BAY CITY, MICHIGAN – June 18, 2019. If you follow Go-To Transport on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram), you may have noticed that from time to time we feature photos of our trucks as seen through the eyes of our drivers. Usually chasing a sunrise or sunset, Company Driver, Ernie, is one of those drivers who shares what he sees with us. This month I had a great chat with him over the phone!
Company Driver, Ernie L.
So where are you today, Ernie?
“I am along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I just got out of the Allegheny Mountains in route to Detroit,” he told me.
Excellent! Well let’s get to it while you have a little time free. What was the first job that you ever had?
“Wow, let me think about that one!” said Ernie, laughing. “I was a stock person at a local convenience store. I was about 15 years old,” he recalled.
“Then when I was 18, I worked in a stamping plant,” Ernie paused. “And then when I was about 22 years old, I worked for the railroad. I did that for a few years. I worked on tracks in the Downriver area of Detroit.”
Stocking, stamping, and then the railroad! When did you learn about the trucking industry?
“Through my dad. Dad worked in the auto industry as a stamper for 15 years, and then when his company fell out, he went into trucking. He drove locally so he could be home at night. I started in transportation by driving a cube van around the age of 25. I drove expedited freight.”
Back then, did you need a CDL to do that type of work?
“Nope, I didn’t have a CDL back then. Nowadays you must have a chauffeur’s license, but back when it was a bit different,” Ernie said. “Then I drove a straight truck for a few years. Those were about 24-28 feet.”
So how did you finally make it into the big trucks?
“Haha!” Ernie laughed, “I was hornswoggled!”
“Yes, hornswoggled!” he said, still laughing. “It worked out for me though. I was doing maintenance on trucks at the time and my boss said he would pay for the class and what not if I wanted to drive the bigger trucks. That was just over 15 years ago now.”
It seems like that offer served you well!
“Well he also said that I would make more money.”
Money talks, right? Is that when you knew you wanted to drive a truck for the rest of your career?
“Yes, when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the big rigs. I loved the sounds and doing the ‘arm pump’ that kids do when they see a big truck. It was a dream,” recalled Ernie. “I loved everything about those trucks and now I drive one.”
When we’ve chatted in the past, you have mentioned to me that you don’t ride with a radio on in the truck and that you do that because you can tell if your truck has a problem. Does that go back to your roots and maintaining trucks early on?
“Yes, it sure does,” Ernie paused. “You know a truck by how it sounds. I listen to everything. Every knock and every rattle. It’s called being safe.”
What do you like most about driving?
“I like seeing places that I have never been to before. That’s why I don’t drive local. I like being out over-the-road.”
How did you find out about Go-To Transport?
“I found out about Go-To through friends. My friend helped to get me in. He ended up leaving the company, but I stayed.”
Ernie sits behind the wheel of a 2020 Cascadia Freightliner.
It’s good that you had that friend then and even better that you’re still with us! Tell me what a typical work week is like for you.
“I’m over-the-road so I’m home about every other weekend. Mama wants me home more!” Ernie said. “Mama” is Ernie’s wife, Judy.
Judy occasionally goes out with you, right?
“Yup, she will get in the truck with me once in a while,” he said. “She loves seeing new things and visiting places that she’s never been before.”
Judy and Ernie
It must be great to have her take trips with you occasionally. When you are home, what do you two like to do?
“We love movies. We watch a lot of those, usually older ones.”
Tell me about your family.
“Judy and I have 6 kids,” he started. “Ryan is the eldest and he’s 35. Then Chris who is 29, Nathen, 28, and Natasha, 27. Then there is Brittney, 26, and the youngest, Ashley, and she’s 22.”
Are the kids close by or do they live all over?
“Most are close. The one who lives furthest is Natasha. She moved out of the state and lives in Gulfport, MS,” he said.”
Ernie with four of his children, (L-R) Chris, Brittney, Ernie, Ashley, and Nathen
You have a dog too, right?
“Yes, that’s Dottie. Dottie’s a Texas heeler. She’s with me in the truck right now!”
Aww, you didn’t get her that long ago. How old is Dottie now?
“She’s about 5 months old.”
How is Dottie in the truck?
“Dottie is great!” Ernie said. “When we head back into the truck from a break or a stop, she always knows which one ours is. It’s funny. She’s a really good girl.”
That’s great that she can travel with you! Tell me about your photography hobby and how you got started with that.
“About 8 or 9 years ago, a friend of mine from Mississippi got me into taking pictures. At the time I was living down there driving an asphalt truck. That was right before I moved back here and joined Go-To, actually.”
Ernie’s camera setup in front of his truck.
What do you like taking photos of?
“My favorite things to photograph are sunrises and sunsets,” he said fondly. “I belong to a Facebook group where members share their pictures of sunrises and sunsets. I also like going to Lake Erie on the weekends I’m home and taking some pictures as well as other areas of interest. Also a few years ago, I had some free time and was able to make a stop at Mt. Rushmore. I really enjoyed that.”
(L-R) Ernie at Mt. Rushmore, a photo of Lake Erie, and West Virginia.
That sounds really relaxing. I’m glad that you share what you see with the rest of us! Aside from photography, what are you passionate about? What gets you up and out of bed in the morning?
“I get up and out of bed when my eyes pop open!” Ernie laughed. Can you tell that he enjoys a good joke or two? “I’m just teasing. I like to get up before the sun. My dad used to tell me, ‘Boy, I’m gonna tell you something. The older you get, the less sleep you need!’ and doggone it, if he wasn’t right. I’m usually up at 4am, maybe 5am. I get up, make some coffee, take care of the dog, that sort of thing.”
That’s plenty of time to catch those awesome sunrises. Who is your hero?
“Oh, definitely Judy, my wife,” Ernie said with an adoring tone. “She keeps me in check! She’s also a good woman and takes care of me, makes sure the bills are paid, all of that.”
Judy sounds great. You’re very lucky!
Tell me a great piece of advice you’ve received.
“My dad always told me, ‘Don’t be late,’” Ernie recalled. “He told me that when I first started driving and it’s been true ever since. I remember telling my daughter the same thing when she was working part-time at her job. I added that she should always be available too. If your boss calls, be available and guess what? She was promoted to full-time.”
That’s excellent. You must have been very proud of her!
“I was. I am!”
(L-R) Photos taken at Lake Erie and of a mill in Babcock State Park in Clifftop, WV.