Congratulations to Tony Graham and Amira Smith!
TT: First of all, congratulations to you two. It's fantastic that you were chosen as TOTAL’s Team of the Year. You should definitely be proud.
Tony: Thank you.
Amira: Thank you. Appreciate it.
TT: Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you two from?
Tony: Well, I was born in Jamaica, but I grew up in the Bronx, New York.
Amira: I'm from California born and raised, but I live in Georgia now.
TT: Perfect, how long have you two been driving trucks?
Tony: I've been driving for 21 years.
Amira: I've been driving for about… I'ma say about 10 years, almost 11.
TT: Who did you drive for before coming to TOTAL?
Tony: Well, when I started, I trained with Warner. I drove for Warner and then I went with US Express for a while. Then I had to take a break because I had young kids at the time. My ex-wife was working nights and I was working days. I got back into trucking in 2014.
TT: Is that when you came to TOTAL?
Tony: I went with Western Express for about four months. Then I heard about TOTAL and I came right over.
TT: That’s fantastic. And what about you Amira?
Amira: I started with Conway. I trained with Swift. I left there and went to Conway. I was with Conway for a while then went to Western Express. That's where Tony and I met. Then from there we came over to TOTAL to team.
TT: Did either of you do anything professionally before you became truck drivers?
Amira: Yes, for me. I am a hairdresser and physical trainer.
Tony: I worked at CVS as a supervisor for nine years. I was also a piano technician.
TT: What made you choose TOTAL over the other options?
Almira: I was working at another company and it just wasn’t a good fit. A TOTAL employee told us about TOTAL, and that he’d been there for a while and really liked it.
TT: Was it all you hoped it would be?
Amira: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I'm not planning on leaving, they’ll have to kick me out!
TT: Well, that's what we like to hear. What do you think makes TOTAL different from other trucking companies?
Tony: As long as you, you know, obey the laws and take care of business, TOTAL allows you to do what you have to do. They don't really bother you. And it's a great company. Other companies, you hear about them, and you hear about upper management but you never actually meet them. TOTAL is different. Everybody's friendly, everybody's like one big family.
TT: That's our goal! How do you guys feel about our equipment?
Tony: I love it. I love the Freightliner
TT: If you have issues with equipment how is that resolved?
Tony: We usually just have normal issues. Like today, for example, we had a blowout. Pretty typical and can happen anywhere. Roadside was real quick on resolving it. They take care of me, and I'll take care of them.
TT: What do you guys like the most about working for TOTAL?
Tony: Well, like I said, most everybody acts as one big family.
TT: Do you have any tips for a good relationship with your fleet manager?
Amira: Be friendly, be nice, and be patient. Some fleet managers have never driven a truck before. So you have to be patient and help fill some things in. Don't be mean or rude or disrespectful you know, give respect, get respect. That's my motto. Just be patient, and treat everyone with respect.
TT: I'm sure that goes both ways, so that's good for everybody to remember.
Amira: Yeah, everyone has to try to be understanding.
TT: Do you have any advice for new team drivers on how they can be successful?
Amira: Well, just be on time. Always, always plan out your trip. Always know where you're going and know the easiest routes to get there. Tony knows, especially when we have to go on the east coast. Know your routes and options well. Know what might actually take you longer even though the distance may be shorter. Give yourself time.
Tony: Yes, giving yourself time is very important because… like now, right before we got on the phone there was a big accident. You know, if we’d picked up the load when they said to pick up the load, we would have been late. Thankfully, we got there a few hours early. Give yourself extra time. Don’t wait until the last minute to pick something up. You don't know what's going to be ahead of you on this road. There can be delays, accidents or whatever. So if you can pick your load up early, do that.
TT: That's good advice for any driver, do you have any suggestions for the team dynamic to new team drivers?
Amira: Well, you have to communicate with each other. If you don't communicate with each other, there's gonna be a lot of mistakes. Then one driver may blame the other driver. Good communication is key and hopefully you'll click.
Tony: You really have to get along well.
Amira: I stay out Tony's way, I don't sit up front the passenger seat or anything like that. I'm in the bed, when it’s not my time to drive, I'm in the back. The curtains are closed, I let him do his thing, and vice versa. When it's time for me to drive, he goes to the back. And sometimes he'll sit up front, but not for long. You have to get in the back and get your rest and stay out the other person's way.
TT: That's good advice, I'm sure. What do you think that it takes to be voted TOTAL’s Team of the Year?
Amira: Number one, you have to be careful out there on the road. Give yourself space, give yourself time. Be patient and do what you have to do. Get your load there on time. Don't be a pest to your fleet manager. Sometimes we don't actually speak to our fleet manager for a week because he knows we're doing what we're supposed to do. They send the load and we pick it up and deliver it. Always look at the big picture and try to have a good attitude. If you're having a bad day don't take it out on your fleet manager. Odds are your fleet manager didn't have anything to do with it. We try not to have negative energy towards anybody. Either night or day crew, customer, or driver. John Stomps could call that customer and ask them about us.
We build a good relationship with the customers. Any customer we go to loves us to death. How do you do that? Like I said, be friendly. Be nice, because sometimes they're going through things that you don't know, but sometimes they just want to see a friendly face.
Tony: Yeah, attitude is a big part I think. You know a lot of truck drivers get to their destination angry or stressed and unload that on the customer. Many customers kinda expect it so they look at us like all truck drivers are bad. But once they see our attitude they love us. “Oh, you guys are not like these other people”. We want their day to go as great just as much as we want ours to. We're not perfect. But our model is to have a great attitude about everything.
TT: Those are wise words. What do you think is the hardest thing about being on a team?
Tony: Getting along. If you don't mesh with a person, then you're not going to be great team drivers. It helps to really know each other for a while. Sure, it can happen but I would say it's very rare that a team can get together without knowing each other and get along. It really helps to know that person that you're driving with. You might not like some of the stuff that they do or how they do it and vice versa. Now, if you guys can communicate with each other as to “Hey, you know, I don't like that. Can you change that up? Or can you not do that?” If you have a person that's understanding, then that's fine, but you have to be understanding with each other. And yet, some things can be compromised, some things cannot. But you really have to get along with each other, for it to work.
Amira: Roger that. On the flip side, the best thing about working as a team is that the wheels don't stop rolling and the money keeps coming in.
TT: Is there anything else that's on your mind that you'd like to tell TOTAL drivers or prospective TOTAL drivers? This is your moment, is there anything on your mind?
Tony: All I have to say is respect the job and the company. Because it's a very respectable company.
Amira: Especially for new drivers, new drivers, whether you're a team or solo, there are a lot of places that you go that may be new to you, but it doesn't mean that you can get out of the truck and go do things. “Oh, there's Magic Mountain, park the truck here.” Or I'm going over there to Six Flags or the casino or whatever, you're in charge of that load. This is work, don't be trying to play. If you don't have a 10 hour break, you don't have time to stop. You gotta keep going and keep it moving.
TT: Awesome. Again, I want to congratulate you all for being our Team of The Year. And we certainly appreciate your, your dedication, and your drive. We want you guys to be safe out there, and keep doing what you're doing. Drive safely and keep on at it.