Alaska’s driver of the year has 3.5 million miles to his credit

The Alaska Trucking Association has named Carlile Transportation’s Kenny Jones its driver of the year.

Awarded during the 2015 Alaska Truck Driving Championships last month, the award is based on experience, safety knowledge and a safe driving record.

Alaska Trucking Association Driver of the Year winner Kenny Jones and Seward Terminal Manager Russ Baker

Jones has logged more than 3.5 million miles throughout his 45-year career driving Alaska roads. That’s equal to seven round-trip flights to the moon.

Since 1996, he has logged more than 1.8 million miles along the Dalton Highway delivering materials to the North Slope, including large modules for the oil fields, and explosives for construction work – even shotgun escorts moving nuclear parts along the highway for the military.

While his current North Slope assignments are generally weekly grocery runs between Anchorage and Prudhoe Bay, he also operates as a “push truck” driver. It can take a convoy of trucks up to 300-feet long to move a 100-ton, 20-foot-wide module to the oil fields. One truck hauls the module, and between three and five “push trucks” nudge the front truck up steep inclines along the highway.

“Visibility as a push truck driver is limited – literally all the lead push truck driver can see is the end of the hood,” says Jones. “It can be both tedious and nerve-wracking all at the same time.”

Jones was inducted into the Carlile Million Mile Club in 2007, an achievement based on safety standards, and is a member of Caterpillar’s Million-Mile Club. Previously, he was recognized by the Alaska Trucking Association as Driver of the Year in 2000.

“Kenny Jones is one of the highest quality drivers I have ever known,” says Harry McDonald, co-founder of Carlile and currently managing director Alaska for Saltchuk, which acquired Carlile in 2013. “He sets a safety standard that inspires other drivers.”

Born in Anchorage in 1951, Jones landed his first trucking job at age 18 with City Express, where he mainly worked as a “swamper,” putting on chains, and loading and unloading cargo. In 1979, he began working for Louisiana Pacific driving a self-loading log truck.

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In 1988, Jones started what would be a long-association with childhood friends Harry and John McDonald, who in 1980 had founded Carlile. While Jones had driven with the McDonalds earlier in his career – they had only three trucks at the time, this association was permanent and Jones has been with Carlile ever since.

Today, Jones is well-known in the ranks for driving “The Black Truck,” a 2003 Kenworth W900 that makes the weekly 2,700-mile roundtrip grocery run between Anchorage and Prudhoe Bay.

Safety is always top-of-mind with Jones and his approach to safety is simple: “Stay focused and wired at all times. Safety is not unique, it is achievable if people pay attention 100 percent of the time.”