FAMILY: Four daughters, three grandsons
HOMETOWN: Duluth, Minn.
LEASED TO: Transport America
RIG: 2000 Volvo VN 660
CAREER: 21.5 years
FREIGHT: General freight
ACCIDENT-FREE: 21.5 years
INCOME: About $50,000
Richard Grondahl, 58, bought his first truck more than 21 years ago, just at the start of deregulation.
“Company driving jobs were hard to get without experience,” Grondahl says. “But I discovered that working when others didn’t want to work, going places others didn’t want to go and taking loads that others found undesirable set me apart and gave me an advantage.”
Grondahl has been with Transport America in Eagan, Minn., for nine years, hauling general goods such as finished furniture, automotive and other manufactured goods in heated vans and in reefers around most of the country. “I try to avoid the West Coast and New England,” he says. Before Transport America, he pulled reefers and dry vans.
Since he first sat down behind the wheel, he’s always been on time. “Just the possibility of being late is irritating to me,” he says.
Grondahl prides himself on his character and continuously tries to pass his traits along to his four daughters. “From the time my kids started walking, I have taught them to never fail to take advantage of the opportunity to help someone, and I have always tried to set an example for them,” Grondahl says. “To achieve success, the greatest and most important factor is spiritual influence. Next would come hard work, self-discipline, personal sacrifice and building a solid reputation.”
These characteristics have given Grondahl a solid reputation with his managers.
“He has to be one of Transport America’s best all-around performers,” Robert Volpe, Grondahl’s dispatcher, says. “He has taken extra measures to ensure our customers are taken care of.”
Transport America also does its part to take care of Grondahl. “This job gives me the flexibility to take time off when I need to and to be able to spend time with my family,” Grondahl says. “I’m fortunate to be leased to a progressive, solid company, and I’m able to pull equipment that is in good shape, and I don’t have to haul questionable loads for fly-by-night brokers or agents.”
The computerization of trucking concerns Grondahl. “It is impossible to eliminate the human element from the industry,” he says. He also wants to see drivers treated better and hopes to improve the trucking image.
He tries to set an example for other drivers by always checking his equipment closely and refusing to haul cheap freight.
“I’m proud to say I’ve worked myself to a point where I don’t have to deal with stuff like that,” he says. “Avoid those things before you get into them.”
Grondahl was recently awarded with the American Trucking Associations’ Million Mile award. “It was something I worked very hard for. I dedicated myself to the goal of making money for the company and being successful, and I appreciate the recognition for it.”
FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Wisconsin, because of the variety in landscapes.
WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: Probably Tennessee, because Nashville is about as intimidating as anywhere to drive through. There are so many roads coming together. It’s also known as Crashville.
HARDEST THING TO LEARN WHEN I BEGAN DRIVING: Balancing the legal requirements, the work, sleep, meals, personal life and everything else.
BEST ASPECT OF TRUCKING: The lack of discrimination. You will do well no matter what race, religion, gender or age you happen to be, as long as you are with a decent company, you do your job, your word is good and you can be counted on.
SECRET TO SUCCESS: I’m considered one of the best because I just do the job.
ADVICE TO FOUR-WHEELERS: Be aware of everything around you.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Lonesome Dove – that’s the greatest Western ever. The commitment those men had to each other is great.
FAVORITE FOOD: Chinese buffet. Lots of variety.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Broccoli.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Bluegrass. Jimmy Martin’s King of Bluegrass is the best CD, and I also like Don Reno & Red Smiley and the Osborn Brothers.
PET PEEVE: The way people drive. They don’t pay attention, and I see way too many people on the cell phone.
HOBBIES: Trying to keep up with my family life, my professional life and the stock market takes up a lot of my time, so that’s about all there’s room for.
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Providing for my family.
MILES PER YEAR: 140,000 to 150,000.
MOTTO: To help and share, to lead and teach and to set a good example.