Each month NPTC President and CEO Gary Petty writes a column in Fleet Owner magazine that focuses on the individuals, companies, best practices, and resources that make private trucking the force that it is in the American economy. Reaching more than 100,000 subscribers, three-quarters of whom are private fleet professionals, this column provides an excellent forum to communicate the value of the private fleet. Click here to view the archive.
Gary Petty | firstname.lastname@example.org | Private Fleet Editor for FleetOwner Magazine
Gary Petty has more than 30 years of experience as CEO of national trade associations in the trucking industry. He has been the president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council since 2001.
Do snarling guard dogs with bristling hair wag their tails when they see your drivers? They did for Harry “Henny” Myers from Blue Ball, PA. Now 90 years old and long retired from truck driving, his story resonates as a great example of how one driver set a high standard for quality service. Henny began driving in the 1950s and delivered cheese all his life. He worked for cheese wholesaler Fleur de Lait Foods for 51 years. Everyone loved and respected Henny. In 1988 he was selected as an NPTC Driver Hall of Fame winner.
Henny started life on the family dairy farm and was accustomed to seven-day weeks because “cows never take a day off.” A for-hire milk hauler arrived daily at the farm for pickup. One day Henny asked to ride along with the driver and was excited to learn that company drivers “only” worked six days a week. He looked for a job and was soon hired by his lifelong employer.
His training consisted of on-road instruction from a senior driver who also taught him the two-stick transmission common to many tractors in the 1950s. Without formal truck driver training, Henny achieved one of the best safety records of virtually any driver in America spanning five decades.
This was possible because Henny practiced hard and fast rules. Toward the end of Henny’s days as a driver, trucking industry writer/editor Jim Winsor, master of ceremonies for many years of the NPTC Driver Hall of Fame ceremony at our annual conferences, spent a day riding with Henny and learned about some of those rules first-hand. The shift began at 4 a.m. in New Holland, PA, at the cheese plant headquarters.
Winsor says Henny followed six rules to help make him one of the best drivers ever:
The driver should not be a gabber while driving; thus, he never used his CB while driving except in an emergency (cellphone users take note).
Keep your eyes constantly on the move; know where you are and what’s around you at all times. Winsor says Henny’s “windshield-wiper” eyes were constantly scanning his total field of vision.
Make and be friends with everyone, even dogs. Henny and Jim arrived at a customer’s warehouse in a crime-ridden part of Newark, NJ. Jim got out of the truck — and jumped right back in — when he saw two snarling watchdogs running in his direction. When the dogs recognized Henny, their tails started wagging and Jim, who was quite relieved, got out of the cab.
Henny’s practice of making friends everywhere paid off in unexpected ways. A toll booth operator on the Pennsylvania Turnpike always gave Henny a free daily newspaper. When waitresses at the Mountainside Diner saw his truck roll into the parking lot, they would always place an order for his hot breakfast so it was waiting for him when he sat down.
Always park your rig where it won’t be hit — even if this means a long walk to the building.
Arrive early; depart sooner. Henny seldom had to wait in line at one warehouse to unload because it required doing a blind-side jacking of the trailer. Few drivers today can jack a 48-footer on the blind side. Henny did it with only one pull-up — and without power steering.
Take pride in your rig; wash it every day if necessary.
How great was Henny? Winsor says, “He’s the finest man I’ve met in my entire life.”