Local truckers make safety hall of fame

Photo by unknown

Photo by unknown

COVINGTON -- Bobby Bower of Covington and Richard Vonderheide of Conyers are good friends with more than just a profession in common. The two truck drivers were recently inducted into Brown Trucking's Million Mile Safe Driving Driver Safety Hall of Fame. Both have driven more than 1 million miles for the company accident-free. A million miles is equivalent to about 40 trips around the world.

Vonderheide, 65, has been a trucker for 40 years and said he's driven big trucks, little trucks and in-between trucks. The best part of the job is meeting all sorts of people and getting to travel, he said.

"It's nice as long as you get away from big cities. I like to get out and about and see how different people live," he said.

According to Brown Trucking, Bower has logged 1,062,549.31 miles accident-free in 17 years. He said he worked 18 years for another company without any accidents as well.

"It's an accomplishment. It's a milestone, and when I think back day to day seeing all these people having accidents, you wonder how long? When is your turn going to come? I hope it never does, but you never know. You have to be on your toes and keep your eyes moving from mirror to mirror," he said.

Bower, 59, started trucking in 1972. His current route takes him from Lithonia to Beach Island, S.C., hauling Huggies diapers. He's driven in treacherous conditions, through ice and snow, in Canada, New York and the Catskill Mountains.

According to Brown Trucking, he's logged 1,152,512.98 miles accident-free in 17 years, but like Vonderheide, he said he's worked more years for other companies without incident.

Bower chalks his good driving record up to good fortune, considering he encounters lots of motorists that drive dangerously, often chatting on their cell phones

"I'm a pretty damn good driver. I've seen it all out here, but anyway, you've still got to have some luck in there. It's truly amazing the chances people take with their lives pulling out in front of somebody like they do," he said.

Though it's a tough job, Bower said he's grateful to have it.

"We just feel blessed to be working every day," he said.

The men were recognized along with 11 others at a special dinner earlier this month.

"Driving a commercial vehicle for a million consecutive miles without a chargeable accident is an industry-revered milestone that few of the nation's 1.5 million heavy truck drivers will ever achieve. Doing it with a single employer in and around urban congestion like Atlanta is even more remarkable," said Brian Kinsey, CEO of Brown Trucking. "Safety is at the forefront of our company culture. We applaud our drivers for their significant achievement and thank them for their continued commitment to safe driving practices."