FAMILY: Wife, Sybil; children, Jatawn, 35, Dustin, 26, Tiffany, 25, Devin, 23
RIG: 2004 Peterbilt 379
CAREER: 37 years
ACCIDENT-FREE: More than 3 million miles
LEASED TO: John Christner Trucking
David Grose, 59, grew up in New Mexico selling Christmas trees and fireworks on the side of the road. Seeing trucks along those roads instilled a desire to drive, so after a hitch in the Navy he got into trucking. In 1968 he bought an almost-new 1967 International 4000 cabover with no air conditioning or sleeper.
Now Grose’s main complaint, ironically, is that the success he enjoys hauling through 48 states causes him to be away from his Oklahoma City home on the holidays for which he once sold supplies. “I’ve missed a lot of my family,” says Grose. “I’ve missed all my kids growing up, their birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings.”
Yet in his 37 years of driving, Grose has gained a lot, such as learning the business side of trucking. For example, he logs key statistics in his laptop. “I use it to do my miles per gallon and expenses almost every day,” Grose says, “and to keep track of my settlement sheets.”
Grose saves money by shopping around for the best deals. “The greatest challenges are the outrageous costs of equipment and services on the road today -fuel, insurance,” he says. “Slow down to lower your costs, and buy your products and services from your best vendors and suppliers.”
Grose “understands what it takes to run a business and does a great job of running his own finances,” says Marty Means, director of fleet management for John Christner Trucking, to which Grose is leased. “He makes smart decisions, and knows what he has to drive each week to make his lease payment and insurance payments.”
Grose has been able to give back much of what he’s learned in his long career, both to driving students and elementary school students. “He’s one of our CDL training instructors,” says Betsy Waldrop, director of personnel for John Christner. “He takes pride in training and getting his students into the trucking industry.”
Grose, who has been teaching new drivers since March, says the experience can be “a little unnerving.” Once, he says, “I got someone who forgot to hit the brakes when they hit a curb with a top-heavy load.” The student’s experience “scared the snot out of him,” Grose says, and the talking-to the student got from Grose may stay with him forever.
Dealing with students is nothing new for Grose. He has been the Trucker Buddy of a second grade class at Scottsbluff Elementary School in Scottsbluff, Neb., since 1995, and was named Outside Educator of the Year by the school in 2002. He also serves on the Trucker Buddy International board of directors.
Grose goes beyond the ordinary Trucker Buddy routine. “He calls himself ‘The Grossman,'” Waldrop says. “He wears a little beanie hat for the children.”
Grose got the hat at the 2004 Great American Trucking Show. “A lady had a beanie hat with a propeller on it, and I said, ‘Give me that.'” She handed the hat over only after Grose promised he’d wear it. “I also wear suspenders and pants with holes in them that I’ve repaired with duct tape.”
Grose says he does it to get attention. “They come up and ask about what I’m wearing, and then I go into the program.”
He once amused a different audience – his girlfriend, Sybil – when he told her he was picking her up for lunch. Instead, he took her downtown to get married.
“He planned on us going to the courthouse on his motorcycle, but I had a dress on, so we had to take my car,” Sybil says. “I never did get any lunch.”
HOW I MET MY WIFE: At church. I had doughnut powder all over my face. I had to talk to her with a full mouth and powdered sugar all over my face. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
FAVORITE LOAD: Yogurt and some of the produce loads because I get to munch on them from the shippers. I like to pick up frozen sandwiches for the same reason.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Beef. The shippers seem to hang you up for so long sometimes.
MOST UNUSUAL LOAD: Limousines from Arkansas to California.
UNUSUAL PLACES I HAVE HAULED: Through the middle of Times Square in New York.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A TRUCKER: The open spaces, the freedom, the locations, the independence, the open air, the USA. I’m pretty gung-ho. I’m a flag waver.
KEYS TO GOOD MARRIAGE: Trust, love and commitment. We’ve always been grounded in the church, and that has been a major contributing factor.
BEST VACATION: Branson, Mo.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Anchovies and caviar.
PET PEEVE: Drivers throwing trash in the parking lot or urine bottles on the side of the highway.
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: Getting busted straightening my hairpiece in the front window of my wife’s office.
IF I HADN’T BEEN A TRUCKER, I WOULD BE: I like to think I could have been a singer or a performer of some kind. I used to participate in that in church.
DREAM JOB: Being a NASCAR hauler.
HOPES: Retirement in six to eight years.
MOTTO: Always keep a positive attitude.
Do you know an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Max Heine, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail email@example.com. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.