Over the last three decades James Starr has driven his truck 3.5 million miles – equivalent to seven round-trips flights to the moon – without causing an accident.
No surprise then that Starr, 63, of Wichita, was recently recognized as the first National Tank Truck Carriers Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year.
Starr, who has driven 29 years for Groendyke Transport (and 42 years overall), said he was in an accident once in his career: He was rear-ended, but that he wasn’t at fault.
He is married to Gwendolyn and they have eight grown children.
He was on the road — naturally — earlier this week when he called from a Love’s truck stop in Amarillo, Texas, with a load of water treatment compound. He was headed for Northglenn, Colo.
Q. 1 Who are the nation’s worst drivers?
A. I try to watch out for all of them. The main people I try to watch out for are youngsters. If I see a young person or a really old driver, I’ll give him a bit more room.
Q. 2 How good — or bad — are Wichita drivers?
A. Wichita is about average.
Q. 3 Isn’t driving that far without causing an accident just good luck?
A. No, sir, it’s not just luck; it’s training. I personally use the Smith System, which is a technique developed by a chauffeur for the Ford Motor Company years ago. It gives you the advantage on the road. We have five key parts to the system. It gives you the foresight and the views, so you are watching and are being seen at all times.
Q. 4 When you’re home and your wife is behind the wheel, are you a good backseat driver?
A. (Laughs) It’s a habit to critique bad driving whenever I see it, and once in a while I’ll give her advice.
Q. 5 Be honest, isn’t all that driving kind of boring?
A. For most people driving is a chore. To me, it’s kind of a mini vacation. I’m just looking forward to getting where I’m going safely. This is a hobby that I get paid for.