Navajo Express driver’s affection for the road has kept him trucking for three decades and more than 4 million safe miles
When he was in his preteen years, grocery-hauler Charlie Hamilton says he acquired quite an affinity for trucking. His father hauled a reefer and delivered ice cream to stores, and he and his brother tagged along during summers and school breaks.
“From that point,” Hamilton says, “I just kind of fell in love.”
Hamilton started driving full-time in 1981, when the construction company he worked for, Don J. Cummings, needed a driver to haul building materials and equipment from New Mexico to the East Coast and back. It was a one-truck operation, Hamilton says, and he hauled “a little bit of everything. Steel doors, steel frames — it was a construction outfit.”
Afterward, he worked for two other companies, GWX Transportation Express and Westway Express, before finding his current job at Navajo Express 12 years ago.
During his 29 years as a driver, Hamilton has piled up more than 4 million accident-free miles. In 2009, he was one of 12 finalists in the Truckload Carriers Association Company Driver of the Year contest.
Hamilton attributes his safe-driving accolades mostly to good fortune. “It’s probably just been luck,” he says. “The longer you’re out here — the odds start working against you. But I always try to maintain a good following distance. I’ve had my share of close calls, but maintaining a good distance between you and whatever’s in front of you always helps.”
The Albuquerque, N.M., resident hauls groceries from Arizona to Denver, where Navajo Express is based. Hamilton says he’s been able to stick with trucking for three decades simply because he likes it.
“I enjoy the job I do,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed driving, and that was sort of always the main thing for me.”
While working at GWX, also based in Denver, Hamilton picked up a training role within the company, riding along with new drivers and showing them the ropes. He’s been doing it off and on since. “I’ve been doing it almost 20 years,” he says. “Sometimes I get burnt out on it, but I’ve met some really nice people along the way — folks I still keep in contact with today.”
Post-Navajo, Hamilton says he wants to find a company a little closer to home. And post-trucking? “Golf,” he says. “I’m going to do a lot of golfing.”
Q & A
Q: What’s one thing you always carry with you in your truck on the road?
A: The last few years I’ve always brought my dog, Angelo (pictured). My father-in-law got him for me. He brought him home when he was a little puppy, and we hit it off pretty good. One day I put him in the truck, and I’ve done it ever since. He helps keep my blood pressure down.
Q: What advice would you give younger drivers?
A: Do things legally. You’ve got to keep your nose clean.
Q: What is your most memorable moment in your years of trucking?
A: I trained my brother how to drive. That was a really memorable moment. We spent six weeks together.
COMPANY DRIVER OF THE YEAR
Truckers News will select a 2010 Company Driver of the Year, to be announced in early 2011, from its current Driver of the Month profiles. The winner of the contest will receive prizes from trucking industry vendors.