"We're all outlaw truckers... I don't know of one that don't break the law on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, most of us on an every load basis." - Herb Adams owner/operator of a coal truck in Letcher County, KY.




Coal Bucket Outlaw

Director: Tom Hansell
Running Time: 26:40
Featured Music: Catherine Irwin

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Tom Hansell & Herbie Adams

Coal Bucket Outlaw
an appalshop film by Tom Hansell

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that coal produces over half of our nation's electricity. Coal Bucket Outlaw is built around a day in the life of a Kentucky coal truck driver. This digital documentary gives Americans a direct look at where our energy comes from, and reveals the human and environmental price we pay for our national addiction to fossil fuels.

The narrative line follows two Kentucky coal truck drivers as they chase their version of the American dream. Viewers learn how the economics of the coal business demand that both drivers break the law every day. A veteran independent trucker plays the "cops and robbers" game with the weight crew from the Department of Transportation. A young driver debates whether to keep hauling coal or to move his family to the city. And, a father describes a collision with a coal truck that killed his teenage son. Facts and figures about coal as an energy source will place these individual struggles in a national context.

Coal Bucket Outlaw examines the connection between coal haulers and the larger system that produces America's electricity. If outlaws deliver half of our nations energy, are consumers and policymakers completely innocent?

Hear the West Virginia Public Radio interview with Tom Hansell here.



  • 1: A trucker admits to breaking weight laws.
  • 2: Truck owner complains about lack of enforcement.
  • 3: Coal spokesman comments on the truckers situation.
  • 4: Vehicle enforcement officer comments.
  • 5: One trucker's philososphy on overweight hauling.
  • 6: Coal trucker comments on energy policy.

High Resolution Photos

  • 1: Director Tom Hansell poses with trucker Herb Adams.
  • 2: Department of Transportation official stops an overloaded truck.
  • 3: A fully loaded coal truck descends a steep mountain grade.
  • 4: Trucker Herb Adams guides his rig up a narrow coal haul road.

All photos by Rhonda Simpson.


  • 2005 Ozark Foothills Filmfest, Batesville, AR
  • 2005 Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA
  • 2005 Coal and Community Film Series, Lebanon, VA
  • 2004 Galveston International Film Festival, Galveston Island, TX
  • 2004 One World Film Festival, Lexington, KY
  • 2003 Yunnan Multiarts Festival, Kunming, China.
  • 2003 Headwaters Television series broadcast on PBS in 30 states
  • 2003 Athens International Film Festival, Athens, OH
  • 2002 Museum of Modern Art documentary fortnight program, New York, NY

Related Links

Coal Related Links

Alternative Energy/Activist Related

  • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a statewide citizens group that address issues of corporate responsibility www.kftc.org
  • Citizen’s Coal Council A nationwide coalition working to protect communities and the environment from damage caused by mining and burning coal

Transportation Related

  • Kentucky Transportation Center Part of the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering, The Transportation Center has completed studies of Truck Safety and Kentucky’s extended coal haul weight system.
  • Worldwide Equipment Large regional coal truck dealer, lots of truck pictures, prices, and financing packages.

Film Related

  • Independent Television Service Coal Bucket Outlaw was produced in conjunction with ITVS. ITVS was established by Congress to fund and present public television programs that “involve creative risks and address the needs of underserved audiences”.