Driving for Five
“I say a prayer before I get in my truck. I say a prayer when I’m done with every drive. And often, a few times during the run,” says 46-year veteran driver and recent IFDA Hall of Famer Ronnie McElfresh of Sysco West Texas. “When I was choosing my career path, I told my high school sweetheart I was either going to be a truck driver, a policeman, or a firefighter. I wanted a job that helped people.”
The “captain” of his team and his wife of 43 years picked truck driving. And the profession suited his desire to help. “I’m always asking people, ‘do you need anything else? Do you have any fires to put out?’ so even though I’m driving all these years, I still put out fires in some ways.”
For the last 21 years, Ronnie has shuttled trailers at night, taking mostly the same route. As many foodservice distribution drivers report, his relationship with his customers is what keeps the job fulfilling and interesting—as well as the paycheck, of course.
Night driving is a different job than daytime, but regardless of the time of day you drive, the size of the vehicle or the route, Ronnie says safety is paramount. “I always say I’m driving for five,” meaning the five things he considers at all times while he’s behind the wheel. “The person in front of my truck. The family driving on my left. The family driving on my right. The family behind me. And myself and my family.” This attention to his safety and the safety of all drivers on the road is part of what elevated him and his record to the IFDA Hall of Fame.
When he’s training new drivers, Ronnie advises them that it’s better to be safe than sorry. “You make one mistake and it can cost you your life or other people’s lives. It’s an eye opener,” he says. “You can’t afford to make mistakes.” At the same time, he emphasizes that punctuality is important in this industry, as well as attention to detail. Being good at your part of the job, which connects to so many other jobs, makes it easier for others to do their parts. “I drive alone in the truck but we work as a unit.”
The veteran driver has enjoyed his 46-year career as a truck driver and the time on the road, but there’s one part of the job that stands out above all other benefits. “I love getting home to see my family.”
Learn more about the IFDA Truck Driver Hall of Fame.