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Tim Thomas – Male Driver of The Year!

Congratulations on being one of TOTAL’s Drivers of the Year Tim! Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m 48 and have been driving for 18 years. I drove 5 years for USX and the last 9 for TOTAL. Before driving trucks, I had worked in a factory for about 6 years. That company was moving to Mexico but they gave us an opportunity to go to school or go to heavy equipment or something like that. I was staying with my parents at the time. I just told myself, man, I'm not going back to the factory, there's no way I can do it. So here I am.

What made you think that you would enjoy truck driving?

Well, in my family, my granddad was a school bus driver for many years before he retired. My daddy was a school bus driver, and one of my uncles was also a school bus driver so actually it was kinda’ in my family. I didn't want to drive a bus so I decided to go to something bigger and better. So here I am truck driving.

Well, you seem to be doing a pretty good job as far as we can tell.

I love it because truck driving is a mindset. You’ve got to have a mindset for truck driving. I guess everybody’s got their own. Mine is to get out here and enjoy it. Be safe, but have fun. You get your mind set and go up the highway, get your mind clear, and go on home. Get out there and have fun. If you don’t have fun at your job there’s no reason to have it.

You’ve said you've had experience with several trucking companies. What do you think it is that makes TOTAL different from the others? 

TOTAL is a family. Let me put it like this, a large company just knows you as a truck number, TOTAL actually gets to know you. My FM knows where I stay, where I live, actually wants to know more about me. Know what I'm saying? 

I also love the equipment. I am in a 2021 right now and I love it.
I bounce every two to two and a half years. I get out and get into a newer truck. I've never had that experience until I came to TOTAL.

What do you like most about working for TOTAL?

The people! I’ve got the best dispatcher, David Shields. I’ve had great Terminal Managers. I mean, it’s just a family oriented company. Everybody knows you. I love it. I wouldn’t change TOTAL for anything. I’d go back home and bag groceries before I’d go to another trucking company. 

Any tips for other drivers to have a strong relationship with their fleet manager?

Get to know him. He’s there for you. He has your best interests in mind.
Mine has like 42 drivers. I mean, he calls me every other day. Sometimes he’ll call me on the weekend when he’s at home. “Hey man is everything going alright?” He also called me after we had a bad storm where I live. He called me and said “Man, do I need to bring you anything?”
I was good, I was straight and didn’t need anything. He said, “Just let me know, I’ll bring you whatever you need.” My FM goes out of his way to help me.

What do you think it takes to become TOTAL’s driver of the year? 

Oh, I don't know. I mean, I would have never thought in a million years I would get this award. I really… I wouldn’t. I don't know, I guess being a good driver. Not only is it being a good driver, it’s having a good attitude. Also knowing how and being willing to help out when necessary. Knowing that it may not be the best thing for you that day but that your fleet manager will turn it around and help you out on the back end.
Attitude is the key. It will get you a long way. Don't come in and think you know everything. Listen, and have a good attitude. I’ve got brothers that drive and I just thought I knew it all because you know they drove, nope. I didn't know squat until I got out here. If you’ve got a bad attitude it will never work out. Attitude will get you a long way.  

Do you have any suggestions for drivers?

Don’t rely on GPS out right. You need a map book. Study your route before you start. Having just a GPS will actually get you lost quicker because these roads can change in a day. Having a map book, or having Google Maps on your phone, or having a good relationship with somebody that's been on that road is key, that's where your dispatch comes in. Somebody in the office can help you. You know, “Say man, is this route good?” Having a GPS... I have one, but that GPS is going to be the first thing to get new drivers into trouble because it gives them tunnel vision. If you look at your map book or call your customer, you won’t find yourself on a back road or in a ditch.

Is there anything else that is on your mind that you'd like to convey to our drivers or to the trucking industry at large? 
Trucking as a whole is a family. You gotta have friends and family out here. So if you don't have friends, you won’t have family. I have family.
Oh I can’t tell you how many, I think sometimes we get 12 people on the phone. We'll help each other out. It’s not just rapping on the phone you know, we help each other out. “Which street do you take getting here? How about there?”

So, basically, I think attitude, listen, and make friends.

Thanks Tim, That’s definitely some advice to live by.