With 16 drivers encompassing four generations and more than 500 years of trucking experience between them, the Conners of Lock Haven, Pa., were named 2005 Great American Trucking Family.
In some ways, the Conner family of Lock Haven, Pa., mirrors the Amish clans that pepper the landscape around this rural Appalachian community. They are hard-working, self-sufficient and low-key. Also, they have passed along their way of making a living from generation to generation.Unlike the Amish, the Conners haven’t eschewed modern machinery. They have embraced it and mastered it.
With 16 family members – past and present – in the trucking industry, the Conners are a throwback to the way trucking used to be. “All of us learned old school,” says 35-year-old Mike Conner, a fourth-generation owner-operator leased to Linden Bulk of Linden, N.J. “None of us went to truck driving school. We all learned from our fathers and uncles.”
Truckers News has selected the Conners as its 2005 Great American Trucking Family. They will receive their award at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, prior to the Mobil Delvac-sponsored Terri Clark concert on Friday, Aug. 26. The show runs from Aug. 25-27.
The Conner family’s trucking tree started with the late Lawson (L.T.) Conner, an owner-operator for 54 years until his death in 1971. Four sons, Arthur, Lebert, Clarence E. and Vernon, followed in his footsteps – all owner-operators with long driving careers.
Vernon died in 1995 after 37 years driving. Lebert (owner-operator, 44 years) retired in 1998 and Arthur (owner-operator, 49 years) in 2001.
That leaves Clarence E. as the sole second-generation trucker still working. At just one month shy of turning 80 years old, he shows no sign of slowing down after 65 years on the road. “If I didn’t drive, I’d be in my grave,” says Clarence E. “I’m going to keep going until the DOT says I can’t.”
He runs locally for Milton Transportation, turning 150- to 300-mile trips daily in his 1989 International powered by a 425-horsepower Caterpillar engine. Clarence E. has been with the company since 1971, hauling mostly roll paper and cardboard. He does all of his own maintenance and most of his own repairs. In early June, he was in the shop installing a new radiator, family members say.
“I’d like to see him take it easier and not be out there in the winter,” says his son, 54-year-old Bob Conner, who is leased to Quality Carriers of Tampa Bay, Fla. “But I’ve never been afraid to ride with him, even now.”
While L.T. may have started the family down the trucking highway, everyone considers Clarence E. their role model and inspiration. All rely on his advice and expertise as a driver and owner-operator. “Pap’s always telling us to ‘go steady.’ If you have a bad week, don’t try to make it all up the next week,” Mike says.
Among the Conners, these philosophical trucking gems are plentiful and considered part of their success and longevity in the industry. No one takes them to heart as much as Mike, who says his grandfather’s work ethic and dedication to trucking inspired his own career.
“I remember Pap would leave out on Sunday nights when I was very young,” says Mike. “I can still smell the cologne he wore then and the diesel smoke when he pulled away from the house. I knew even then what I wanted to do. I wanted to be like him.”
Mike started out in a 1963 B61 Mack that his dad, Bob, and Gary Swartz (Clarence E.’s son-in-law) had rebuilt. At 18, he became an owner-operator when he bought a 1984 Peterbilt.