You don't hear songs very often about decades of dedicated service leading to a comfortable retirement, but that's what's going on here, as Mattea sings about a truck driver named Charlie who is making his last run after 30 years on the road. The hook is that he's still madly in love with his wife, so now he spend the rest of his life with her - that's who the dozen roses are for.
The song takes us through his last run - with 10 miles to go he'll listen to just a few more tunes on the all-night radio station, then hang up his keys. He'll still drive, but now in a Winnebago RV with his wife. The song was one of four #1 Country hits for Mattea.
This was written by the country songwriters Gene and Paul Nelson. Other songs they wrote include "Love Is the Only Way Out" by William Lee Golden, "I Have You" by Glen Campbell, and another #1 hit for Mattea, "Burnin' Old Memories."
"Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" is one of the most popular trucking songs, and one of the most unusual in the genre, as it's very sentimental. Many songs about truckers are celebrations of the open road or stories of adventures on 18 wheels.
This song gets a mention in the movie Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman's character, who has autism and is prone to making dissociated pop culture references, says, "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" during a conversation with his brother, played by Tom Cruise.
According to the book America's Best Loved Country Songs by Dorothy Horstman, the songwriting brothers based this on their aunt and uncle, Hop and Louise Langley, whom they often visited in North Carolina. Hop was a trucker and Louise couldn't wait until her husband's retirement so they could hit the road in a Winnebago - which they did.