Con-way Freight driver Ross Reynolds has driven more than 2 million miles over nearly 40 years without an accident. Aside from company awards, Reynolds was a finalist for the American Trucking Assns' America’s Road Team three years in a row. Based in Tucson, Arizona, he also placed in the top four of every Arizona State Truck Driving Championship (ATDC) from 2001 to 2010. In 2014, he designed the ATDC obstacle course, including four new obstacles. Most recently, he won the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's first annual International Driver Excellence Award.
Reynolds offers advice for drivers who want to turn their driving job into a career. Most important, he says, is to find a company that values safety as their priority. "Here at Con-way, safety’s our number one core value, and in my opinion, safety needs to be the driving force behind every professional truck driver’s decisions and actions. Everything we do day to day needs to be based on safety. Nothing is worth doing unless you can do it safely.
"When I first started out with Con-way it was more of a job, but as the years rolled on it became more and more of a career because of the different opportunities that they presented to me," says Reynolds. "The recognition that they give for driving safe, working safely and doing your job well on a day-to-day basis is just unbelievable."
Reynolds notes that over the years, he has made an effort to learn everyone else's job. "I never have the attitude that 'it's not my job.' Knowledge is a wonderful thing if you use it." By knowing others' jobs, you become an asset to the company. For example, learn how to do simple fixes on your truck. "If you’re out on the road and you can do a quick repair to get back on the road, do it as long as it’s going to be DOT safe. You save time and money in the long run by fixing it yourself." Reynolds even learns about office tasks. "I've tried to learn office including computer work, safety maintenance and whatever I can to help out when I need to help out.
"The key is to make yourself valuable to your employer. Be an asset, not a liability."
Reynolds suggests that drivers should understand their customers. "Each customer has different quirks about how they want to do things. For example, some customers want the pallets loaded straight in so they can get them easy with a forklift. By knowing your customer, and what they’re set up to do, it makes your job more efficient if you load the trailer that way to begin with."
He places a high price on integrity, and it pays dividends. "I've always been taught to let your 'yes be yes' and your 'no be no' and be a person who people can trust. Be honest with people. Be honest with your supervisor. Be honest with your customers. Customers have heard every excuse in the book. I've found that times when I've worked dispatch, and we have a late driver, and they’re not going to make it to a customer before they close for a pickup or delivery, I call the customer and am upfront and honest with them. They can deal with that. Nobody likes to be lied to." Don't make up stories, he warns. "Don’t say that the driver got a flat if he didn't, because when the driver arrives and they ask about the flat and he says 'I didn't have a flat,' then you've lost all integrity with that customer."
Reynolds' last piece of advice for new drivers is that respect must be earned. It's not something that can be expected, demanded or forced. "You can’t walk into a new company and demand respect, the best routes, the best tractors or come in with the attitude that you know everything. Every now and then you see new drivers who are a little cocky. They think they know everything. Once we start training, though, they get their eyes opened and learn that maybe they didn't know as much as they thought they did."
He concludes: "Anybody can hold down a job, but a career is built over time."