Overdriver Owner-Operator of the Month

Caroline Taylor | May 01, 2011

Keeping a Good Attitude

Continuing a long career of safe driving, Gordon Johnson also serves as a Greatwide adviser to rookies.

Growing up in eastern Kentucky, Gordon Johnson learned about work at an early age. He was raised by his grandparents, who taught him how to apply himself while keeping a good attitude.

“I grew up not knowing what rich or poor was,” says Johnson, a Fredericktown, Ohio, resident. “I just knew what hard work was.”

Johnson bought his 1997 Freightliner Century Class new and has put more than 960,000 miles on it at an average 6.37 mpg. A Turbo Wing on top of the tractor enhances aerodynamics.

His fascination with trucks began when he started driving a fire truck as a volunteer firefighter, and continued to grow after he took a side job driving a school bus. After a layoff at the factory where Johnson worked, he said he saw a newspaper ad seeking an owner-operator.

“I saw the opportunity and took it,” says Johnson, who was 28 then. “I figured if I could drive a fire truck and a bus, I could drive a truck.”

Now 68, with more than 3 million miles of accident-free driving in his 39-year driving career, Johnson is leased to Greatwide Logistics Services. He drives a 1997 Freightliner and mainly hauls groceries for Kroger and Wal-Mart.

Johnson bought his 1973 Kenworth K100 cabover in 1974 and put a million miles on it, he says. “That was my first big truck, and it had no power steering.”

“There were people put on this earth to be doctors, journalists, lawyers – I was meant to drive a truck,” Johnson says.

Honored by Greatwide as Owner-Operator of the Month in March 2009 and Owner-Operator of the Year in 2010, he says his success stems from practicing patience, caution and safety.

“I haul every load like it’s the first load I’ve ever hauled,” he says.

That’s obvious to Ray Rigel, regional safety manager at Greatwide Logistics Services. “Gordon looks at each load as if they contained the most valuable items for which he is responsible,” Rigel says. “We need more drivers who care about their customers, who care about their freight, and who truly care about each other.”

Johnson says he liked the idea of being a businessman who could be his own boss, set his own schedule and work as hard as he wanted.

In 1971, Johnson bought his first truck, a 1971 International, for $7,852, and began hauling mobile homes for Morgan Drive-Away in Elkhart, Ind. In 1974, he leased to Branch Motor Express in New York City.

In 1978, he began hauling lawn and garden tools for Wilson Freight in Cincinnati. When it went out of business in 1980, he formed his own company, leasing his trucks to other drivers and hauling for Whirlpool, Rubbermaid and other shippers. Seeing increased operating costs, Johnson sold most of his equipment in 1998 and ran a one-truck operation until 2005, when he leased to Greatwide.