Back in the 1940s and 1950s there was a radio and television sitcom called “Father Knows Best.”
On the show, the father, Jim Anderson (played by Robert Young), dispensed fatherly advice to his three children. As sitcom scripts usually go, the advice was well heeded, and everything was always well with the family by the end of episode.
Fast-forward to 2015. It was a father’s advice to his son that landed the latter a job with Averitt Express where, within a short, time the son became a trainer, a mentor, a member of the Driver Advisory Council and a Tennessee Road Team Captain, working right alongside his dad.
The son, John Tetreault, who just turned 32, has been driving trucks since he graduated high school in Clarksville, Tennessee. His first trucking job was driving a box truck for his uncle’s electronic and appliance-repair business.
But he’d long had a fascination with over-the-road (OTR) trucking since he was a youngster of 12 or 13.
Tetreault’s father, Rick, was an OTR trucker who brought his big rig home on the weekends.
“I used to hang around his truck, and I’d think, ‘This is so cool,’” the younger Tetreault said.
While driving for his uncle’s business one day, Tetreault said he came to the realization that for him, there was no future driving a box truck.
“It was more or less just a paycheck,” he said. “It didn’t have any benefits or retirement. It was going to be the same thing forever.”
It was then he thought about going OTR.
“My wife, Cindy, and I talked about it and I told her, ‘I’d really like to drive a big truck. There is more money in it, and the benefits are better, and it’s something I can do to an old age,” Tetreault related.
After three weeks of discussion with his wife, who he said is his support system while he’s on the road, and talks with his dad, Tetreault decided becoming an OTR driver was definitely the way to go.
At first, Tetreault said, his father was hesitant about his son becoming an OTR driver.
“He knew the lifestyle,” Tetreault said. “He said to me, ‘You know, you’re out here dealing with a lot. It can be stressful at times.’ But in the end, he was proud and happy that I became a truck driver.
“He was probably my biggest help when I got out on my own. I was calling him more than I was my actual trainer at my first company,” Tetreault continued. “I would call him and say, ‘They have me going to this place. This is the route I’m looking at. Do you think this is okay?’ And he’d say, ‘No, no, no. You need to go this way and you can stop at so-and-so truck stop.’ He was a major help when I first got into trucking.”
When he decided to go into OTR trucking, Tetreault found a local company some 50 miles from home. The company only required an applicant to have a CDL permit. Applicants were trained on the company’s parking lot and then put out on the road with a trainer for two or three weeks; then the applicant got his or her permanent CDL.
“Then you were on your own,” Tetreault said. “They were more of a fly-by-night company, and if you didn’t pick up on the job the first week, they’d be likely to let you go.”
Tetreault said he was not exactly excited about the company, but he’d always read you should give a new company three to six months before making a decision about whether to stay on there.
In the meantime, Tetreault’s father was working to recruit him to come to Averitt, extolling the virtue of working at Averitt Express.
Finally, in February of 2015 John Tetreault made the move to Averitt Express.
“I feel I’m at one of the best companies out there,” Tetreault said. “They really take care of me. I get great miles, and I have a great personal relationship with my fleet manager, Mike Pitner. He and I think a lot alike. He listens to my concerns and helps me resolve them.”
Tetreault loves his job as a trainer, he said, because he’s always liked helping fellow drivers.
“Before I was a trainer, I would drive up to a customer’s dock and I’d see one of our drivers come in and mess up their setup and see them struggling to get backed in,” he said. “I would know they might be just out of training and didn’t remember their training of setups.”
Eventually, Tetreault was asked to be a driver trainer.
“I jumped all over it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to help out future drivers, and if I can make a new driver safer, there’s less chance of them getting into an accident or tearing up our equipment.’”
Tetreault’s career as a mentor started a couple of years ago. In this role, he helps drivers who have signed on with Averitt but whose experience doesn’t require them to through training.
“They can sign up for the mentor program and then they get assigned to a person like myself,” Tetreault said. “I help them with our operating systems, workflow system, how to send in information from the road, and where our service centers are located, among other things. They are just getting used to a new company, and we want to make the transition as easy as easy as possible.”
Tetreault said at Averitt Express, he doesn’t feel like just another number.
“I’m made to feel like I’m someone of importance, and that all drivers here are really appreciated here,” he said.
The father-son relationship didn’t just end with Averitt’s recruiting progress.
Both have completed in the Tennessee Truck Driving Championships, both are road-team captains and both are members of the Averitt Express Driver Advisory Council, which has input on such things as new or changing policies and the purchase of new equipment.
Tetreault is obviously glad that — despite his father’s hesitancy — he became an OTR driver and is really happy he took his father’s advice and joined Averitt Express.
After all, fathers know best.
Lyndon Finney’s publishing career spans over 55 years beginning with a reporter position with the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 1965. Since then he’s been a newspaper editor at the Southwest Times Record, served five years as assistant managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock and from November 2004 through December 2019 served as editor of The Trucker. Between newspaper jobs he spent 14 years as director of communications at Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest healthcare system. In addition to his publishing career he served for 46 years as organist at Little Rock’s largest Baptist church.