Sixth-sense driving

FLEET INSIDER/DRIVER OF THE MONTH

Hummer driver Rick Dearth has relied on a little luck and extra awareness to reach the 2 million-safe-mile mark

Rick Dearth can run through a list of qualities necessary for a driver to be safe and successful — nearly all of which he says he strives for daily — but he admits the biggest contributor to his career achievements has been luck.

Rick Dearth

“You hear about how good records are, but what you don’t hear about are all of the close calls,” he says. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of close calls, but I’m just a lucky driver, I guess. It just takes one incident to ruin your record.”

Dearth tells a story from last year when, on an icy bridge in Iowa, he lost control several times and started turning sideways before recovering. Also, he was at a truckstop when he awoke from a nap, in the nick of time, to stop another truck from backing into his.

“Sometimes you just sense things, you know,” Dearth says, adding that as far as safety’s concerned, “defensive driving is where it’s at. Defensive driving and an awareness, a sixth sense. You have to have that out here.”

He started driving in 1991 after the steel mill he worked for shut down, and the Wheeling, W.V., resident says he needed a job to support his wife and kids. He took the advice of driving mentor Larry Trank, who got him into truck driving school and helped him land his first job.

Dearth’s been with Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking for about five years and makes runs from the Midwest to the West Coast weekly.

Through his 22-year career as a driver — working through various companies, loads in New York City, produce hauling from the West Coast and his current gig as a bacon and microwavable meat hauler — Dearth says keeping a positive attitude has been the crutch more times than not.

“It all starts with your attitude,” he says. “You have to start out with a great attitude, and you have to be patient. I think that’s really one of the best things you can do for yourself out here.”

Q & A

Q: What advice would you give younger drivers?

Rick Dearth is a finalist in the 2012 Company Driver of the Year contest produced by Truckers News and the ­Truckload Carriers Association. The winner will be announced at TCA’s annual convention March 3-6, 2013, in Las Vegas.

Dearth: First and foremost, I’d say stay with the first company you start out with for at least a year, maybe longer. You have to learn your craft and try to get better at it. After three years I thought I knew everything, but, honestly, I knew nothing. It’s about learning the road, learning your customers, learning to use a map. Anyone who’s a new driver — just be patient, have a good attitude and practice defensive driving.

Q: What’s the worst load you’ve ever carried?

Dearth: There was one load I had — it was a flower load, believe it or not — I had to deliver to Chicago. I was new in the business, and I didn’t know the area. I had to make multiple stops, and they wanted me to get them all off in one day. It was probably one of the worst days of my life. All the stores were closed, because it was a Sunday, and I had a security code to get into the buildings. I was supposed to put the flowers in the cooler and leave the bill. I got six stops off, and I think I was supposed to make 18 stops. They had to call another truck in to deliver the rest for me.

 

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