It's No Accident How YRC Trucker Don Robinson Drove Millions of Miles Safely

For the record, Don Robinson knows exactly when and where his personal and professional milestone happened: 9 p.m. on Oct. 8 in the northbound lane of Interstate 71 in Ohio.

Mile marker 178, to be exact.

That placed veteran truck driver Robinson and his YRC tractor-trailer just a bit north of Mansfield when he reached 4 million accident-free miles.

To put it another way, Robinson has driven a truck the equivalent of 160.6 times around the Earth’s equator without getting into an accident that he caused.

“You have to pay attention to what you’re doing,” said Robinson, a Green resident who also teaches driving safety for YRC Worldwide. He and his wife, Sue, have five children between them. Robinson has been with the company for 38 years, starting out with YRC predecessor Roadway Corp. in Akron. He’s a third-generation trucker: His grandfather worked with Roadway’s co-founder Galen Roush and his father was also a driver.

YRC ranks No. 5 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

Just 24 of Kansas-based trucking company YRC Worldwide’s 11,500 drivers have reached the 4 million mile accident-free marker, said Howard Moshier, YRC’s senior vice president of operations. Moshier was at YRC’s freight terminal in Copley Township on Feb. 7 to help celebrate Robinson’s rare accomplishment.

“We’re awfully proud of Don,” Moshier said. “He’s absolutely a great ambassador not just for the company but for the industry.”

In addition to all the accident-free miles he’s collected, Robinson also has the 2012 Driver of the Year award from the Ohio Trucking Association and is in the inaugural class of the YRC Driver Hall of Fame. The 1974 Ohio State graduate also works with the Ohio Highway Patrol on training and awareness programs.

Robinson’s co-workers celebrated with him over breakfast and cake on Feb. 7 at the Copley terminal off Oh Avenue.

“It’s Don Robinson Day every day,” one driver joked after shaking Robinson’s hands.

Robinson said he practices what is called the Smith System of defensive driving, a program that dates back to 1952 and teaches five key factors to help drivers stay alert and vigilant.

Robinson teaches the Smith System to new drivers in addition to practicing it himself on his regular daily route, which takes him and his 2009 Volvo tractor from Akron to Indianapolis and back. His 14-hour day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m.; 11 hours of that is on the road.

That’s not to say Robinson has not been in accidents.

“I’ve had people hit me,” he said. He’s also hit deer.

“I don’t have any preventable accidents,” Robinson said. He attributes that to his training and also to luck at times.

Everyone, not just truck drivers, needs to be alert and practice safety on the roads, he said.

“You have to pay attention to what you’re doing all the time,” Robinson said. “Our company stresses safety all the time.”

He said it is more challenging to drive now than when he started out nearly four decades ago. That’s in part because there are more trucks on the road as well as more drivers of all types — many of whom are distracted by using such things as cell phones.

“Everybody’s in a rush. You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on all the time,” he said. “You can’t put your guard down.”

Robinson turns 65 on Feb. 10 and hopes to keep driving for years to come.

“I’m not ready to retire,” he said.

Robinson also has another goal he hopes to reach: 5 million accident-free miles. So far, just one YRC driver has reached that level.

Based on his average of driving 141,000 miles a year, Robinson estimates it will take at least seven-plus years to reach 5 million accident-free miles.