UNLIKE many truck drivers, Todd Stine has become very comfortable with being in the public eye. He sees it as a great opportunity.
Stine’s latest opportunity in the public spotlight came in April when he was named 2016-2017 National Tank Truck Carriers Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year. He is the fourth recipient of the award.
“I believe this award gives me a great opportunity to share what it means to be a safe professional tank truck driver,” says Stine, a chemical transport driver for Carbon Express Inc in Wharton, New Jersey. “I want to use the opportunity to share my experiences as a tank truck driver with the communities and industries that we serve. I want to spread the industry message of safety to the general public.”
Stine certainly was one of the most determined candidates to pursue the NTTC Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year honor. He was selected on his third try.
His first attempt didn’t make it past the application submission, but he was a champion finalist in the 2015-2016 competition. “I don’t like to quit,” Stine says. “In addition, encouragement came from Steve Rush (president of Carbon Express) and John Bowlby (safety director at Carbon Express).”
They also supported Stine in his decision to compete in the Pennsylvania Truck Driving Championships. Over the past two years, he finished second and third in the Tank Truck Division.
“I’m still a rookie in this,” he says. “I only enter the tank truck division, and I plan to keep trying until I get first place.”
Stine has accumulated more than 16 years of truck driving experience, seven years of that with Carbon Express. Based in western Pennsylvania, he has 1.9 million miles of trucking under his belt, and 1.6 million of those miles were accident free.
In addition to duties as a driver trainer, Stine has been a member of the American Trucking Associations’ America’s Road Team since 2013. “This opportunity made me realize that I enjoy public speaking,” he says. “I like telling people about my experiences behind the wheel of a heavy-duty truck.”
It was as a Road Team Captain that Stine says gave him one of his best days ever as a professional driver. Members of America’s Road Team were part of an ATA group invited on March 23 to visit the White House and meet with President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and other federal officials.
“ATA had been knocking on the White House door since the 1930s to share the trucking industry message,” Stine says. “Donald Trump was the first President to invite us in. It was an awesome day; the best of my career. It was a historic day for trucking, and I was honored to be part of it.
“The President greeted the truck drivers first, and he shook hands with all of us. He also sat in one of the two tractors we brought to the event. The meeting inside the White House focused on health care and how it affects blue collar workers, including truck drivers. The state of the US infrastructure also was discussed.”
Over his time as a truck driver, Stine has become very aware of the deteriorating highway conditions and other infrastructure issues. He turned to truck driving after five years in computerized drafting.
“CADD was a boring job, and I had gone through five layoffs in five years,” Stine says. “I wanted more stable work that offered some excitement and a challenge.”
Stine’s initial driving experience was with flatbed haulers. He spent six years with Butler Trucking hauling steel and refractory products. That was followed by three years with a flatbed fleet that transported building materials.
In 2010, Stine signed on with Carbon Express. He found that tank truck drivers are respected by other truck drivers. He also found plenty of variety in the work.
“I’ve been involved in draining the oil from electrical transformers at sub stations,” he says. “It’s interesting work that includes a lot of pumping and loading. You get a lot of exercise.”
“We also do quite a bit of work in the oil and natural gas sectors when they are busy. Oilfield work requires extensive safety training, and it is hard work. You have to stay alert at all times.”
Challenges include rough, narrow, unpaved roads will well sites often located on hilltops. Some sites require chains. Hazards at the well sites can include hydrogen sulfide gas.
“As a driver at Carbon Express, my work is quite a bit different from even other tank truck drivers,” Stine says. “I want to use this opportunity as NTTC Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year to share my experiences. I want to describe what I do, but I also want to point out the critical role of safe driving and safe work practices.
“I want to discuss the importance of the tank truck industry to America. It is important for people to understand that the tank truck industry is essential. Tank trucks deliver the things people use daily—fuel, foods, lubricants, and building supplies.
“We need to encourage more young people to consider truck driving. You don’t need a four-year college degree for this job, but the salary often equals that earned by those with college degrees.”
Stine wants the NTTC Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year to be more involved in community outreach. “We need to spread the safety message related to sharing the road with trucks,” he says. “We need to talk about safe passing and truck blind spots. We need to address seatbelt use and on-board safety technology.”
As part of a community outreach effort, NTTC should promote media ride-alongs.
Key issues for Stine include distracted driving. “This has become the biggest killer of young adults,” he says. It’s getting worse. Distracted driving doesn’t kill or injure the distracted driver. Too many innocent motorists also suffer. I believe we can save lives through more effective education and community outreach. Young people do listen.”
Stine is a strong advocate for electronic driver logs and the 10-hour break is a good rule. “It impacts more than just sleep,” he says. “Drivers have a more relaxed meal schedule and more opportunity for exercise. As an active member of Healthy Fleet Challenge, I walk an hour and a half every day.
Working with programs such as Special Olympics also is part of community outreach. Stine says his wife Tammy got him involved seven years ago, and he has found it to be one of the most rewarding projects.
“These athletes become your friends,” he says. “It is priceless to see how this program benefits each participant. I coach several sports, including long distance running and walking, softball, volleyball, track and field, and bowling.
“Carbon Express supports me 100% in this outreach. They ensure I have the time off to attend the competitions.” ♦