advance paid them to run a public relations campaign. In addition, Drinkhall has uncovered schemes to divert union funds into resorts like La Costa near San Diego and various Las Vegas hotels. Says the mustachioed reporter: "I have never investigated a pension-fund loan and found a straight business transaction."

What gives Drinkhall—and Overdrive—their franchise to hunt is the populist philosophy of the magazine's editor-publisher and sole owner, Michael Parkhurst. New Jersey-born Parkhurst, 41, became an owner-operator trucker at 17 but sold his rig after ten years and used the money to start Overdrive in Los Angeles, a major trucking center. He wanted "to wake the truckers up to the fact that they're slaves to a monopoly." Parkhurst would visit truck stops by horse for publicity, but service, not stunts, made Overdrive. It dug, exposed, and above all helped out. There have been graphic headlines (HOW YOUR SWEAT FINANCES CROOKS' CADILLACS) and explosive stories, but truckers have also been attracted by the offer of free collect calls for legal advice, tips on taxes—and cheesecake. The independents also came to respect Parkhurst for his crusades to get clean truck stops and uniform trailer lengths, and for his no-nonsense technical reports on new trucks.

Today, Overdrive is fat (normally 150 pages) and prosperous. In 1973 the magazine grossed more than $1 million, but Parkhurst drew barely $14,000 in salary and the journal's net was only $1,750. The reasons: Parkhurst pays good salaries to his staff of 21 and pours money into the Independent Truckers Association, legislative lobbying and other causes.

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