Up Late With Red Eye Radio's Eric Harleyby Jake Tully - Published: 9/13/2016
In the time slot where most radio show hosts are taking off to bed to dream up the agenda for the next day, Eric Harley is working away to keep the night owl listeners feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Harley, along with co-host Gary McNamara, fronts Red Eye Radio, a social and political radio program aimed at truckers and other workers taking the late-night shift.
In his stint on Red Eye Radio, Harley has provided drivers with conscious discussions of the major news issues, as well as touching upon family issues, trends in popular culture and weather forecasts for those who need to stay abreast of the conditions.
As a host, Harley has worked alongside McNamara to keep issues honest and focused, but also gives listeners an outlet for some levity in the charged world of debate and politics. The format of Red Eye Radio also allows listeners to call in and give their opinion on the topics at hand, and in doing so, allows them to be an integral part of the show’s process.
Truck Driving Jobs: Your radio show is aimed at people working long-haul shifts and those who are operating under otherwise non-traditional hours. Have truckers been receptive to having something to count on listening to?
Eric Harley: I believe they have. Our show started in 1969 with Bill Mack as the host. He was instantly the truckers’ companion. That is a fundamental part of our mission statement. Keep the driver informed, entertained, and engaged. The last one is most important, in my opinion. If we keep them engaged, they stay alert and awake.
January 5th: Trucker Faces 20 Years After Pleading Guilty To Smuggling Alien Found Dead In Locked Toolbox
January 2nd: Police Identify 2 Oregon Truck Drivers Killed In Fiery Head-On Crash
December 27th: Iowa First Of Eight States To Debut New Truck Parking Information System
TDJ: How do you think radio has changed since the country has shifted into more of a 24/7 lifestyle culture?
EH: As America has become more productive at night, radio has as well. While we’ve always had a higher level of energy compared to most all night shows of the past, radio in general has a more consistent energy level around the clock today. We serve as “morning drive” radio for drivers at night, so we work to deliver the same type of programming as morning shows, in both content and cadence.
TDJ: In addition to talking about the trucking industry, Red Eye Radio is also concerned with popular culture, family issues and politics. How do you strike a balance between talking about the industry and discussing non-industry matters?
EH: I think it helps to be aware of who is behind the wheel. These are folks who otherwise have lives like everyone else. I have family members who are in the industry or were at one time. I also have become friends with many drivers over the last 20 years of hosting the show. They are interested in the news of the day as well as news from the industry. So I don’t believe it’s necessarily about balance as much as it is about that overall audience awareness. If you keep their interests and concerns in mind, the conversation/flow of the show tends to happen naturally.
TDJ: In an election year, it is ever difficult to steer away from getting all too political?
EH: For years, we have been driven by the fact that we believe the industry has been greatly burdened with too much regulation. Certainly, the presidential election years can become bogged down with tons of rhetoric, but it’s crucial to have discussions about where we are headed as a nation and how current and future leaders and lawmakers will impact the industry. While we cover the elections and campaigns, our overall and long term approach is to focus on the ideas being promoted and not so much on the people who are running or serving. People are fallible, but the ideas are true. So, from that, we like to discuss which ideas work best when implemented as policy. Having said all of this, we do have fun and interject humor and other non-political topics and discussions. There is a bit of humor in most segments of the show. Hopefully, that helps make the more serious stuff easier to digest.
TDJ: In the same sense, R.E.R. is the longest running nationally syndicated radio program focused on the trucking industry - how do you help maintain the relevancy of topics and keeping things fresh 5 days a week?
EH: In today’s world, there is never a shortage of news or topics. The work we do each day in show prep has evolved greatly over the years. In the past, you spent a lot of time looking for topics. But today, thanks to the internet and everything it brings (social media, etc.) and thanks to smart phones (that computer that never leaves your side), the effort is more about sorting through the enormous amount of stories. So our workday really only pauses for sleep. At home, I am constantly reading stories. They don’t all make the show, but the only way to stay relevant is to take it all in.
TDJ: Your father served in two wars and you have showed ample support for our Veterans in your career. Do you get the opportunity to speak to veterans on the show?
EH: One of the proudest moments I have was the show on the morning of Friday, May 27th (the Friday before Memorial Day) of this year. In the first segment, we got into a discussion about how war is depicted in movies. A driver, who was a combat veteran, called in and to give us his take and told us how war movies are (understandably) difficult to watch due to his battle with PTSD. The phones lit up with caller after caller who were also suffering with PTSD. For some, it was their way of reaching out to others to let them know that they are not alone. We were able to share information on where to go for help and organizations that provide assistance. It’s my hope that there was at least some therapeutic effect from what transpired on that day. But I do not consider that show to be “our” show. The content was started by, and further driven by veteran truckers who needed a voice and wanted to reach out to others. We simply provided the forum. While we were proud and honored to do so, that show will always be theirs.
Aside from that, we often hear from drivers who are vets who relate their experience to various discussions. We put great value in that experience and are eternally grateful for their service.
TDJ: Your archived shows are available in the form of podcasts. Do you think some truckers who might have been reticent to embrace podcasts and apps are now more inclined to listen to something that will keep them company on the road?
EH: When I started on the show in 1996, most drivers did not have a cell phone. They eventually embraced that technology. Then, smart phones came about and many drivers were reluctant to use them. That changed as the technology proved to be useful and even crucial to drivers and the business of trucking. Today, many truckers are VERY tech savvy and make use of many of the tools and features. They are also much more active on social media, which helps them stay connected while on the road. As a result of this evolution, we have seen great response to the podcasts. So it’s not as intimidating as it once was.
TDJ: What might you say to someone – a trucker or any listener that keeps late hours – that is unfamiliar with the show and might be interested in listening?
EH: We are on over 220 great radio stations every night. We also have an app or you can listen live at the website redeyeradioshow.com. We’d love to have you tune in and become part of the nightly discussion!
Visit Red Eye Radio's site to listen online or to find out about how you can listen in live on the radio in your neck of the woods.