3-way team

Trucker: Jim Kennington, 63, Waxhaw, N.C.

Family: Wife, Barbara, one daughter, one son, four grandchildren

Rig: 2001 International 99ix

Leased to: Landstar Gemini

Freight: General

Awards: Landstar Gemini Million Mile Club, Landstar Professional Truck Operator of the Year, 16 annual safe driving awards

Accident-free: 16 years

Income: $50,000

Jim Kennington of Waxhaw, N.C., has been driving team with his wife, Barbara, for 11 years, but he has another special lady who accompanies him on the road. She’s the silent partner he calls his guardian angel.

When Kennington’s daughter was a college student, she gave her father a small, yellow-haired doll and told him to keep it in his truck. He claims the figure has helped him continue his exemplary driving record.

One night, exhausted from a long trip, Kennington was on his way home from Texas on I-20. As his head and shoulders began to sag and his eyes began to droop, the doll fell from the rearview mirror and hit Kennington on the head. The wake-up call allowed him to safely pull over and rest before continuing home.

With his wife and his guardian angel in the truck with him, Kennington not only drives safely, but also makes good progress.

“My wife and I recently hauled a load of mail that we picked up in South Carolina at 4 p.m. on Friday and delivered to Los Angeles by Sunday,” Kennington says.

Kennington says he appreciates the chance to spend time on long hauls with his wife of 40 years. Barbara agrees.

“We talk about everything,” Barbara says. “It’s fun. It’s just wonderful. It’s a chance to have time to ourselves. We’ve gotten closer. All the other times, I didn’t get to see him much. And now, driving together, I see sides of him I didn’t get to see before, because you don’t realize what you have to go through. That makes me appreciate him so much more.”

Although Kennington’s wife may have only recently discovered the realities of the trucking industry, Jim has experienced life on the inside of the business since he was a boy.

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“My father used to drive a truck,” Kennington says. “I can remember riding with him when he used to haul loads of chickens to New Orleans, but back then I never thought I’d be a trucker.”

Before following his father into the trucking business, Kennington served in the Navy for 20 years, working as a technician, a welder and a trainer of recruits. Kennington did two tours in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.

His decades in the Navy may explain his promptness and attention to detail. Kennington often polishes his rig for truck shows, but a former co-worker at Landstar Gemini, Hub Cummings, says Kennington keeps his 2001 International spotless whether he is in competition or not.

“Jim always tries to keep his rig looking like a show truck. He’s fanatic about his trucks,” Cummings says. “He’s a very hard worker. He’s very prompt and dependable. Businesses count on Landstar to get them to conventions, and if the booth isn’t there, they have no show.”

Leased to Landstar Gemini for more than 15 years, Kennington knows what makes a successful owner-operator.

“It’s important to keep good equipment and have good working relations with agents and the company you’re leased to,” Kennington says. “Always be as good as your word.”

HOW I GOT INTO TRUCKING: My father also drove trucks. In 1980 I was selling some land I had bought years back, and my father wanted it, so he paid me for the plot with a 1975 Freightliner. That was my first truck, and I’ve been driving ever since.

ADVICE TO NEW DRIVERS: Have a neat and clean appearance. Be courteous to shippers and consignees. Keep equipment clean and safe and be courteous to other drivers.

MOST INTERESTING LOAD: During Desert Storm, my wife and I hauled a full load of machine guns from Texarkana to Camp Pendleton. We also drove a load of prototype and live missiles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Baltimore. We asked them if they could load them facing the rear, and they did.

HOW I KEEP TRACK OF EXPENSES: I have a good partner and bookkeeper, my wife.

MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE: My daughter teaches art at Monroe High School in North Carolina. Two years ago she held a special art festival for disabled children. I have never been so rewarded as when I saw so many happy kids crawling around my truck smiling and laughing.

GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING OWNER-OPERATORS: High truck payments, high fuel prices, unsafe drivers and being away from family.

KEYS TO A GOOD MARRIAGE: You have to be an understanding person. You can’t take it all – you have to give, too. Be truthful to your wife and help out around the house.

HOBBIES: Hunting and fishing.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Apocalypse Now.

FAVORITE FOOD: Pork chops and steak.

BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Becoming a million-miler for Landstar Gemini.

PRETTIEST PLACE TO DRIVE: Upstate New York, above Albany.

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT TRUCKING: You could not have profanity on the CB.

INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTIONS: I was the first trucker to test the Eaton Vorad radar while driving across the country, and then I offered suggestions for improvements.

PLANS AFTER RETIREMENT: I have a 1997 Dodge Dually with a Cummins engine, and I’d like to make short runs when I want to, on my own time. My wife and I are going to continue seeing the world and enjoying our four grandchildren.

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