As one of the country's great industrial giants, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) operates the largest agricultural transportation system in the world. The company deploys its own private fleet of barges, a private railroad, and a private truck fleet known as ADM Trucking Inc. The private fleet ships 13,000 loads a month and was ranked in 2011 among Fleet Owner's “Top 500 Private Fleets in America.” This fleet has 2,350 straight trucks, tractors and trailers. The company also runs 2,180 barges, 26,000 rail cars, and 35 towboats. This is the private portion only. In total, ADM shipments require 5 million trucks, 500,000 rail cars, and 12,000 barges. Among the thousands of ADM workers operating company equipment each day, including 530 private fleet truck drivers, one individual stands especially tall this year.
Larry Allen is a rare breed in his field. Working for ADM Trucking for the past several years, he has racked up one of the most impressive safe driving records ever achieved by a commercial truck driver in America. In his 43 years as a truck driver, beginning in the late 1960s working part-time while still in high school, Larry has accumulated 5.5 million mi. without a chargeable accident and without a moving violation. Larry was inducted into the NPTC Driver Hall of Fame at its annual conference in April.
Larry operates a tractor-trailer hauling flour, sugar lysine, beans and wheat in both city and over-the-road applications. He delivers two or three loads per day, averaging 50,000 lbs. per load. Although Larry typically puts in around 55 hours a week on routes throughout the southeastern U.S., he also serves as a driver trainer and mentor with current drivers and new hires.
“I try to make a good attitude and good driving habits a part of my day, to present myself as a professional representative for ADM,” he says. “Customers count on me to be on time for each load, every day. Our ADM trucks always look clean and attractive, and our private fleet sets a very high standard in customer service. We deliver a food-grade product and take pride in our appearance. I am expected to show up at the customer's location well-dressed with a cheerful smile and polite manner.
“I'm from the old school,” Larry explains. “I take my time, am very cautious and am considerate of others. ADM's policy of a maximum 63 mph is a good one and I operate strictly within that limit.” With highways ever more crowded and more risk-taking drivers to contend with, truck driving has not gotten any easier over the last four decades of Larry's career. “I accept the fact that staying safe as a driver gets tougher each year given conditions on the road. This just means a driver has to work a little bit harder every year to find additional margins of safety.”
ADM works diligently to recognize drivers like Larry Allen. Last year, he was named Driver of the Year for ADM and was also recognized as an NPTC National Driver All-Star. Allen keeps his commitment to safety fresh by attending ADM driver training qualification workshops, all driver recertification sessions, and Smith System refresher courses.
“ADM has a tradition of excellent and safe drivers,” says Bill Patterson, president of ADM Trucking, “but Larry Allen is truly stand-out exceptional.”
Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council's website is www.nptc.org. His column appears monthly in Fleet Owner.