TRUCKER: Sylvester (Syl) Geiser, 69, of Orrington, Maine
FAMILY: Partner Linda Haagen, sons Shane and Joshua, and two grandchildren
RIG: 1988 Volvo GMC 64 with 1.5 million miles
LEASED TO: Bluebird Ranch, Jonesboro, Maine
FREIGHT: Frozen blueberries
ACCIDENT-FREE: 53 years, more than 5 nillion miles
“There’s nothing like waking up in Tennessee to the sounds of a mocking bird and the wind in the trees,” says Syl Geiser, of Orrington, Maine. “I was driving through Pennsylvania just yesterday, and I saw a bear. It’s a great world to be out in, but people tend to take things for granted.”
He takes time to sit down at a table every time he eats, even if he chooses to eat fast food. “I think everyone should have a little time to himself,” Geiser says.
At 69, Geiser has more than earned the right to take things at his own pace. Having logged more than a half-century and more than 5 million miles of safe driving, he’s still behind the wheel and, when at home, is the master craftsman who maintains the charming cottages he and his partner Linda Haagen rent out.
While Geiser enjoys wildlife and nature on the road, people travel from around the country to enjoy the scenic calm of their Loon Hollow lakeside cottages. Geiser has poured hours into each of the cabins as a carpenter and stonemason. “Carpentry is my second passion besides trucking,” he says. Inscriptions on the stone chimneys he built refer to him as a “rock star.”
“Redoing these houses provides me with a form of relaxation. It creates new challenges and great rewards,” he says.
Working with his hands is something Geiser’s done his whole life. He grew up as a Mennonite farm boy in Ohio. “We had about 100 cows, which was a lot back then,” Geiser says. “My brother had a milk truck, and I started out driving it. I was only 16 at the time, but there weren’t so many regulations back then.”
Regulations aren’t the only changes that Geiser has witnessed in his 53 years of accident-free driving. “Truck stops today are so convenient, and driving a truck today is like sitting in an office,” he says. “Roads are safer, but you battle more and worse traffic.”
The advances in reefer technology have made Geiser’s job less seasonal. “I mainly haul frozen blueberries out of Maine, going to General Mills for their blueberry muffin mixes,” Geiser says. Blueberries are frozen as soon as they’re picked in August, and now they can be hauled all year.
Dispatcher Pam Dowling at Bluebird Ranch says blueberries are very time-sensitive, but Geiser is the perfect man for that type of load. “He’s always on time,” she says. “If the blueberries aren’t there on time, the whole plant will have to change its production schedule.”
Geiser is “the consummate trucker,” says Linda. “With his impeccable record, he deserves to be the Trucker of the Century.”
Geiser says people ask him why he’s still out there on the road. “Once you slow down, you go downhill fast, and I’m still healthy and not ready to slow down,” he says.
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL: Put safety, dependability and integrity first. Don’t drive the latest or the biggest truck and know the mechanics of your truck and maintain it yourself.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE INDUSTRY’S IMAGE: Being kind to four-wheelers is paramount. I do things like run in the Children’s Miracle Network parade from Brewer to Bangor, Maine.
HARDEST PART OF TRUCKING: Being gone from home.
ADVICE TO YOUNG TRUCKERS: Focus on goals. My goal has been to have the best safety record possible.
DREAM VACATION: Driving the yellow 1972 Mercury Cougar convertible that I restored myself on a road trip around the country with Linda. I wouldn’t have to worry about truck scales or deadlines.
FAVORITE FOOD: Arby’s. I like their double Arby’s sandwich. People talk about fast food like it’s something bad, but I like some of it.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD OR DRINK: Coffee. I try to drive without it, and it’s not good for you.
SECRET TO FINANCIAL SUCCESS: Anybody who has driven as long and as far as I have knows what each load pays, the exact mileage and how much it costs to run. I’ve resisted a computer in the truck because I compute everything in my head.
SECRET TO TRUCKING SUCCESS: I feel I can attribute most of my safety to my God rather than trying to do it all alone.