From Construction to Professional Truck Driving: Ken Kellogg, Transport America’s 2017 Driver of the Year
To Ken Kellogg, named 2017 OTR Driver of the Year by Transport America, it all comes down to respect.
Respecting your body and mind.
Respecting your time and that of the customer.
Respecting your truck.
Respecting the road and fellow truck drivers.
And earning that respect, too.
In the ten years since he earned his CDL, Ken has gained a deep respect for his job, his fellow employees at Transport America (the only company he’s driven for), and the trucking industry.
“I have deep respect for this job and for this industry,” he says. “Over time, I’ve learned many lessons that have helped me become the professional driver who I am today. I was shocked to be named Driver of the Year. There are so many drivers who are deserving of this award who work for Transport America.”
At 57, Kellogg, a resident of Raymond, Illinois, was honored as Driver of the Year for a number of reasons – on-time pick-up and delivery, no driving citations, a clean record of roadside inspections, his professionalism, and most of all, his dedication to his profession and his can-do attitude.
For Ken, he never dreamed of being named Driver of the Year. His big goal was to reach 1 million miles safely driven. Shortly after being honored by the company at the Driver of the Year ceremony in Transport America’s headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, Ken learned he had reached his goal and has now driven 1 million miles safely.
So what is Ken’s version of what it takes to reach this level of professionalism?
“The key to being a successful driver, in my mind, is to study your schedule and make the most of every minute. I pride myself on being precise,” Ken says. “Practically speaking, that means taking the extra time to check all of your equipment to make sure everything is working properly. Getting out of your truck and taking a look when you’re backing up. Being mindful of driving conditions. Looking ahead down the road to spot problems before they happen. Avoiding distractions. Being focused. Respecting your role as a professional driver in keeping our roads safe for all.”
An over-the-road driver for Transport America, Ken has been married for 38 years to his wife Carol and are the proud parents of one daughter and two grandchildren. They live on a seven-acre wooded lot about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.
The road to becoming a driver began 10 years ago when Ken felt the tug to make a career change.
Starting as an industrial insulator, for 25 years Ken worked in a number of roles within the California construction industry building water plants, power plants, airplane hangers, etc. A native of San Pablo (San Francisco Bay area), he and his wife Carol most recently lived in Dixon, California (Sacramento area).
A little over 10 years ago, a number of factors converged to change Ken’s career path. His parents and those of his wife passed away. Working in the elements, especially hot, blistering days, every day became tiring. And the opportunity to sell their home and move to the Midwest near Carol’s relatives opened up.
While he wasn’t dissatisfied with his career in construction, he wasn’t excited about the future either.
“After we sold our house and moved to Illinois I decided to just take a year off and chill,” Ken says. “I worked on our lot and our home and being in the country and away from the city for the first time in my life, cleared my head.”
That’s when Ken decided to give truck driving a try. And, no surprise, he enjoyed it.
“I’ve always had a thing for trucks,” he says. “I don’t know why. There’s no trucking blood in our family. I just knew that it was something that I wanted to give a try.”
After obtaining his CDL, Ken researched a number of companies and went to work for a flatbed company based in Oklahoma.
“When I was recruited, I told them that I wanted to be home every weekend to see my wife,” says Ken. “When I went to their orientation session, they said it was going to be every two to three weeks. So I left and went back to looking. That’s when I discovered Transport America and I haven’t looked back since.”
Making a mid-life career change can be tough for anyone, but Ken has made the shift with relative ease, with the help of Transport America.
“Transport America has been a great company to work for,” says Ken. “I have a wonderful fleet leader – Marv Stoltz – out of the Eagan, MN. I really appreciate the company’s focus around safety – safety is number one. They say you’re the captain of your own truck and if the conditions are such that it’s unsafe to drive, they say it’s okay to pull over to a safe location. You make the call. I like that attitude.”
“But the one thing I admire and appreciate the most about Transport America is their open-door policy,” he adds. “They respect us drivers by encouraging us to get out of our trucks and come in through the doors and meet with the company’s leaders. They’re willing to listen to us – like real human beings. And they realize that we have a life outside of driving the truck.”
So what does it take to be driver of the year?
“I think it’s about respecting yourself,” Ken says. “Getting enough sleep so you’re alert while you’re driving, eating healthy, exercising, talking with your fleet leader so you know exactly where you’re going and when to be there, and keeping your truck clean.”
“It’s a big lifestyle change,” he adds. “You have to have the right mindset to make it work. It’s a mindset of respect.”
“I know Transport America and my Fleet Leader respect me as a professional driver but to be the best driver possible you need to also respect yourself and the road.” adds Ken.