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Trucker driven to excel

October 01, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

To drive a tractor-trailer for 3 million miles without an accident is an achievement akin to a baseball player's hitting streak.

Gary Stover, of Chambersburg, Pa., became the 58th man among more than 24,000 Roadway Express drivers nationally to accomplish that feat, joining another Hagerstown-based driver in an elite club within the industry.

Stover, 54, broke the 3 million mile mark for Roadway Express just a few months short of his 30th year as a driver for the company, said Dave Barr, relay manager of the Hagerstown location.

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Stover said the achievement was due largely to "skill, luck and the grace of God."

Barr praised Stover's consistency and commitment to safety driving during a brief ceremony Thursday.

Fewer than 1/2 percent of the company's drivers make it to 3 million miles without a crash, Barr said. "We're proud to have him here," he said.

Barr said the achievement is astonishing because Stover is driving one of the most difficult routes the company has available.

"What makes it so unique is, he does it in the Washington (D.C.) metro area," Barr said. "He does it in the slush, the rain, the Friday night traffic. All that makes it very difficult."

On Thursday, Barr handed over the keys to "the carrot" that comes with the award, a brand new truck. Not only will Stover be one of a few using a new vehicle, he is one of only two drivers who do not have to share it with other employees in Hagerstown.

Harry Kelley, the other driver based at the Hagerstown location to hit that many crash-free miles, said keeping the safety streak intact gets more difficult with each year.

"You've got to do it day after day, all the time," said Kelley, who hit the mark in 2001.

Kelley and Stover said the stress became increasingly intense as they got closer to the 3 million mile mark.

They said no one wants to mess it up once they are close.

Stover's streak came within feet of ending last winter. Stover said he had problems controlling the rig while heading downhill toward a stop sign on a snow-covered road.

To make matters worse, his trailer was empty, which made it handle "like an accordion," Stover said.

"I had to do some fancy maneuvering on that one," he said.

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