Dependable man

1942: Born in Lynn, Mass.
1960: Graduated high school in Georgetown, Mass.
1961-64: Worked in shipping and receiving at various businesses.
1962: Married first wife, Linda.
1964: Began driving for an owner-operator.
1971-1986: Worked as company driver for several businesses.
1981: Married second wife, Carol Brunke.
1986: Moved to Kingsport, Tenn. Purchased a
1979 Kenworth and leased to Landstar Ligon.
1990: Leased to Dart Transit.
1993: Received Customer Service Award from W.W. Grainger Inc.
1997: Won Dart’s Hall of Fame Safety Award.
1998: Named Dart Contractor of the Month.
2000: Received the Dart President’s Safety Award.
2006: Received National Safety Council’s 4 Million Mile Award.

Bob McAndrew wanted to be a dentist when he was in high school. He worked at a dental laboratory, building and cleaning false teeth and crowns. “It was fascinating stuff,” he says of watching dentists work. Then his parents moved, and he obtained a job at a building supply company in Georgetown, Mass. Working in the shipping and receiving department, McAndrew saw trucks coming in and out all day, every day.

“I got my fist look at chrome stacks and shiny wheels, and the rest is history,” McAndrew says in a voice that still carries his New England roots, despite living in Kingsport, Tenn., for 20 years.

McAndrew married after high school and worked in shipping and receiving at several businesses before graduating from the National Professional Truck Driving School in Millville, N.J., in 1964. Now, after 43 years on the road, McAndrew is expected soon to pass 5 million safe miles. He hasn’t received a moving violation in more than 15 years, and his 2001 Freightliner Classic XL Limited Edition is paid for.

McAndrew says he is not surprised to have spent his career looking at the open highway, rather than looking in someone’s open mouth. Still, his first trucking job could have scared him off. Signing on with a Massachusetts-based owner-operator leased to Laskis Lines in 1964, McAndrew was handed the keys to test-drive a rickety 1959 Autocar. “The steering wheel was as wide as the cab was inside,” he recalls. When he made turns, “the doors would open, so I’d have to pull them shut.” His seat was two stacked Coca-Cola crates.

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“I asked if that was my regular truck, and they said, ‘No, kid. We just wanted to see how bad you wanted the job.'”

McAndrew spent the next 20-plus years as a company driver. In 1986, he and his second wife, Carol Brunke, moved to Tennessee to be closer to her family. That same year he leased to Landstar Ligon as an owner-operator. He switched to Dart Transit, based in Eagan, Minn., in 1990. Through Dart he’s gained a best friend and a reputation as a dependable, go-to guy.

“He’s loyal, he’s very professional, he cares about the motoring public,” says the best friend, Walt Newcomb, who’s known McAndrew for more than 16 years. “He’s a leader. He sets high standards that other people strive to follow.”

Newcomb runs with McAndrew as much as he can. They own the same model truck, share spare parts and help each other in roadside breakdowns. Newcomb says McAndrew once drove 100 miles out of his way to help him.

“When you mention Bob McAndrew’s name, the first thing I think of is his enormous smile and sunny outlook on life,” says Dart spokesman Steve Gundale. “Here are some of the words that describe Bob: positive, upbeat, optimistic, friendly, loyal, outgoing, smart, hard working, productive, safe, caring, graceful, considerate and thoughtful. Doesn’t that sound like someone you would like to hang around with?”

McAndrew credits always being alert to his environment and always being on time as keys to his success. Having a keen eye for engines – he hot-rodded cars as a teen – also has helped his bottom line. “Try and do a lot of light stuff by yourself,” McAndrew says. “You can save a ton of money on minor repairs. Small things like turbochargers, alternators, air-conditioning compressors – you can do all that yourself.”

A positive outlook “is the source of all the other things that make him such an outstanding independent contractor – profitable business practices, safety and stability,” Gundale says. Those qualities have helped McAndrew net roughly $85,000 per year.

“Trucking’s been good to me,” McAndrew says. “I got just about everything I wanted – nice home, extra cars, freedom.”

McAndrew’s success inspired his oldest son, Gary Petrie, to become an owner-operator for Dart. Petrie entered trucking nearly 20 years ago after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. “He used to tell me that I had to remember that there was an egg under the fuel pedal, and if I broke that egg, he would smack me upside of the head,” Petrie says. “He was trying to teach me fuel control in inclement weather.”

McAndrew is eyeing 2008 for part-time retirement, but the 65-year-old says he’ll keep the truck and “do a little driving.” Petrie says he looks forward to seeing his father relax and tool around in his reconditioned 1982 Chevrolet El Camino. “He can get out and enjoy all these toys at home he never gets to play with.”

BOB MCANDREW WILL serve as best man in the November wedding of his best friend and fellow Dart Transit owner-operator Walt Newcomb, Overdrive’s March 2006 Trucker of the Month.

MCANDREW HAS seven children in his family: Kathy, Kris, Gary, Kim, Karol, Kimmy and Bobby, and nine grandchildren. His wife of 23 years, Carol, died in 2004.

DO YOU KNOW an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Steven Mackay, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail [email protected]. Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.

–Steven Mackay and Coy O’Neal