Keith Allison has been on the road since 1989 and his appreciation for the trucking industry and his life shine through whenever you talk to him.
Pick up some pearls of wisdom from Keith as he talks to Bianca Sanchez, Hirschbach Marketing and Social Media Manager, about his 32 years of experience over the road, why safety is so important, and his thoughts on being successful in this industry in this interview for Hirschbach’s What’s Your Drive podcast.
Interested in hearing more from Keith? Listen to the rest of this interview here.
Q: You’ve done a lot of different things in the trucking industry. Do you mind telling us a little about yourself and what got you here?
A: I got into the trucking industry by “accident” -a word a truck driver rarely likes to use. A person at my church about 40 years ago offered to pay me to rent a truck and drive her to California from Fort Worth where I live. When I was driving, I was thinking, “well this wouldn’t be a bad job.”
When I came back, I went and checked the driving school. I was sitting in class the next day. That’s how I got into it.
Q: Do you have any interesting/funny stories for us?
A: Here’s a funny story. We used to pick up at WIX Filters in Gastonia, N.C. for years for Hirschbach. And one day I picked up there and drove to Denver to make a delivery. There was no place to park, so I parked on the street. As soon as I laid down, I heard a knocking on the door. It was a homeless person. They said they didn’t have any money and was asking if I had money for a sandwich. And this happened again, so I gave him some money.
This happened three or four more times. I really needed to go to sleep, so I took out a piece of paper and I wrote on it “I don’t have any money for a sandwich.”
A few minutes later, I heard a knock on the door. It was an old lady there and she handed me a brown paper bag with a sandwich in it. I guess she thought I was hungry.
Q: How long have you been an over the road driver?
A: I’ve seen a lot of crazy things almost being out on the road five million miles. I’ve been over the road for about 31.5 years. My uncle was a truck driver and he taught me how to drive. But I never thought I’d get into trucking. It wasn’t why I went to college or anything, but it’s a good job. It has put my three kids through a private school and college, so it’s been good to me.
Q: You’ve seen the ups and downs. How are you seeing the outlook for the rest of this year and moving forward with trucking?
A: It sort of reminds me of the early 90s. In the early 90s, there were a lot of small and medium, under-financed companies that went out of business. But what happened was, the bigger and medium-to-bigger-sized companies that had planned for it actually doubled in size. They took more market space because they were prepared for it. I sort of see the same thing happening in the next six months.
A lot of companies that are not run really well, they will probably have a lot of struggle due to this. There may be some that’ll go under. But companies like ours, streamlined and run well by management, I see us probably picking up more business. That’s the way I see it.
Q: You’ve been with Hirschbach for awhile now. How do you feel about the company?
A: I started in June of 1999. I’ve seen it grow. I saw it buy a lot of different, smaller companies and integrate them into the business. I’ve always been impressed with how it’s run.
Q: What is one of the things that keeps you hanging around with Hirschbach?
A: It’s the people, mainly. As far as the company, we go to a lot of the same places that other companies do…but it just seems to me that from the bottom to the owner and management, they really care about the people that work there.
If you have a problem, they will really listen. If they can help, they will.
Q: Tell us a little bit about safety and why it’s so important to you.
A: When I first got into the business, my uncle taught me to drive. He also taught me to look at every car around his as if it had a family member in it, and to drive accordingly. You are driving an 8,000-pound weapon, so you should always drive super, super safe. Never get distracted. Always be looking around and making sure that you’re not going to be the person that causes some other family to have a problem. That’s the way I was taught and that’s way I’m still trying to drive to this day.
To hear more about Keith’s favorite places, why driving through the mountains gives him a nice reminder about like (hint: it’s about how the higher the climb, the better the view), and advice on tools and apps he uses to not only stay safe on the road, but to never have a late load in his tenure with Hirschbach, listen to the podcast.
*Note, this interview was edited for brevity and grammar.