30 Big Ones: Byron Bigelow Celebrates 30 Years of Driving with Transport America
Thirty years is a long time to be a professional truck driver.
But driving for 30 years with the same trucking company is just about unheard of nowadays.
For Byron Bigelow, Transport America was the right fit for him when he started driving for the comany starting back in 1988 at the age of 28, and it continues to be a great fit.
“Why would I change trucking companies?,” Byron asks rhetorically. “This company has been good to me since day one. They care about safety and they care about me as a driver. I plan to keep driving for Transport America until I decide to retire.”
A resident of Austintown, Ohio, which is located about eight miles from Transport America’s North Jackson support center, Byron is a solo dedicated driver who is currently serving Transport America’s client, Kmart retail stores, primarily supplying stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.
In his 30 years with Transport America, Byron hasn’t missed a day of work. He’s never filed a Workers Compensation claim for an injury while on the job. He’s driven more than 3 million miles safely. That’s a lot to be proud of, but to him, that’s just the start.
“I’ve been married for 30 years, I have three wonderful grown children and three grandchildren, and when I retire, I’ll probably be a millionaire, thanks to the 401k plan at Transport America that I faithfully invested into with every paycheck,” Byron says. “I have a lot to be thankful for. That’s all I can say.”
What is Byron’s secret sauce?
To him, it’s about maintaining and feeding a positive mental attitude.
What’s kept me at Transport America for 30 years is my attitude,” Byron continues. “It’s what you make of every experience. For example, there was this one time that a shipper was giving me a hard time about different procedures. I kept a positive attitude, kept my mouth shut, and listened carefully. After I was loaded she asked my name and truck number. She told me I was the first driver to not complain and she sent a letter to Transport America about how nice I was.”
“I’m happy I stayed,” he adds. “I’ve made good money, good friends, and I’ve safely driven 3 million miles. In addition, I’ve never had a problem getting home when I needed to be home.”
Another factor, says Byron, is that over the years, Transport America continued to invest in its fleet of trucks, and in the safety of its drivers.
When Byron started driving for Transport America, he drove a cabover with manual transmission. All communications with one’s dispatcher was done with a rotary (dial) telephone. Drivers used CB radios to communicate with each other about road conditions in their local area, because there were no cell phones and trucks didn’t have Qualcomm technology.
“Every new thing that Transport America has done has helped to make the life of the driver safer and more productive,” Byron says. “The more we can concentrate on our driving, the safer we can be as drivers.”
For example, Byron points to the forward dash cam.
“I know that there are some drivers who don’t like it,” Byron says, “But I had a hard brake situation in Buffalo, New York, where I came within a foot of hitting a car. When we looked at the video, two things were clear – it showed the driver merged into my lane while giving me very little space, and that the car’s back brake lights were out!”
Or, Byron brings up the electronic log books.
“Do you know how much time that has saved me!” says Byron. “It wasn’t my favorite at first. But listen, I’d much rather focus on driving than filling out more paperwork. Now I appreciate it.”
Byron has a good friend who works with another trucking company. One day, his friend stopped by with his truck and the two got to compare their trucks side by side.
“He was absolutely amazed by how much nicer my Transport America truck was compared to his. For example, at their trucking company, you don’t get a mini-fridge automatically installed in your truck,” grins Byron. “This is what I’m talking about – Transport America consistently goes out of its way to make our lives as drivers nicer and more productive.”
So what words of wisdom can someone who has driven for 30 years share with other drivers? Here’s what Byron has to say:
- Find a trucking company, such as Transport America, that respects you and puts safety first.
- Work for a company that offers good benefits, such as a 401k plan and healthcare. And start investing in your 401k from day one.
- Be open to new technology.
- Always do a proper inspection of your truck and the trailer that you’re hauling. Don’t leave problems for other drivers.
- Treat your spouse with respect, love him/her for who they are, and help them learn how to take responsibility (and make sound, independent decisions) for managing the home while you’re on the road. Byron has been married for 30 years and has relied on his wife’s support in taking care of their home life.
- Carry extra valve stem caps.
- Use your 5th wheel puller.
- If you’re upset about something, talk to your fleet leader right away to get it resolved so you can focus on driving.
- Give yourself more time, so you’re not rushing to make a delivery time. The more you rush, the more likely you will have issues.
- And most of all, keep a positive attitude.
With an eye toward retiring in about nine years, Byron intends to live by his own words of wisdom and keep saving toward his dream of buying a Harley-Davidson Trike Motorcycle.
“Because when I retire, I’m going to pay cash for that bike!” says Byron.