Drivers are what makes the trucking industry thrive and too often the bold, brilliant and beautiful stories of the road go unnoticed. Over the past few months we've met and talked with some drivers with fascinating stories that deserve to be shared.
This week we are introducing you to Ken Petti, a driver trainer with USA Truck for over 12 years. Ken has a passion for teaching new drivers and outsiders about the industry. Along with being a trainer, he also runs a drivers-only Facebook group called TEAM USA TRUCK to help drivers at USA Truck collaborate, address issues, and have a stronger voice with the office staff. In addition, Ken is launching a nonprofit to help fellow drivers diagnosed with cancer to shift to life off the road.
Ken is a man with passion for the improving the trucking industry, a passion for helping fellow drivers, and a passion for making a difference. We had to do our part to share Ken's story!
Max Farrell: What made you join the trucking industry?
Ken Petti: I just needed some time to clear my head and I always wanted to see the country and being a truck driver covered both of those needs. I fell in love with it right away. I also went through the same school and same training procedures that the new drivers at USA truck go through today!
MF: What motivated you to become a trainer?
KP: Well I knew how much my trainer was making and that excited me, so I decided to go through the program to become a trainer. After my first couple training sessions, I fell in love with it! I love training the students who want to learn, because I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to spread. I can pass information to a guy that is on the edge of this his seat asking everything he can. My favorite part about training is seeing the progression of the drivers I’m training, it makes me feel like I’m making a difference.
MF: How can the industry bring in more drivers?
KP: The problem isn’t just bringing in new drivers, its about the companies not caring for the ones they are hiring. They aren’t paying attention to how they are trained and basically set new drivers up for failure. Companies are just worried about filling seats.
MF: What is the best way to communicate with your company?
KP: I just send emails and I am very persistent with them (laughing). The people in the office know me and are probably saying “oh no, another email from Ken.” Emails work even though it’s usually a slow process. I feel like USA Truck is my family and I’m not afraid to speak my mind.
MF: The turnover in the industry is extremely high, what motivates you to stay with USA Truck?
KP: Other companies have offered me $83,000 a year. But I didn't know them, I knew USA Truck would take care of me. They treat me real good. Arkansas people aren’t like Ohio or New York people. I walk in and they say "Hi Ken how yew doin'?” with that southern drawl. The drawl is contagious, just like talking to family — that’s what makes me stay.
MF: You launched the drivers USA Truck Facebook page, tell us about it!
KP: We try to keep it really strong with good questions and answers. We don’t put up with people posting rude things. Too many Facebook groups for drivers with a “come here and vent” approach felt like you were walking into a bar. We have a big online community and people stay on the page even if they leave USA Truck. I just am just trying to crate a better image for the industry.
MF: How did the nonprofit focused on drivers with cancer start?
KP: We started out just raising money for a few USA Truck drivers that had cancer and we wanted to be able to raise more for the people in the office, and then eventually drivers from other companies. We have made it a registered event and we are very proud of that! The website will be live soon at TeamUSACancerFund.com. We aren’t trying to pay the bills but we just want to be able to help out as much as possible. We know its hard for drivers who are diagnosed with cancer because they can’t be out on the road, working hard and making money.
MF: How do you spend your free time?
KP: I like to ride my Harley. I also take friends and family out riding four wheelers. I'm also a Browns fan, I can't let go of the team!
MF: The public outside of the industry doesn't always have a positive image of the industry, how can it be improved?
KP: It should start when people get their driver's license. All new drivers should have to watch a video overviewing big truck info like how long it takes a truck to stop, blind spots, and remind them that if they bought it a truck brought it. This would be huge for the industry's image and for safety on the road!
Thank you Ken for taking the time to share your amazing experiences!
We need more drivers like him, who want to make the industry shine in a positive light.
If you know a driver who's story needs to be highlighted, email email@example.com.