Driver of the Month
For Epes driver Freddie Bell, caution behind the wheel lays the path to success
by Sean Randall
Epes Transport System company driver Freddie Bell wanted to get into trucking at a very young age. It was in his blood, as both his father and his mother’s brother were truckers.
“When I was just a kid, my dad was in trucks and I was just interested in them at that time,” Bell says. “My uncle was driving for a while, and I started driving for him around the West Coast.”
His father and uncle certainly didn’t discourage his interest, taking him with them for ride-alongs when they were hauling furniture.
“That was a real treat; I enjoyed that,” Bell says.His uncle, an owner-operator leased to Blue Ridge Transport, gave him his first driving job. In 1985, when he was in his early 20s, Bell worked for Blue Ridge on the loading docks, and his uncle approached him with a job offer as he was in need of a driver. Bell got his license and started driving team with his uncle for about a year before borrowing one of his uncle’s trucks and driving solo for six more years.
“Just the thoughts of being able to see the country: That was what appealed to me to start with,” Bell says. “After a while on the road, though, you’ve already seen everything. It just gets to be a job then.”
Bell started driving in 1997 in and around Pilot Mountain, N.C., after the desire to travel faded . “I could be home and spend time with my family: my wife and my daughter — though she’s off on her own now — and [my] dog.”
During his many years as a driver, Bell has managed to pass the million-safe-mile mark, something he says he achieved through “being careful, cautious,” he says. “Just by trying to be observant of everything that’s going on.”
And maybe a little divine intervention, he adds. “I guess the good Lord is looking after me, too. I’ve had several close calls.”
A foot close, in one instance.
“In Columbus, Ohio, in the afternoon in rush-hour traffic, a car in front of me sideswiped another car and started a chain reaction of cars spinning out in front of me,” Bell says. “I fortunately managed to get stopped before I got to the car. When I got stopped, I was about a foot away from it. That’s a little too close for comfort, but hey, I didn’t hit anything.”
For Bell, though, one thing that’s helped him more than luck is his ability to socialize. “Being able to socialize with the general public comes in handy,” he says. “You find different walks of life and learn how they deal with things.”. “You just learn from the years of experience and talking to other drivers and listening to them. You’ve got drivers that’ll try to help you out and lead you on the right path.”
Q & A
TN: What advice would you give younger drivers?
BELL: Be aware of the situations that are around you at all times when you’re out on the road. The more vehicles that are out there on the road, the more likely you are to encounter problems. Don’t be in a big hurry; just be cautious about it.
TN: What’s the worst load you’ve ever carried?
BELL: I guess that would be on the flatbed when I was hauling rolled up steel coils. The chain had worked loose on me and the load shifted a little bit. Luckily it didn’t come off the trailer, but it did shift on me. I had to get a wrecker to set it back up.
Freddie Bell is a finalist in the 2012 Company Driver of the Year contest produced by Truckers News and the Truckload Carriers Association. The winner will be announced at TCA’s annual convention March 3-6, 2013, in Las Vegas.