Committed to Safety
John Pipes, 55, of Gray Summit, Mo., still recalls the stories his uncle told him of life on the road many years ago — driving a truck during the sweltering heat of an Arizona summer with no air-conditioning, just an ice block between the seats, or hearing the “pop, pop, pop” of the truck running over rattlesnakes that had made their way onto the road at night. These sights and sounds his uncle described were what hooked Pipes.
Pipes didn’t start out working as a truck driver, but he says he will most certainly finish his working life driving. Pipes first got into the trucking business in 1979. He had lost his previous job, and a friend of his knew an owner-operator. Pipes was able to travel with the truck driver and embarked on his first experience of life on the road. He says he enjoyed the experience so much that in 1984, he hit the road as a company driver.
“It’s not the typical 9-to-5 job,” Pipes says. “You’re going someplace new, someplace different. You’re trusted with a job, and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck all day.”
Pipes adds that driving a truck is the toughest thing he has ever done. During his years of driving, Pipes says he has hauled basically anything and everything using a flatbed, reefer and dry van.
Among Pipes’ favorite loads over the years were the times he hauled his own horses. “I used to raise horses and train [quarter] horses,” Pipes says. He says he would barrel race and ride his horses for pleasure. “I didn’t really get into competition, didn’t breed to sell.”
In 1988, Pipes signed on with Con-Way Truckload. The company recruited Pipes because of his automotive experience, and with a rider policy program allowing spouses to accompany the drivers, Pipes knew he had found his company. He took his wife, Vickie, on the road with him during his first two years.
“She got to see the nation,” Pipes says. “She loved it, until she saw everything.”
Pipes enjoyed the two years traveling with her, but now he travels alone. Vickie still remains close at hand, though, as Pipes has attached a photograph of her to his visor.
During his 22 years’ experience on the road, Pipes has totaled more than 2.3 million miles with Con-way and 3.3 million miles overall. His safe record has earned him recognition over the years. In 1996, he took second place in the Missouri Truck Driving Championship. He also earned the Missouri Motor Carriers Association’s Roland Clark Certificate of Achievement for completing the event. Pipes also was runner-up in the 2007 Truckload Carriers Association Driver of the Year contest and has been recognized by Con-way for his safe record.
“John’s been here for over 21 years,” says Con-way Vice President of Safety and Recruiting Randy Cornell. “It’s almost unheard of in our industry. He’s utmost professional in everything he does. He’s simply a great guy and well deserving.”
Pipes says he hopes to keep up the safe record throughout his career.
“I want to stick with it and retire with a good record,” Pipes says.
Q: What is your favorite city you have traveled to?
A: Spokane, Wash. I got laid over there with my wife. It was just real peaceful.
Q: What is some advice you would give to other truckers?
A: Don’t do what everyone else does. Establish good, safe driving habits and stick with it. You have to drive your truck and watch out for everyone else. It’s like a combat zone.
Q: What is one thing you always take with you on the road?
A: A picture of my wife on the visor.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Anything except spinach. Pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans.