JR Clift was no stranger to traffic laws before he started trucking. Clift, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had a successful law enforcement career before he first got behind the wheel of a big rig. He was a State Trooper in Nebraska and a Deputy Sheriff in North Dakota.
Trucking first caught his interest in the 1960s and he started trucking full time in 1981. He liked the travel opportunities and had always felt a draw to the open road.
Over the years Clift has accumulated over 3 million miles on the road. He currently works in Mid-States Transport’s flatbed division hauling freight for Gage Brothers, a concrete manufacturer in Sioux Falls. He was recently recognized for his contributions to the industry by the South Dakota Trucking Association’s Safety Council, which named Clift its January 2018 Driver of the Month.
Clift’s law enforcement career helped him make the transition to driving truck easier because he was already familiar with trucking regulations.
“You know the laws and you try to implement them the best you can. You know what to expect at a scale when you get there. A lot of people dread going to the scale,” Clift said. “They have a job to do. I have a job to do. As long as I’m doing my job right, I should be able to go into a scale and not have any problems.”
“I was pretty proud after all these years that I’m finally being recognized. I’m thankful to my boss, Steve Hoffman, for thinking I was good enough to be nominated for it,” Clift said.
Clift works with a lot of heavy concrete and oversized concrete beams, but he doesn’t mind it because the trailers are already loaded and secured by a team of people. He picks up the trailers and takes them from Gage Brothers to their destination, then deadheads back to the facility for another trailer.
“They don’t really bother me. A load is a load. Sometimes you have to look at the wind because the wind will catch the concrete and push you around a little,” Clift said. “Other than that, there’s nothing unusual about it once you get used to it.”
Clift has advice for rookie drivers who want to have a successful trucking career like he has: Listen to the veteran drivers.
“Listen to the older drivers because, believe it or not, they’re where they’re at because they’ve done a good job and they paid attention to older drivers. Never think you know it all. You want to learn something new everyday,” Clift said.