Anchorage Lynden Transport Driver Doug Longerbone’s first-place finish at the Alaska Truck driving competition earned him a spot at the national competition this summer in Columbus, OH. Doug placed ninth overall in the 5-axle category. He is pictured above at the award dinner on Aug. 18.
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Lynden Transport Driver Jack Sorensen was recently named the 2018 Alaska Truck Driver of the Year by the Alaska Trucking Association (ATA). Lynden drivers have been named Driver of the Year four out of the past five years. Lynden Transport Driver John Schank received the award twice – in 2014 and 2017 – and Alaska West Express Driver Brian Ambrose was recognized in 2016. Brian was named second place overall champion of this year's competition on May 19 as well as taking first place in the sleeper truck class.
Pictured above from left: Jim Jansen, Justus Uphus, Jack Sorensen, Brian Aszmus, Doug Longerbone and Brian Ambrose.
"We are extremely proud of the professionalism and commitment our drivers exhibit every day on the job, but also the knowledge and skills they bring to the annual ATA truck driving championships," says Lynden Transport President Paul Grimaldi. "These drivers are the best of the best. They must complete a written knowledge test, a pre-trip inspection and a skills course as part of their participation."
Jack has earned many first-place finishes in the annual driving competition in Anchorage and has maintained an accident-free record for 34 years. He has traveled to the national truck driving competition seven times over his long driving career. "Driving in Alaska can certainly be a challenge with moose on the road year-round, tourists on the road in the summer and extreme weather in the winter," he says.
Lynden Transport Driver Doug Longerbone took first place in the five-axle category, Greg Sims, seventh place in the five-axle; Brian Aszmus, fourth in the stepvan and Cody McFarlane took fourth place in the four-axle class. Alaska West Express Driver Joseph George placed fourth in the five-axle, James Elliott took third in the four-axle and Edward Tuia placed fourth in the flatbed class.
Lynden Transport looked like it was carrying a giant white goose recently as it transported a 22-foot by 8-foot helicopter fuselage and spare parts from Anchorage to Tacoma. The shrink-wrapped fuselage required a 53-foot stepdeck trailer and permits as well as a crane to lift it on and off the trailer. No straps were allowed over the cargo and Lynden's driver had to do some careful backing to position the trailer under the big load while it was hoisted at the pickup location. The final destination is Australia.
Tom Greinier has been hauling fish for Juneau's salmon hatchery, Douglas Island Pink And Chum (DIPAC), for over 20 years. In fact, DIPAC has followed Tom during his trucking career even before he started working for Alaska Marine Trucking. "He's the reason we haul fish for them at all," says fellow Driver Brian Weokoluk. "They specifically ask for him year after year."
Not only have Tom's skills behind the wheel led to a long-lasting customer relationship, his commitment to working around DIPAC's schedule has fed Juneau's waters with predictable salmon spawn while supporting the fishing community.
Alaska Marine Trucking Driver Jim Cartmill is a member of the DIPAC Board of Directors. "Trucking live fish from one point to another is crucial in the hatchery's success," he says. "They're raised at Macaulay until they're about 3 inches long, and then hauled off to an ocean pen where they mature and are released into open water. DIPAC is a huge support to both our local and intra-state communities."
According to Brian, the reason DIPAC trusts only a select few to truck live fish is all in the gear shifting during transport. The drive must be as smooth as possible for the least amount of disruption to the fish. If the gear changing rocks the holding tanks too much during the drive, it can cause air bubbles in the tankers that may stress or even kill the small fish fry.
Fortunately, that's not a worry with professionals like Tom in the driver's seat. This spring he took some time to talk another of Alaska Marine Trucking's experienced drivers through the process for their first run to the Thane Road site with a DIPAC employee.
Three Lynden drivers qualified for and participated in the National Truck Driving Championships Aug. 9-12 in Orlando, FL. More than 400 drivers competed in the event which is a gathering of the best-of-the-best truckers from California to Maine. Brian Ambrose of Alaska West Express took 15th place in the Sleeper Berth, Jack Sorensen of Lynden Transport placed 32nd in the Tank Truck category and Edward Tuia of Alaska West Express came in 41st in the five-axle.
LTI, Inc./Milky Way drivers are rolling down the road in new tractors this fall, the result of a large-scale major equipment acquisition. According to Dave Seaman, Director of Equipment and Maintenance, LTI invested in new power units this year which replaced some of the high-mileage tractors. "The new equipment is allowing us to lower our operating cost by reducing maintenance and improving fuel economy while maintaining payload," he explains. "The new units also provide a much better driving experience for our employees." LTI, Inc. has purchased 74 2018 Kenworth T680 tractors, the same tractor that Lynden Transport Driver John Schank drove across the country to deliver the Capitol Christmas Tree in 2015.
As of early September, 16 new tractors were in service with another 58 to be delivered this fall. The allocation of new equipment is based on demand, according to Dave. "We relocate power units between terminals in an effort to improve utilization and customer service. Since our power units are each assigned to a terminal and activity, we basically do a direct replacement," he says.
LTI, Inc. Equipment Maintenance Manager Jerry Crisp in Sunnyside and the team at Kenworth Northwest in Yakima work together on new equipment "UPFIT" which includes installation of the milk pump box, Peoplenet system, Lynden green vinyl wrap/door decal and equipment numbers, etc. Jerry and his maintenance team, along with Jeff Harris of Sunnyside operations, test run each tractor prior to delivery to LTI, Inc. Service Centers. "Our goal is delivering each tractor ready to work," Dave explains. "This is a major task for all of LTI, Inc., including administration, operations, HSSE, maintenance and specifically the Sunnyside maintenance/operations teams as they continue with day to day operations and the beginning of our harvest season. They get this done while maintaining excellent customer service." Utilization is considered along with a life cycle target of 800,000 miles, although some units run close to 1 million miles prior to replacement. "Today's engines and emissions systems are very expensive to repair and replace so at LTI, Inc., we really don't want to overhaul engines nor replace emissions systems during the life cycle unless absolutely necessary," Jerry explains.
The allocation of LTI/Milky Way's used tractors is also carefully considered. "Our first priority is making sure we have a One Lynden approach regarding the disposal of an asset," Dave says. "Recently we have supported Alaska Marine Lines, Alaska Marine Trucking and Lynden Transport by transferring used tractors to each operation. We also sell direct, through a broker or auctions and we sometimes consider dealer trade-in values."
Milky Way Drivers like Gene Staal of Lynden, WA and Anthony Platas-Tremont of Moses Lake, WA are enjoying the new equipment. "The truck is very comfortable, rides smooth and quiet and has great visibility," Gene says. "This is a quality truck to match Milky Way's quality standards," Anthony adds. "There has been a noticeable mileage increase on my normal route."
Congratulations are in order for many Lynden drivers who competed in truck driving competitions in Alaska and Washington this spring. At the Alaska Trucking Association’s (ATA) annual truck rodeo in Anchorage, Alaska West Express Driver Brian Ambrose was named overall champion for the second year followed by Eddie Tuia in second place. Eddie also took first place for Alaska West Express in the 5-axle van category with Doug Longerbone of Lynden Transport taking second place.
Other first-place finishers included Jack Sorensen in the Tanker and Brian in the Sleeper Divisions. Al Guettinger and John Schank took first and second places respectively in the Old Geezer category. John was also named 2017 Alaska Driver of the Year for the second time. Other Lynden drivers competing were: Randy Estrada, Lynden Transport, third in the flatbed category; James Elliott, Alaska West Express, tenth in the 5-axle; Greg Sims, Lynden Transport, eleventh in the 5-axle; Tanner Heisler, Lynden Transport, fifth in the 4-axle; Ray Sorenson, Lynden Transport, fifth in the 3-axle and Clayton Bonty, Lynden Transport, sixth in the flatbed division. Dan Jenkins of Lynden Transport competed in the Washington competition, placing fourth in the flatbed class.
"We are always proud of the drivers who come out to represent the Lynden companies," says Richard Hennagin, Lynden Transport Safety Supervisor. "They are up against the best in the business, which makes their top place finishes even more impressive."
When John Schank started driving for Lynden Transport in 1975, he probably never imagined he would be named the Alaska Truck Driver of the Year, not once, but twice. The Alaska Trucking Association (ATA) presented John’s award this summer at a special event in Fairbanks. In addition to that honor, John was recognized for setting a new record as the first Lynden Transport driver to log 40 years of safe driving – 5,360,000 miles to be exact. Starting with the opening of the Dalton Highway in 1975, John has been driving one of America’s most treacherous roads: the haul road between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. The haul road is known for extreme grades and extreme weather. John still drives the route today, making the 1,000-mile round trip twice a week.
"John is a true professional," says Lynden Transport President Paul Grimaldi. "He was named ATA Driver of the Year in 2014 and participates in the annual ATA truck driving championships each year. He received a letter of commendation in 2014 from former Governor Sean Parnell for his driver of the year award and from Governor Walker for his awards." He also received a letter of congratulations from Joe Marushack, President of ConocoPhillips Alaska, and Janet Weiss, President of BP Alaska, for helping these Lynden customers continue to safely perform their work.
"Receiving the ATA Driver of the Year again this year, along with his award for 40 years of safe driving for Lynden Transport, makes us all very, very proud," says Paul. The highlight of John’s career was being chosen to transport the 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from Seward to Anchorage and from Seattle, WA to Washington D.C. "It was my honor," John says. "I stopped along the way for community events and met a lot of kids who thought I was Santa taking the Christmas tree to the White House. I’ll never forget it."
"For 43 years, John has been climbing behind the wheel and doing his job safely and as the quiet professional," says Lynden Chairman Jim Jansen. "He exemplifies the Lynden Everyday Heroes who consistently, efficiently and safely serve our customers. John has set the standard for drivers on the haul road with a spotless safety record. We are proud of him and his commitment to safety while driving in the most challenging conditions in the nation."
Milky Way Driver Mike Jalomo calls it the winter that never ends. Another driver said, "I’ve thrown on more jewelry (truck chains) in the last month than most people put on in a lifetime."
Winter is never an easy season for the transportation industry, but some years are more challenging than others. "It feels like Mother Nature hasn’t backed down this year," says Kevin Greiner, Central Milk Dispatcher in Lynden, WA. From freezing rain and mountain pass closures to high winds and towering snow drifts, it’s been a tough few months for Lynden employees.
"We have seen close to 24 inches of snow at one time in Whatcom county this year but when the Northeast wind out of Canada blows 50-60 mph for a week straight, 2 inches of snow can drift up to 8 feet really quickly. At that point the county essentially shuts down," Kevin explains. "The only way we are able to get around is to put our own snowplow to work to open roads up."
To prepare for winter each year, LTI, Inc. incorporates winter driving awareness into monthly safety meetings starting in September. Everyone takes chain-up refresher classes – from brand new drivers with no mountain pass experience to 40-year veteran drivers. Coming to work prepared is heavily promoted in anticipation of the first snowfall.
"Mother Nature never sends us an email saying that a storm is headed our way," Kevin says. “We try to watch forecasts as much as possible but sometimes you go to bed and everything is normal only to wake up to the wind howling and the snow blowing sideways. Our LTI, Inc. team is made of professionals who understand that rain or shine, commodities still need to get there."
Driver safety is always a concern. If conditions warrant, two drivers will be sent out in one truck so the primary driver has a spotter and an extra set of hands. According to Kevin, "Our line of work is more than just getting in the truck and driving down the road. Local farm pickup drivers could be in and out of the truck 20 times during a shift so we really stress the importance of slowing down. Making smart decisions instead of knee jerk reactions when things get tough is what sets us apart from our competition."
Lynden is known for having some of the best drivers in the industry. "They are seasoned, know the local areas, and know exactly what to watch for when they are out in the field. We always tell new hires that this is a 24/7 company and the cows don’t care that it’s Christmas. As a company, we do a really good job of focusing on our critical customers and areas."
Mike Jalomo was stranded on the west side of Washington when both mountain passes closed. He laid over in Mount Vernon and went to work helping out Whatcom County drivers on their routes until he could make it back over to home base in Moses Lake. "I don’t think the average person realizes how much it takes to get the milk over the pass," he says. "We don’t have the luxury of sitting out a storm."
"Mike and so many others are all stars who have gone above and beyond this winter," Kevin says. "The LTI, Inc. office in Lynden, WA lost power in January for about six hours and several administrative employees were still here working. At the beginning of January, there was a record snowfall in Caldwell, ID and Jason Jansen and Bob Griggs both suited up in insulated coveralls and rode around with Milky Way’s Caldwell drivers helping chain up and navigate roads until 2 a.m."
"Our drivers and the team supporting them did the extraordinary, working safely through tough conditions and long hours to serve our customers," says Lynden CEO Jon Burdick. "I’m proud of their dedication and what they accomplished."
Following in the footsteps of Lynden Transport Driver John Schank of Fairbanks, Brian Ambrose of Alaska West Express was named 2016 Truck Driver of the Year by the Alaska Trucking Association (ATA). Brian’s award was presented at the 17th annual ATA truck driving championships in Anchorage where Lynden truck drivers competed. Drivers also competed at a truck rodeo in Kent, WA in June, turning in impressive performances as usual.
“Brian has 36 years of commercial driving experience including 16 with Alaska West Express,” says Anchorage Service Center Manager Dave Heston. “And he has more than 3 million miles in the seat and 13 consecutive years without an accident. He has driven all types of configurations on Alaska’s highways, including heavy haul up to 13-axles and tankers.” Brian has competed in the truck driving championships every year since 2005 and has collected an assortment of trophies including three for state champion and best overall in 2015.
“We are very proud of all Brian has accomplished,” adds Alaska West Express President Scott Hicks. “We are even prouder of his work ethic and integrity. Brian is a true professional who represents our company and industry with class.”
In the June 18 competition in Kent, WA, Lynden Transport Driver Dan Jenkins competed in the Flatbed Division as a rookie and Brown Line Drivers Vincent Hannick, Carl Carter and Michael Kidrick competed in the Sleeper Berth division.
Ten Lynden Transport drivers competed in the Alaska competition, including Jack Sorensen, placing first in the 5-axle Tanker Division, and Tanner Heisler, placing third in the 5-axle Flatbed category. Other Lynden competitors were: Randy Estrada, Chris Hudson, John Phillips, Cody McFarlane, Doug Longerbone, Pha Lee, Stephanie Winder and Jay Capala. Brian Ambrose, David Lambe and Edward Tuia competed for Alaska West Express. Lynden’s Deskbound Geezers were on hand to steer Old No. 27 through the cones.