Missouri trucker logs 4 million wreck-free miles

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 5:12 p.m. CDT

HANNIBAL — He has been told he holds the record.

Harold "Hank" Thomas of Hannibal has been honored for driving a truck 4million miles without an accident — and he has been informed this is a Missouri record. In February, he was named "trucker of the month" by the Missouri Trucking Association.

For the past 29 years, Thomas has driven for McNay Truckline of Quincy, Ill., where he has not missed a day in all those years.

"I've been there 29 years, and I never called in one day sick," he said. "I took three weeks vacation all the years I've been there."

"I was home every other night and every weekend. Now I'm home every night."

Thomas is not only healthy, he is very active, said his wife, Betty.

"He's always been very active," she said. "It's hard for him to stay in one spot. He's got to visit his friend down the street or his brother — he has to go, go, go."

The family includes two sons, Harold and Charles.

Thomas achieved his accident-free record by doing what he tells any trucker to do: "Watch the other guy. ... Get your rest, and keep your mind on what you are doing all the time.

"Don't be driving down the road talking on those cell phones. ... Try to watch everything at all times and hope that nothing happens. And don't be tailgating or speeding."

The son of the late Paul and Mary Katherine Thomas, he began driving a truck at about age 15 on a farm.

"I've been fooling with them ever since," he said.

In 1966, he started driving professionally. He drove for Brown in Hannibal and also for Gully and Recycled Paper Co., "but I've been with McNay the longest," he said.

"McNay Truckline is the best company I ever worked for," Thomas said. He says he has good equipment, good benefits, pays good and everything.

"I'm going to hate to retire from there, but I'm going to be 65 on my birthday. It will be time to go. But I can stay. He (company owner Richard McNay) told me he's going to clone me — I'm going to be a hard man to replace."

"Hank is every employer's dream," McNay said.

"He has a great attitude," McNay added. "He represents not only McNay Truckline but the truck driving profession as well. He has a positive attitude and is a great employee. ... I'd take 100 more like him."

Until about 15 years ago, Thomas made overnight trips, going to Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Nebraska. Now he is home every evening, driving 450 miles every day. His trips take him to several cities in Illinois and Missouri, along with parts of Indiana, "places I can turn in 10 hours," he explained. "I get two loads a day," driving night and day because "it's still dark at 2 in the morning" when he leaves.

When he is not working, Thomas and his wife attend the Faith Tabernacle Church in Vandalia. His hobbies are "cutting grass and going out and visiting my buddies — drinking coffee mornings" with them. Betty likes to work in her flower garden, crochet and go fishing.

After being named "driver of the month" in February by the Missouri Trucking Association, Thomas received proclamations from both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.

The state Senate honored Thomas on April 28 for achieving more than four million miles with no accidents, adding that Thomas "maintains an exceptional reputation and is a superlative professional driver, justifiably proud of attendance record, never having missed a single day for 29 years." On May 6 the state House also noted he had driven more than four million miles with no accidents and listed his other achievements.

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