Quality Carriers
New Truck Abdul 1

Standfield chooses trucking

March 3, 2021
Quality Carriers driver cooks up Tank Truck Driver of the Year nomination on career course uncle helped chart

Abdul Standfield had to decide: The kitchen, or a cab?

The 48-year-old still was a listless young man living and working on Langley Air Force Base in Virginia when the moment of truth arrived; and the military uncle and aunt who took him in, insisting he needed a career path to pursue, invited representatives from the local culinary and trucking schools to their home.

Fortunately for the bulk transportation industry, the case for Tidewater Community College’s truck driving program was sound.

Standfield chose trucking—his earliest dream job.

“I always loved being up in the big trucks,” said the native of Alexandria, Louisiana, who has driven for Quality Carriers since 2009.

But the now-pro driver still loves playing chef whenever possible.

“I learned from my mom and grandma when I was young,” Cook recalled. “I would sit at the table with them, help cut up onions and stuff like that, and watch them cook. So I can cook. I’m a really good cook.

“You name it, I can cook it.”

He can deliver it, too—from phenol to formaldehyde, resin, or any other bulk liquid product—while displaying a level of professionalism and pride that helps reassure customers, and paints the industry in a positive light.

That’s why he was 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 program and instead crown one of the current candidates at its 2021 Annual Conference, currently slated for June 13-15 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“His safety record, the longevity with which he’s been contracted with us, and his commitment to service speak for themselves. He takes pride in everything he does,” said Fred Marsicano, vice president of safety and security at Quality Distribution, the parent company of Quality Carriers and BOASSO Global.

“He’s an outstanding driver, and a great ambassador for truck drivers, and Quality Carriers.”

Hitting the road

Standfield was introduced to trucking by his stepfather, Ronald King, who drove for Bekins Van Lines when Standfield was young. He would go on trips with King, and says the work—and especially the tractors—fascinated him.

But King died while Standfield was in middle school, leaving him without a role model, or a known road to travel.

Eventually, Uncle Terry Field and Aunt Debbie Kennedy—both Air Force tech sergeants at the time—stepped in. And roughly eight weeks after his life-changing decision in Virginia, Standfield embarked on his new career, with his first gig hauling dry vans across the country for U.S. Xpress.

On one of those over-the-road runs, he stopped in Alexandria, where he grew up, and reconnected with Michelle. They married, so Standfield returned to his hometown, where, after a few odd jobs in trucking, he gained his first experience with pneumatic bulk trailers while hauling cement for Gilchrist Construction Company.

Then a former Gilchrist driver introduced him to Quality Carriers.

Standfield applied in 2009 and has worked there ever since, while recording more than 2 million safe miles. His terminal in Winnfield LA, 50 miles north of Alexandria, is operated by Quality Carriers affiliate partner Gulf Coast Express Carriers (GCEC), which manages seven locations and more than 340 independent-contractors.

Quality driver

Quality boasts 2,500 drivers overall—running 3,000 trucks and 5,800 trailers—and Standfield stands out as one of the best.

That’s why he’s the only GCEC driver in a 2021 Freightliner 122SD.

Typically, the company places large orders for the same truck model, usually Cascadias. But GCEC president and CEO Kevin Gautreau, remembering Standfield’s longtime appreciation for Freightliner’s Coronado—which the 122SD replaced—made a rare exception for him, in recognition of his more than 10 years of first-class service. “I was grateful for that,” Standfield said. “I’m the only one who’s got a truck like that.”

The truck is Standfield’s second financed through GCEC’s lease-purchase program, which he said he appreciates. “It’s a nice setup,” he attested. “They give you the tools to succeed. You don’t have to be stressed out, thinking in the back of your mind, ‘If I break down in Tennessee, what am I going to do?’ or ‘How am I going to make it?’

“They come in and get you right.”

Standfield paid off a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia a couple years ago, so he has two trucks, and the option of placing a driver underneath him in the first one. But Standfield said he doesn’t want the distraction, preferring instead to maintain his lane. “The hardest thing to do is to find a responsible driver who you trust,” he said.

Everyday excellence

When carriers find them, they do their best to keep them.

The brand-new truck of his choice helps. So does a dedicated run that keeps Standfield close to home, and his four boys, including Jamar Standfield, 20, and Michael Standfield, 17, so he can be the role model they deserve. “It’s better on the family life than me being gone six to eight weeks at a time,” he said. “That puts a lot of strain on my wife.”

Standfield has hauled a little of everything, but lately he stays busy delivering glue to plywood manufacturers in the region. “In my area, where I live in Alexandria, the business revolves around logging,” he said. “There are a lot of log trucks, and we have a lot of wood yards. And I guess I’m lucky for it. We have four or five plywood plants, they’re all within 30 to 40 miles of Alexandria, and they take anywhere between two and three loads a day, each, of glue. It takes a lot of glue to make all that plywood.”

In addition to keeping him local, regular runs allow him to develop close relationships with Quality customers. “I’m a regular,” Standfield said. “I pretty much know everybody, from the guard when I come in, to the scale master. I work for Quality, but it’s almost like I work for them, too, because they don’t treat me like a regular driver.”

Standfield isn’t a regular driver.

He reestablishes his excellence every day, through his exceptional work ethic and his equipment expertise. After more than a decade in the business, hauling bulk liquidswhich can take on a life of their own if not managed properlyis second nature to him.

“When you’re hauling a dry van, your product is secure,” he said. “Once you strap it down, it’s not moving. But once you start hauling liquid, you’ve got a product that moves with your turns, and your stops and starts. So getting used to that surge was the difficult part when I started driving tank trailers, and it was scary at first.”

So was offloading, which is one of a tank hauler’s most arduous tasks. “Most of the time, when you’re pulling a dry van, you just back up to the dock and open the doors,” Standfield said. “But with liquid, you have to offload it, and that’s a process. You must wear the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and follow the right steps, because if you miss one or you’re not careful, you can cause a big problem for you and the people around you, especially if you’re hauling caustic, or an acid. You don’t want any of that stuff to get on the ground, because now you’ve got an environmental issue. So it’s a big responsibility.”

Championship mentality

Marsicano said Standfield emerged from Quality’s vast pool of drivers after an extensive selection process involving company and affiliate terminals. They submitted names of drivers who met internal safety qualifications, Quality vetted them, whittled the list down, and then interviewed the top candidates.

He would be the company’s first Tank Truck Driver of the Year if he’s crowned.

“He’s that guy who will do whatever it takes,” Marsicano said.

“If we need him to go somewhere, and he has the available hours to make the trip, he’ll do it. That’s the type of character he has. He’s definitely a driver who cares about what he does, takes ownership in his job, and is proud of being a driver. He’s well-respected not only within Quality Carriers, but also the GCEC group.”

Standfield would love to win, too, for himself, and the company he says helped him realize his potentional, and reach the “next level” as the captain of his own ship—exactly as Uncle Field envisioned years ago.

But as one of eight champion finalists, he’s already the chef’s kiss.

“It’s an awesome feeling, knowing that somebody in your profession nominated you as one of the best,” Standfield said.

“If I win this award, I’m going to have to step it up even more.”

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.