As a kid growing up on a dairy farm in Tennessee, Danny Smith, who today drives for Big G Express, drove the family’s trucks and tractors.
But, it was the big trucks hauling a tank trailer that came to pick up the milk from the farm that really caught his interest. Once he was old enough to drive legally, he asked the trucking company’s owner if there were any jobs. There weren’t.
“Then out of the blue about two years later he called me one night – it was a Saturday night and we were eating supper – and asked if I was still interested in driving,” recalls the 57-year-old who lives in Shelbyville, Tenn. “He said come over tomorrow. I started that Sunday (in 1980) and have been driving a truck ever since.”
That longevity, and his record for safe driving during those 35 years and more than 4.5 million accident-free miles is what has made Smith one of just three truckers nominated for the Company Driver of The Year Award given by the Truckload Carriers Association.
The award, to be presented this week at the TCA’s annual convention in Florida, is sponsored by Cummins and Love’s Travel Stops. The winner receives $25,000.
Smith has driven for Big G for the past 20 years. Today he drives dry van over the road for the Shelbyville-base company, covering the contiguous 48 states.
In his 35 years of driving, Smith says he has driven just about every kind of truck that has been on the road.
“I started in a 9000 Ford day cab when I was hauling milk,” says Smith. “My first over the road truck was a 4300 International.” Today Smith says he’s behind the wheel of a 2014 Kenworth 680.
But, it’s not about the trucks. It’s about the job itself that keeps Smith on the road.
“I just love trucking,” said Smith. “I’ve always loved my job, even though some days it’s a little more difficult than others. I just love being out and seeing the country.”
And, Smith is quick to share the credit for his long and successful career.
“One thing that has helped me to be successful is my wife and kids,” said Smith. “I have a very supportive wife and kids.
“My kids were small when I started working here at Big G, and they (the company) were really good about me being able to get home for those important things, even in the middle of the week.
“But, I give the credit to my wife. She is very supportive in what I do.”
Smith and his wife Carol have been married 36 years.
When asked what else has been important to having a long and accident-free career, Smith replied: “I think it’s my dedication to always trying to do what’s right. That’s the way I was raised. Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t the easiest thing, but you can never go wrong doing what’s right.
“I give it 100-plus percent when I go to work and always try to be as safe as I possibly can, so everyone gets home safely, whether it’s me or other drivers on the road.”
It’s that sort of outlook and approach to the job that is recognized by the award, and the sponsorship by Love’s and Cummins.
“This is a unique opportunity to give back to professional truck drivers and show them how much we, as an industry, value them,” said Jon Archard, Love’s vice president of sales. “Love’s is honored to show our appreciation for the hard work they do day in and day out.”
“The professional truck driver is an essential part of the trucking industry that helps contribute to the nation’s economy and to the everyday lives of all of us,” said Amy R Boerger, general manager, North American Engine Business for Cummins. “We are honored to be able to take part in honoring them.”
Also nominated for Company Driver of the Year honors are Gary Teel, who drives for Weinrich Truck Line of Iowa and Johnny Chestnut, a driver for Saddle Creek Logistics in Florida.
TCA, Cummins and Love’s will also honor an Owner/Operator of the Year.