LAS VEGAS — Butch Colvin’s been driving trucks a long time and just about the time he got one of the biggest prizes in trucking he announced that he’s putting the brakes on work and heading out in an RV instead.
Colvin was awarded the Truckload Carriers Association 2009 Company Driver of the Year during TCA’s annual convention in Las Vegas. He’s logged more than 5 million miles in his career with 1.6 million of those miles while driving for Con-way.
Colvin and his wife, Dora, ran team and Dora was the 2005 Company Driver of the Year. Together they were recognized twice as Con-way’s Company Team of the Year and five times as Company Team of the Month.
Colvin told The Trucker that he once drove for Trailways hauling bus equipment and also drove bus routes. He started out driving in 1961 with his dad, hauling grain and steel. His father owned as many as seven trucks at one time.
When we talked to the Colvins via a conference call, they were all but retired although he was finishing up by turning everything in before they started enjoying life in a new way.
“I’m the oldest” he said with a hearty laugh, “I’m 66. I’ve got an RV. We want to go see Dora’s uncle, her favorite uncle. He’s retired and we’ve got to go see him in Bowling Green [Ky.] He’s the one who took Dora on her first truck ride.”
Dora was raised on a farm, Colvin explained, and that’s how she learned how to drive.
Colvin said he’s got lots of grandchildren and is “probably the best fisherman in the country. I don’t know if they give awards for that. Dora’s brothers live in North Dakota on lakes and we’re going to go there and fish.”
What’s the biggest fish he’s ever caught?
“About 12 inches, a trout,” Colvin said, before claiming that “the biggest one got away.”
Colvin was more than thrilled to be chosen Driver of the Year right before he retired.
“It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” he said. “My wife won in 2005 and people still recognize her. It’s nice to be recognized as a good, safe driver.”
Over his long career, Colvin said he’s had no chargeable accidents.
In a news release about the award, Randy Cornell, Con-way’s vice president of safety, said “Butch is a joy to work with. The standards he sets for himself are among the highest I’ve seen. He continually guides other drivers in practices that are safe and edifying to the trucking industry. If he sees someone abusing the latitude of a policy, he’s not afraid to gently and diplomatically share with another driver how their actions affect the industry reputation as well as the company’s. As a result, the roads are safer, and the next generation of truck drivers will better understand their personal responsibility in making it all work.”
When reminded of the kind words Cornell had for Colvin, he laughed and said: “Oh, I’ve got him fooled. It’s good to work with a nice group of people.”
Dora said that the two of them “went to work together and we quit together.”
The Colvins were headed to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., last month before starting on their trip to visit relatives and begin their new lives in an RV rather than an 18-wheeler. If past driving history is any clue, they’ll probably be the best RV drivers in the U.S.
One thing that probably won’t change is how they work as a team getting down the highways safely. While stopped he would check the truck and equipment while she logged onto the computer and checked weather and road conditions so they could find the safest route to haul their load. And they also do things to keep themselves upbeat and happy.
“We try to get a little exercise,” Colvin said. “We like to listen to upbeat music and trucking shows [on the radio]. I like country music. I keep the circulation in my feet and keep myself alert. I try to stay upbeat. Negativity pulls you down worse than anything. Both of us are like that.
“I really like to drive. That’s what I wanted to do. I’ve always enjoyed it. My office is that open window. We will go to all these places where we delivered freight, only now we’ll go in the front door.”
Together, the Colvins have driven about 8 million miles. Dora was a school teacher before taking to the road. The couple has two grown children as well as two foster girls that are now grown. They have “nine of the most beautiful, talented, smartest grandchildren,” in the world, Colvin bragged. The grandchildren range in age from two years old to 20 years old. Four live in Kansas, three in Texas and two are in the Marine Corp. in South Carolina.
The Colvins are active in their Latter-Day Saints church, also known as the Mormon church, and while they had plans to hit the road soon in their RV, Colvin said they were meeting with the bishop soon and would do whatever he wanted them to do, which could delay their trip.
For 15 years Colvin has been part of a letter-writing activity for shut-ins and less active members of the church, mailing them messages from different states as he traveled.
At his children’s school he helped sponsor the first successful all-night, alcohol-free graduation party, which has now become a school-sponsored event.
As the 2009 Company Driver of the Year, Colvin received a prize package consisting of cash, gift cards, products, and services worth $25,000. In addition, his employer flew him to Vegas and paid all of his expenses to attend the TCA convention, where he was awarded a plaque in front of hundreds of the industry’s top leaders.
The industry is losing two good drivers at the same time, but at least they will still be out on the highways running safely.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.