Consistency Pays

DAVID SHAHAN
HOME: La Fayette, Ga.
FAMILY: Wife – Polly, three sons, one grandson
LEASED TO: Crete Carrier Corp.
RIG: 1998 Freightliner FLD 120
CAREER: 43 years
FREIGHT: Dry freight, grocery, general freight
ACCIDENT-FREE: 43 years

David Shahan says he’s learned to stay calm when it comes to driving around careless four-wheelers.

“You can’t afford to get upset at people,” he says.

Shahan’s self-discipline has paid off well. Not only has the 63-year-old logged 43 years behind the wheel with no chargeable accidents, he’s enjoying a prosperous career with Crete Carrier Corp., which recently named him Owner-Operator of the Year for 2003. Since joining Crete in 1990, Shahan has logged more than 1 million of his 5 million accident-free miles.

“He’s a consistent and reliable driver,” says Deborah Maloy, director of contractor relations for Crete. “We wish we had a whole fleet of Davids.”

“He always keeps you completely informed about what’s going on,” says Ron McGinnis, Shahan’s dispatcher. “He’ll work with you.”

Maloy says Shahan’s credentials surpassed the criteria for the company’s Owner-Operator of the Year award: five or more years of service, 115,000 miles or more a year, and no preventable accidents, traffic citations, citizen complaints or log violations.

“He’s the most honest and easy-going driver you can work with,” Maloy says. “He’s not boisterous or showy.”

“He always has a smile on his face, he has a lot of energy and he’s always ready to do something,” says McGinnis.

“He doesn’t have a whole lot to say, but when he does get to talking, he has his own stories to tell,” Maloy says. McGinnis agrees, saying Shahan always has a tale to make you smile.

For example, he likes to relate how his truck has the best and cheapest security system around: his wife’s name on the door. His wife, Polly, does not ride with him, but he says most truckers think she is in there when he is at a truck stop.

“They ask, ‘Doesn’t your wife ever get up?’ I tell them she does a lot of crocheting,” he jokes.

Shahan, who calls Polly every night when on the road, says communication is a key to a good marriage.

“We know what each other’s doing even without calling,” he says. “She used to complain because she thought I was psychic since I always know what she’s doing.”

Shahan says his calls home include updates on the “honey-do” list Polly compiles while he’s on the road. “She tells me what she’s added to the list,” he says.

That list can get long, considering that Shahan usually chooses to stay on the road for a month at a time, followed by four or five days at home.

“Not being at home – it works on you, when you think about stuff you could be doing there,” he says. “It’s the life I laid out for myself, though.”

Shahan got into trucking after studying to be a vocational agricultural teacher at the University of Georgia. He decided to drop out after one semester in 1959, partly because of his disgust with college life, and take up truck driving.

“Everybody was partying,” he says. “Most people had the tests and answers, and most didn’t go to class, so I left and started driving. Back then, you just went out and did it [driving].”

He says his career choice has worked out, especially his work with Crete.

“The money’s good – I don’t have to worry about it,” he says. “And I make more money trucking than I would teaching.”

Shahan says he enjoys being his own boss and, as much as possible, being his own mechanic. “Instead of spending $80 dollars an hour, you can do it yourself,” he says. He adds that he only works on the operating aspects of the truck, not adding chrome or other cosmetic improvements. “I’m in it to make a living, not to show off the truck.”

Shahan says one of his key principles is believing in God, who he says has looked after him during experiences with blown tires and bad weather. One time, after being stopped to show his permit in Kentucky, he went on his way and came across a big accident at a bridge. That accident might have involved him had he not been stopped – perhaps a blessing in disguise, Shahan says.

Shahan says other support comes from his wife of 43 years. “You got to have a good woman behind you,” he says.

FAVORITE LOAD: Medical products.

LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Beer.

FAVORITE STATES: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico – less traffic.

LEAST FAVORITE STATES: New England states.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Country, especially Hank’s Place and Bill Mack on XM Radio.

FAVORITE FOOD: Beef stew.

LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: None. I eat everything – just for the experience of it. But I don’t quite like fast food.

HARDEST THING TO LEARN ABOUT TRUCKING: Becoming a businessman, counting money during deregulation.

HOPES: Just to play with my 4-year-old grandson.

ADVICE: I think you’ve got to love the job – it’s not about the money. You’ve got to love doing it and the sound of the truck.

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