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For Immediate Release
May 10, 2002

For Information Contact:
Gary Petty, NPTC

NPTC Inducts Four Drivers Into Hall of Fame

Alexandria, VA – Four truck drivers who have logged more than 13 million miles of safe driving combined were honored by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC) and inducted into the NPTC – Bridgestone/Firestone Driver Hall of Fame, April 30, 2002, at NPTC's Annual Education/Management Conference in Austin, Texas.

The drivers are from NPTC member companies and have met the minimum qualifications of 20 years, 2 million miles or 50,000 hours of driving without a preventable accident. Many of the drivers have far exceeded these qualifications and are known for having made significant contributions to their industry and their communities. This year's Hall of Fame inductees are:

Virgil L. Deck
BOC Gases, Lawrence, KS

Virgil Deck's father, also a professional truck driver, taught him to drive an eighteen-wheeler at age 18. Since then he has logged 3.5 million miles over his 38-year career, 31 of those for BOC Gases. Virgil has driven everything from hay trucks to over-wide and over-length vehicles. For the past 31 years he has been driving haz-mat tankers of industrial gases.

Virgil is a strong advocate for safety and has been instrumental in getting numerous changes made toward safety improvement. As a practitioner of the Smith System of defensive driving, one of Virgil's greatest strengths is keeping his composure at all times. Virgil says it best, "any driver can do the job when the weather is nice and the road is clear, but it is a true professional who can keep his head in a tight spot."

Virgil says his wife Sandy is his co-pilot. She makes sure he has plenty of rest, his gear is always ready and he does not have anything to worry about so he can keep his mind on his work. Virgil is a deacon in local church and can often be found visiting sick church members, friends and co-workers. He and Sandy have five children, five grandchildren and he plans to raise cattle when he retires.

Billy H. Gilbert
Milliken & Company, Clinton, SC

Billy Gilbert learned to drive at a professional truck driving school. He has driven his entire career for Milliken & Company – 2.2 million miles over a 29-years without a single accident or moving violation.

Billy is a leader on a team whose end goal is safety and he has served as a member of Milliken's safety sub-committees, which perform audits of safety conditions and behaviors. He makes sure he has a good understanding of the regulations and the laws governing the trucking industry.

In 2000, he was named the South Carolina Trucking Association's Driver of the Year and has been recognized by the Governors of both North and South Carolina for upholding the highest standards of safety and professionalism on the highways.

Billy is a family man, has been married to his wife Helen for thirty-six years and when not at work always has a project or two going at home. He is an active member of his church.

Vernon L. Rankens
Donnelly Corporation, Holland, MI

Vernon Rankens drove farm tractors and pulled hay wagons as a kid. He learned to drive from Donnelly's first driver and since then has logged in over 3.3 million miles in a distinguished 32- year career. As Donnelly's "senior" driver, the company depends on him to not only model safe and efficient driving skills but also to communicate the Donnelly commitment to safety and excellence to their other fleet drivers.

While on the Ohio Turnpike during the blizzard of 1978 Vern used his vehicle to shelter other motorists stuck in the storm. He and six other people were in the truck for two days until help arrived.

During his years as a fire rescue volunteer he has responded to emergency calls, assisted heart patients, fought fires and served his rural community with distinction. One of Vern's passions is raising miniature horses and people travel from many states to share in his hobby.

Vern has three grown children and says he relied on his wife Sandy, who also works for Donnelly, to be both mother and father when he wasn't home.

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