Ron Evans
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Liquid Cargo’s Evans presents a picture of perfection

Feb. 3, 2021
Veteran trucker, two-time NTTC driver of the year finalist insists on precision planning, safe—and spotless—equipment

If cleanliness is next to Godliness, Ron Evans is a trucking deity.

While many people might prefer to pilot a spotless vehicle, the veteran Liquid Cargo driver demands impeccability.

“I’m a little anal when it comes to having a clean truck,” he said. “I’ll give my truck a sponge bath sometimes twice a day—at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. I just like a clean truck inside and out.

“It’s a home to me.”

The 70-year-old Chicago-area native applies the same level of perfection to everything he does, guarantying thorough pre-trip inspections; precision route planning—and an unwavering dedication to transportation safety.

“If I had to pick one driver to represent the trucking industry over my 40 years, it would be Ron,” said Michael Abercrombie, Liquid Cargo’s director of health, safety, environment and security. “He is precise when he needs to be precise, flexible when he needs to be flexible, and if I had to take a truck to a (U.S. Department of Transportation) check, I would want him to inspect it first.

“I trust him and his judgement as to what is safe and unsafe. Most drivers will look at their trucks and trailers to make sure they’re OK, but Ron has a gift for finding anything that could cause a problem on the road.”

Evans is one of eight 2019-20 Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year finalists revealed in January 2020. NTTC intended to name a winner in May of last year at its 75th annual conference, but that was cancelled due to the coronavirus, leading the association to suspend the recognition program and instead crown one of the current candidates at the 2021 Annual Conference set for May 2-4 in San Diego, California.

Hands-on operator

Evans has spent most of his life in the Chicago area. He currently lives in Crown Point, Indiana, about 15 miles from where he was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

He taught himself to drive a tractor at 17 years old while moving trailers in a summer job set up by his father, who was in charge of the steel-hauling division of Willett Trucking when it was one of the largest trucking companies in the Windy City. Evans and a friend would come in after midnight and prep trailers for the morning.

Evans was riding in big rigs even earlier because his father started as a trucker. So it’s no surprise Evans’ goal from his early teens was to follow in dad’s footsteps, which he did after serving in the U.S. Army. A few years later, he bought his first truck and trailer—a 1979 International and 24-foot dump—and embarked on a five-year stint as an owner-operator hauling the dump trailer, and later box trailers.

His next move was more surprising. The Chicagoan who grew up around trucks started a limousine business. And he and wife Mary were good at it, too. They started two successful limo companies in an unanticipated career divergence that took Evans away from trucking for 15 years.

But he soon found himself daydreaming about driving trucks again, and wondering where every truck he saw was going—and how nice it’d look if it was clean. Finally, the stress of running a successful chauffeur service forced his hand.

“I’m a hands-on guy as far as operations are concerned,” Evans said. “(But) it got to the point where we were so busy it started to overwhelm me and affect my health, and it put me in the hospital. So my wife said, ‘That’s it, let’s get rid of it.’”

Evans previously spent a year with Bork Transportation, working in the office with a former client while Mary ran the limo service. So when they decided to sell the business, he went back to Bork, this time as a driver pulling tanks. Then a friend, Jeff Scarbrough, convinced him to work for American Road Lines, which he did for three years before following Scarbrough to a new company he started in 2010.

That transporter was Bulkcargo Inc., an over-the-road affiliate of Liquid Cargo.

Ten years and more than 1 million safe miles later, Evans still is happy as a kid on a milk carton in dad’s truck.

“My boss is my friend,” Evans said. “We’ve always worked really well together, and I’m his No. 1 driver … (so) it’s comfortable. He knows what I like, and I know what they like.”

Whatever it takes

Evans hauls chemicals and oils for Liquid Cargo.

He’s often away for one to two weeks at a time while picking up product from Liquid Cargo’s customers and delivering to their customers, preferably on runs to the southwest or southeast, where the weather is warmer in the winter. Evans said, at this point in his distinguished career, he offloads product about half the time.

“My dispatcher tries to work with me, No. 1, because of my age, and also because I’ve had four shoulder surgeries, so pumping is difficult,” he said. “But I do it if I have to. Whatever is required to get the job done, that’s what I do.

“(But) when you’ve got frozen hoses and stuff like that, it’s a little more challenging to unload a truck. That’s why I like to run south in the winter.”

When he’s planning a long trip—runs have been more regional of late—Evans aims to arrive within 30 miles the night before, so he can start early the next morning. He hates to be late. When he’s home for a weekend, he parks in the yard of a nearby mechanic so he can easily access his 2016 Volvo VNL 780 while prepping for the next trip.

The first thing he does at home is wash his clothes. He doesn’t want Mary worrying about it. Then he returns to the truck to make sure everything’s ready for the road. The last task is to stock his mini-fridge with essential groceries.

“I like to get my day of driving in before I take a break,” Evans said. “You have to take that break after eight hours, but other than that, I like to get where I need to get to before I kick back and start relaxing. I used to like to stop at the TAs and the Petros, because of the salad bars … but now those have gone away.”

Safety as a priority never fades. It’s always a trucker’s No. 1 goal, Evans said. “You’ve got to have eyes in the back of your head,” he said. “You’ve got to have eyes all over the place. Especially today. Today, one of the most challenging things is people not paying attention to what they’re doing while they’re driving. Distracted driving probably is the biggest problem out there.”

And Evans has seen it all—people at the wheel with phones in hand, taking pictures or even watching videos, while driving. “I own a Harley Davidson,” Evans said. “I haven’t ridden it for three years because I won’t go. I don’t trust anybody out there anymore, as far as driving is concerned.”

He does, however, trust electronic logging devices (eLogs), which is something he never thought he’d say.

“I had always told Jeff, ‘When they come out with eLogs, I’m done,” he reflected. “I’m an old-timer. But when they came out with the eLogs, and I figured them out, I liked them better.” He doesn’t have to worry about a logbook at the end of each shift, and it’s harder to fudge on scheduling, which Evans figures encourages safe driving.

And he never has a problem with safety.

Another common complaint, that drivers no longer can stop where they want because of hours-of-service restrictions, simply is a result of poor planning, Evans said. “I know things pop up throughout the course of trip, but usually, if you plan your trip right, you won’t have a big problem with that. Where it can cause a problem is if you’re running close to going over, it puts more pressure on you, and raises your anxiety.”

Industry ambassador

If Evans is crowned Tank Truck Driver of the Year, he’ll serve as NTTC’s industry ambassador, and he already knows what issues he’ll promote because he has experience in a similar position. After his 2013 nomination for the award, Evans spent one year as Liquid Cargo’s driver advocate and relationship manager.

“In the tank truck industry, safety always is the biggest issue to talk about, regarding everything that transpires when you’re going to a place to load or unload,” Evans said. “Because you’re dealing with chemical plants and things of that nature, and this is all stuff that can hurt you. And if you’re not careful or not on your game, and you get pulled out of your routine and something happens, it can ruin your life.”

Abercrombie wants Evans to win. He’d be the first from Liquid Cargo—proving drivers from smaller companies are as good as those from the largest carriers—and he deserves every accolade he’s up for, Abercrombie said. Evans, for his part, doesn’t waste time worrying about awards, but he admits this one would be “the frosting on the cake” for a career he knows is closer to the end of the road than the starting line.

Not that he’s planning to hang up the keys—or his sponge—any time soon.

“The desire is still there,” he said. “It does get a little harder on some days … but once I start rolling, everything goes away.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.