Ron Millman, a driver for Georgia-based East-West Express, is one of only a handful of people on the planet who can say he’s covered 7 million miles in his driving career — and he’s one of a precious few who have covered that much ground without a single at-fault accident.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, in an era of distracted driving and unprecedented highway congestion, Millman says he’d never had an altercation with another vehicle of any kind at work until about a year ago. That’s when a driver with outstanding warrants clipped him before fleeing the scene. The memory of the event is equal parts amusing and frustrating to the Boston-born Millman.
“I was eight minutes from my delivery when that kid hit me,” he said, still incredulous. “I could look at my stop. That’s how close I was — I could see it from the interstate. This guy comes up the ramp, comes around the curve, and I looked at him and thought, ‘Buddy, you better get over. You’re going to hit me.’ And he did — he hit me.”
The ultimate irony of being hit by someone fleeing the law is that Millman is something of a “criminal” himself. After all, he’s repeatedly the broken statistical law of averages for many years. A journey of
7 million miles would circle the globe 280 times. That’s equal to about 15 round trips to the moon. To cover all those miles with just one highway incident, which wasn’t even his fault, defies every actuarial table known to humanity.
For Millman, however, the formula is simple: “Don’t bring your problems from your house to your job when you’re driving,” he said matter-of-factly. “And the biggest thing is, drive like you’re in a coloring book — always stay between the two lines.”
As mind-boggling as Millman’s safe-driving streak is, it’s only one chapter of a unique life that, had he not lived it, he says he might not believe himself. Landing in the foster care system as a boy, Millman ran away at 13 with no more of a plan than to hitchhike “to wherever.” A trucker picked him up and asked where he was headed.
“Wherever this truck lands,” he remembers saying.
The truck was going to Deland, Florida. Once there, the driver asked the lad’s next move. Hearing none, the man recommended Millman hit up the wintering circuses for a job. He did, and spent the next five years traveling as a roustabout. During that time, he learned how to drive a truck.
Millman left that gig with the intention of joining the military, but health problems disqualified him for active duty. He held a few miscellaneous jobs before deciding to become a professional truck driver, earning his license at age 20.
“I was still under restriction, though, because you have to be 21 to run other states,” he said. “So, until then, all I did was drive around Massachusetts.”
Except for one short departure from the industry, Millman has been driving ever since. At 77, he’s driven doubles and triples, pulled dry vans, reefer and even hazmat. His never-ending journey has taken him throughout Canada, into Mexico and touched all 49 of the continental U.S. states.
“And if you built a bridge over to Hawaii, I might drive over there, too,” he said with a laugh.
During his career, he’s driven team and he’s driven solo. He prefers the latter, particularly as he’s gotten older. Reaching across the generation gap has become increasingly frustrating, he says, so he’d rather make his runs alone, doing things the way he knows they should be done.
“These young people, when they get in the bunk, they’re watching movies or playing games, and when they come back out, they’re not ready to drive after a 10-hour break,” he said. “I just got to the point where this ain’t worth it. I can’t do double work.
“I’ve been running basically between Georgia and Florida for almost the last three years,” he continued. “I like it because I’m by myself. I come and go as I please. They hand me an envelope and I go do my job. I may not talk to dispatch for two days, maybe three days, because I know what I’ve got to do and they’re very well aware I know what I’ve got to do. They don’t really bother me.”
Waiting for Millman at home for most of his driving years has been his second wife, Deborah, who, despite being in a potentially dangerous profession herself — that of a meat cutter — doesn’t like to ride with him. That’s more a comment on other drivers than on Ron’s skills. In fact, she might be the only person on the planet who was unsurprised when he turned over 7 million safe miles in June 2023.
“It’s just another day on the job for him,” she said.
Asked when he’ll park it for good, Millman shrugs.
“To be truthful with you, as long as I can pass the DOT physical, I guess I’ll be there,” he said. “It’s the only thing I really know how to do. My wife has asked me a number of times, ‘Why don’t you get a local job, like in a grocery store?’”
“But I’m with a good company,” he continued. “East-West Express is a very good company, and I told her, ‘If I’m going to continue to work at my age, I’m going to do what I enjoy and what I like doing.’”
Until his day arrives, Millman will be out there, running his route, keeping his head on a swivel and exercising common sense. There’s one other thing he does every trip.
“I’m not a real religious guy, but I do believe that the ‘Man Upstairs’ has looked after me all these years,” he said. “Back in 2010, I had two heart attacks, back-to-back. He could have taken me, and he didn’t take me. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the one that’s been watching over me.
“Every time I come off the road and into the yard, the very first thing that I do, I make sure and look up and say, ‘Thank you, God, for another safe trip.’ God is my follower. He watches over me on all these trips. He always has. That’s why I feel I’ve done so well at it — because he’s guiding me down the highway,” Millman concluded.
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.