Willie Barnes, Trucker, Logs 1 Accidend Free Miles

Mike

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Staff member
Most days see 59-year-old truck driver Willie Barnes up and hard at work well before the sun, tying down loads, running a pre-check on his tractor-trailer and planning out the day’s haul.

When he does hit the road, usually during the pre-dawn hours, it is with plenty of time to make the 300- to 500-mile trip safely.

“I don’t wait until the last minute," Barnes said. “I always give myself a couple of hours to play with."

A common-sense philosophy, but one that has helped lead Barnes to an uncommon achievement: more than 1 million miles traveled without a recordable accident.

“I just can’t say enough about the accomplishment," said Steven Rumsey, CEO of WTI Transport and Barnes’ employer. “You just don’t ever hear of it."

Ford Boswell, spokesman for the Alabama Trucking Association, agreed.

“A million miles without an accident is pretty remarkable," Boswell said. “The fact that he did that with one company is also a pretty outstanding feat."

Actually, 1 million miles is a conservative estimate.

“He’s probably got 3 million-plus miles, but all that we can go back and record put him over a million," said Rendy Taylor, president of WTI Transport on 51st Avenue and Stillman Boulevard.

WTI Transport recently honored Barnes for the achievement, proclaiming March 30 “Willie Barnes Day" and presenting him with a diamond-studded ring in recognition of his 18 years of service. Rumsey said it was the first time the company, which delivers building materials and iron and steel products throughout the country, had officially recognized a driver for outstanding safety.

And if a diamond ring seems out of proportion to the achievement, think again. Rumsey said accidents cost the trucking industry millions of dollars annually and put several trucking companies out of business each year. Safe drivers also help offset negative public opinion of the industry.

“Trucking companies have a black eye," Rumsey said. “If all truck drivers acted like Willie Barnes, the roads would be safer and the industry would probably not have some of the black eyes it’s got."
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