The first time Pat Shelton pulled doubles, he was terrified. It was nighttime, snowing, visibility was low and the experience was so nerve-wracking that he called central from his destination – after it took forever to get there - and told them that he was finished. He wouldn’t be driving it back. The dispatcher begged him to continue saying that no one else was available. They went around for a while, but Shelton finally agreed, and he’s been driving doubles ever since.
All totaled, Shelton has been driving for 34 years (not all LCVs) and currently works for Holland logging 2,700 miles weekly between South Bend and Cleveland. He is one of 19 active Holland drivers who have hit the 3 million mark without a preventable crash.
How has he stayed safe all these years?
“I am not an aggressive driver,” he says. Especially when driving through construction zones, the nighttime hauler keeps a steady but prudent pace and begins to slow down and change lanes well in advance of the detour or barrier. “I drive speeds where I feel comfortable. So many others drive too fast. I’m not going to put myself in harm's way to pacify somebody else who wants to go a little bit faster. In the snow, I see people driving way too fast for the weather conditions. They’re going 50, 55. I’m going 45 because that’s what’s really safe for the conditions. They can go around me.”
Shelton notes that a major contributor to his safety is being aware of his surroundings at all times. “I could be at my house and have a headache, a cold, just not feel well, but once I’m in the truck it’s a completely different mindset. You have to pay attention to what you're doing at your job because it's your life and everybody else's around you. You have to be aware at all times of what's going on.” Going along with having a mindset of awareness is being mentally and physically alert. “Because I work at night, it’s especially important to get the proper rest.”
Not everyone is on top of what’s happening around them. “There’s so much traffic but and not everybody is using their mirrors. In the summer you've got people pulling campers that maybe they only pull once a year and they’re not looking ahead to see what’s going on.”
One of his peeves is distracted drivers. “People are watching movies going down the road. I see this every day, and I don't like it. Stay off the phone, too. No texting. Just stay off the phone.”
Shelton says that he tries to keep composed no matter what happens. "If a situation comes up, I don't panic or overreact. That's very important."
He adds: “When you're on the road, you're representing everybody, especially your company. Sometimes truck drivers get a bad rap. We're actually pretty decent people and do care about others. I always do. I would never want to be involved in an accident where someone got hurt whether it was my fault or the other driver. I just couldn't handle it.”