Iowa trucker concludes 33-year career with TMC Transport, offers advice to new drivers

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Russ Allen
Russ Allen, who drove for Iowa-based TMC Transportation for more than 33 years, retired Dec. 18, 2020. Allen says he plans to work on his farm and travel with his wife, Molly. (Courtesy: TMC Transport)

DES MOINES, Iowa — On Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, Iowa trucker Russ Allen returned his keys to TMC Transportation for the final time, ending a 33-and-a-half-year career of driving for the company.

Allen, who grew up on a farm, says he remembers watching the big trucks in the field as he raised cattle. He recalls that farming got tough in the 1980s, and that transitioning from part-time driver for a local sale barn to a full-time trucker in 1985 was a decision of necessity. After two years of driving over the road, Allen was hired by the late Walt Annett, who was then TMC’s vice president of maintenance, to drive for TMC in May 1987.

“I had a good friend who drove for TMC. I thought that the shiny black trucks were a lot nicer than the cabovers I had been driving,” he explained.

After more than three decades of driving at TMC, Allen says the most rewarding part of his job has been parking a shiny Kenworth or Peterbilt in front of his house on the weekends. Another high point, he noted, is the flexibility that comes with hauling flatbed freight.

“With flatbeds, you get exercise, which makes staying in shape easier than shutting the doors on a box trailer,” Allen said.

“I enjoyed taking my kids with me several times. My daughter, Alicia, had never seen a mountain before,” he continued. “Being able to share those special moments with family, exploring new sights made it all worth it.”

Since Allen entered trucking, there have been numerous changes in the industry — especially regarding technology. In the 1980s there were no cellphones or GPS.

According to Allen, the biggest obstacle he had to overcome in those days was “going into any big city, trying to find where to go unload. Over time it got easier, but it was a challenge.”

Winter driving was an obstacle as well. “It takes time getting to know what the truck can or can’t do,” he noted, adding that slowing down when the roads got bad was key to his safe driving record.

When asked about what advice he would give to a new driver, Allen shared, “The pay is good if you work for it.”

While being a truck driver isn’t always easy, it can be a rewarding career.

“Every day has different challenges,” he said. “The work can be hard, but when you get that special load that looks cool on the trailer, it makes the extra work worthwhile. If you stay long enough to get on the specialized or boat division, it can be rewarding. As an ex-farmer, parking a shiny new piece of machinery at my house can be impressive.”

Allen also shared some advice for young or inexperienced drivers.

“I would say, ‘Be really careful when loading and unloading,’” he said.

“I got in a hurry several times and fell off trailers or had a tarp roll off insulation and hit my head (I used to be taller),” he continued. “Things like that, you shake it off and keep going, but years later you look back and think, ‘Why did I let that happen?’”

His second piece of advice: “Tie the loads down and tarp right the first time. Then, you do not have to stop and redo anything. The load stays on the trailer.”

Now that he’s retired, Allen says he plans to work on the farm and spend time with his four grandsons. His son, Jed, farms in addition to running an agriculture machinery repair business. In addition, Allen and his wife, Molly, plan to do some traveling.

“I made lifelong friends here at TMC. I was always treated well by people in the shops, the fleet managers, all the way up to (TMC CEO) Harrold Annett. I will always be thankful for Walt Annett hiring me. He is the reason I stayed for over 33 years,” Allen said, noting that he enjoyed working the entire team, including fleet manager Glenda Miller, operations manager Chad Reece and Mike Duffy, who became TMC’s vice president of maintenance two years ago.

“I cannot believe I am over 70 years old and spent nearly half my life at TMC,” Allen said. “I want to thank everyone who I worked with here, and Todd Bunting (vice president of safety). Thankfully, I stayed on the good side of Todd — most of the time.”

While Duffy is sad to see Allen retire, “he’s earned it, and I’m excited for him,” Duffy said.

“I think everybody has a short list of individuals who they know that can be counted on to do the right thing and do it to the best of their ability every time,” Duffy continued. “Russ is definitely on my list, and I’m sure many others. His work ethic is unbelievable as is his attention to detail.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. All I heard TMC Driver said company is suck,.. I remember they advertised their company at CDL school. was felt like car Dealer trying to sell junk car to you.

  2. I worked for TMC, I’m happy for this gentleman. But this type of trucking definitely isn’t for everybody. I have a few comments about what he mentioned in this article.

    1. Parking the truck- unless you live in a rural area farm ext…you aren’t gonna be parking that truck in front or by your house. Even the the Home Depot’s and Lowe’s which the company has contracts with will have you remove your truck because they don’t own the parking lot and the property management will have you towed at your expense. So needless to say the stress of parking was a constant nightmare on the few days off I had with my family.

    2. You do get more exercise running flatbed for TMC but at what cost? 15’ or more Freezing high while on top of your load trying to tarp your load with no one to help you. You get something wrong while securing your load and you are a dead man. Just falling from that height can be fatal.

    3: the pay isn’t good compared to working for a local company for $20-$22 per hour and home every night not worrying about if your gonna have a spot at a rest stop to sleep. I’d rather make the same or more and be home every night.

    Sorry for the long comment but to add to all this the drivers for TMC where a great group of men. If you needed help and one was around they would help you no matter what! I would not have made it without the help of other TMC and flatbed drivers who educated me and showed me things that could save my life.

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