DARRYL Nowell is a man of many roles—Certified Driver Trainer for Eagle Transport Corp, Pyro the human incinerator professional wrestler, Coast Guard search & rescue volunteer, US Army veteran, and father.
Recently Nowell added what may turn out to be one of his most demanding roles when he was named National Tank Truck Carriers Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year. He is just the third recipient of the award.
Nowell has a bigger-than-life personality, and he is getting plenty of attention in the Richmond, Virginia, area where he hauls fuel for Eagle Transport. Since returning from the award presentation in San Diego, California, he has been driving a brand new customized Freightliner Cascadia tractor proclaiming his status as NTTC’s Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year.
Nowell says the award is a special honor that enhances his credibility as a driver trainer at Eagle Transport and a mentor to other fuel transport drivers he meets in the course of his daily work. His company has praised him for his sense of pride on the job and a passion for error-free work.
“This is a humbling award that gives me the opportunity to encourage other tank truck drivers to be the best they can be at the jobs they do,” he says. “I remind them that they can turn in a winning performance with every load they deliver safely and without incident. And every tank truck driver is a safety manager.”
Nowell brings more than 31 years of truck driving experience to the job, and 13 of those years have been with Eagle Transport working out of the Richmond terminal. With 2.9 million accident-free miles, he is a member of Eagle Transport’s “President’s Million Mile Club.”
Nowell got his first tank truck driving experience in the US Army while stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. Among other activities, he drove fuel tankers during field exercises. He also worked in a fuel depot.
Following active duty in the 1980s, Nowell returned home to Williamsburg, Virginia, and got a job driving a delivery truck. In 1995, he went to work for a nationwide freight hauler and obtained his commercial driver license.
With encouragement from his brother in law, Nowell signed on with one of the largest for-hire tank truck carriers. He moved to Eagle Transport after being recruited by Eagle’s Richmond terminal manager. Brought on board as a driver trainer, he is now the lead trainer at the terminal.
“Eagle Transport has been a great place to work,” he says. “I believe we have one of the best safety programs in the industry. It is constantly being improved.
“We also have a great team in Richmond. We recently hit a milestone of 5,000 safe deliveries without incident. We did that in about four to five months, and we hit that mark relatively frequently.”
Even as he was building his truck driving career, Nowell had embarked on a parallel track as a professional wrestler. “I began professional wrestler training in 1988 at a school in Mooresville, North Carolina, with training by Colt Steele and mentoring from the late Gene Anderson,” Nowell says.
In short order, he was on the pro wrestling circuit in his Pyro persona with the National Independent Wrestling Alliance. A high point came in 1991 when Nowell won a Battle Royal and was named NIWA World Champion.
After 30 years in pro wrestling, Nowell plans to retire in 2017. It will be a bitter-sweet time, he says. “I did well in professional wrestling, and I built a good fan base,” he says.
Mostly importantly, the wrestling persona gave him a platform for community outreach and involvement, something he believes is very important. Over the years, Nowell has done many fundraisers for various groups, including Make a Wish.
Nowell says he believes community involvement plays a critical role in being a professional tank truck driver. “A winning driver needs to have a good heart and make a difference in his community,” he says. “You have to make time to be involved.”
What else does it take to be a winning tank truck driver? It starts with building a good safety record and avoiding shortcuts. These factors must be the top priority. “This is a thinking man’s job from start to end of shift,” Nowell says.
Many drivers get in a hurry because they feel pushed to get the next load delivered. They must stay focused despite a multitude of distractions that can include loading delays at the rack, paperwork, rack talk and noises.
What does it mean to be a tank truck driver? This is a rewarding job from both personal achievement and financial perspectives,” Nowell says. “Tank truck drivers are the best on the. There is no reason to be afraid of hazardous materials; you just have to respect the product. The job could be improved by paying drivers for loading rack time.”
How does Nowell like electronic driver logs? “They have made a big difference for me, because they are faster and reduce paperwork,” he says. “I started using electronic driver logs when I joined Eagle, and the system was easy to learn.”
Why do tanker rollovers continue to occur? “Drivers push themselves to the limit thinking they can control everything the vehicle does,” Nowell says. “They need to slow down. In a curve, it doesn’t take much for the surge to push a tanker rig over.” ♦