CalArk, Central Hauling Co. Driver Of Year Award Winners Live Their Careers, Take Pride As Truckers by Aprille Hanson
Truckers Allen Robertson and Jason Mavrinac live their careers.
It’s not an exaggeration — Robertson, who has driven for CalArk for 18 years, is traveling the highways year round.
Mavrinac, who has driven almost two years for Central Hauling Co., is out four months at a time, only going home to Raleigh, North Carolina, for laundry, and proudly adds that his electric bill is “$15 a month.”
Their dedication is matched by few, which is why Robertson was named the 2014 Company Driver of the Year for CalArk and Mavrinac was selected as Contractor of the Year for Central Hauling Co.
CalArk and Central Hauling Co., both based out of Little Rock, are sister companies; Central Hauling is an independent contractor fleet that pulls CalArk trailers. The judging is strict for drivers of the year — they must have a year of on-time delivery, no accidents/tickets/violations, in addition to mastering all-around driver efficiency like good fuel mileage, said Dennis Hilton, vice president of safety for CalArk.
Those that received Driver of the Year runnerup awards for CalArk were: second runner-up Addison Benson Jr. ($500); first runner-up Bonifacio Robertson ($750).
For Central Hauling Co., the second runner-up was Carl Sparlin ($500); first runner-up was Lual Madut ($750).
Both Robertson and Mavrinac received plaques and the choice of $2,500 or a Caribbean trip; both drivers chose the money. Robertson also received the Company Best Fuel Mileage award and received an additional $500.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” a teary-eyed Robertson, 60, said to the crowd gathered at the CalArk headquarters in Little Rock on Sept. 19 in honor of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 15-19). “Since I’ve been with the company, it’s been family.”
“Family” is what both drivers emphasized while sitting down with The Trucker to talk about their careers and their shock in being honored this year.
“If I can’t be the best, I don’t want to do it,” Robertson said. “I’m serious about my job, any job I do.”
Robertson, a trucker for 25 years from Richmond, Virginia, has no shortage of accomplishments: 100 percent on-time delivery every year; company driver of the year in 2003, 2004 and 2007; most miles driven from 2008-2010, 2012; achieved 3 million miles in 2013 — and that’s just to name a few.
His “will-do” attitude stems from his 20 years serving in the U.S. Army. Stationed primarily in Oklahoma, Texas and Germany, Robertson did everything from a desk sergeant for military police to field artillery. But what’s most shocking from this soft-spoken, humble driver was his favorite part of his time in the military — his two years as a drill sergeant.
“Just thinking about all the young men coming in, for myself, I was raised with an outstanding mother and father who showed me how to do right, made sure I went to school and learned so when I saw these kids, these were like my sisters and brothers. I’m trying to help them get to where I’ve been,” Robertson said.
After retiring from the military, trucking appealed to him for the travel and just “the idea of taking the challenge to become a truck driver, to see if I could do it.”
Robertson travels throughout the lower 48 and into Canada, hauling primarily automotive supplies.
Since he’s out on the road year-round, Robertson helps out motorists, whether it’s giving out food and water or stopping to help them.
“I was coming out of San Diego and there was this lady and five kids in the car; she had a flat tire. It was like 105 degrees. I stopped, and she didn’t have a spare. I went down the road and bought one and put it on for her,” Robertson said, adding he couldn’t have driven by knowing that the “next guy who comes along may have different intentions. Then I would have to live with that … I’ll give someone the shirt off my back if they’re in need; I’ve got another one,” he said with a smile.
For Robertson, the most important advice he has for drivers just starting out is to find a good company and stick with them and keep a positive attitude.
“It’s about attitude and making the best out of a situation and being the best that you can be,” Robertson said. “I have to say I’m blessed to be working for this company; they have so many drivers that can receive the award … Whatever they give me, I’m gone. Whether it’s one mile or 1,000 miles, I’ve got to get it there on time.”
It’s that same positive, can-do attitude that Mavrinac, a trucker for six years, takes pride in as an owner-operator.
“I was a little shocked, I didn’t think I did that well,” he said of winning the performance-based award.
“He’s always willing to run, he’s always on time,” said his dispatcher, Jane Pearce, adding that he brightens her day by making her laugh. “He’s a pleasure to work with.”
Mavrinac, 39, had been a company driver but preferred the “freedom” of running his own truck — a 2006 9400 International — so he signed on with Central Hauling Co.
“The running lanes are very good, the miles are very good. The one thing transitioning from a company driver to an owner-operator is not the miles. It has to be a balance between fuel mileage and miles. Most of your fleet averages they say are eight miles to the gallon, a lot of these drivers out here will blow by me … my 30-day and 90-day is 8. 36 miles to the gallon, 57 miles per hour,” Mavrinac said. “I work very hard and spend a lot of money on that truck.”
Before trucking, Mavrinac was bringing home about $130,000 a year, certified to do body work on BMW and Mercedes vehicles. When the economy tanked, he was out of a job.
“I was on unemployment for 30 days thinking I was going to get a vacation and after a week of not doing anything, I was bored and thought, ‘let’s go be a truck driver.’ Haven’t looked back since.”
But that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have love for “Mercedes” — his 10-year-old female Rottweiler mix that has traveled with him since she was just a puppy.
“The first time she’d seen the snow out there she lept out of the truck and went into a ditch that was covered in snow and disappeared. I had to dig her out,” Mavrinac said. “She didn’t look at me the same way after that. She doesn’t jump out of the truck anymore.”
On his off time, he’ll park his truck near a clearing to fly one of his high-dollar model airplanes or helicopters.
“I have some jets with actual jet engines on them; I have to go to the airport to get fuel,” Mavrinac said, adding it’s another reason he likes being an owner-operator. “A, the money because you’re talking about $10,000 to $12,000 an airplane and B, I can stop out in the middle of the dessert somewhere for three or four hours … and go flying.”
But the only way Mavrinac can be successful is by his own choosing and with a good company like Central Hauling Co. Backing him, he said.
“Learn how to maintain you equipment. Your biggest cost is fuel, your second is labor. If you can reduce both of those you’ll be profitable,” Mavrinac said to other owner-operators. “And slow down. Most of these trucks that can do 75 miles per hour, they do 75 mph.”
About three months ago, Mavrinac and seven other owner-operators formed the Contractor Advisory Board (CAB) as a teaching tool for new owner-operators and the go-between for drivers and the management.
“A lot of drivers will come in and say, ‘Oh I’ve got a truck that will run 75 miles per hour,’ then they’re blowing up tires, blowing up motors, their equipment is failing constantly. Maintenance costs go through the roof,” Mavrinac said. “We try to mentor them into being profitable, to treat it as a business not as a company truck.”
Mavrinac said he plans on staying with the company for the same reason Robertson gave — the “good people.”
“I don’t know a whole lot of people here because I’m usually on the road, but when I come through here there’s no nasty attitudes, everyone looks out for one another,” Mavrinac said. “Ninety percent of the other drivers are good people too.”
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