Gary Eastwood, 67, of Westminster has traveled 3.2 million miles without an accident during his 32 years as a professional truck driver.
For this accomplishment and other outstanding service, Eastwood, a driver for Pitt Ohio, was one of 12 drivers recognized by the Maryland Motor Truck Association as 2021 Drivers of the Month. Maryland State Police ultimately chose him from among the 12 as Driver of the Year.
According to Maryland Motor Truck Association the combined records of the Drivers of the Month equal 380 years of experience and more than 26 million miles of safe driving.
“Safety is always on the forefront of my mind,” Eastwood said. “I’ve known other drivers who have been in bad accidents, and it always shakes me up.”
During his career with Pitt Ohio, Eastwood has helped other drivers during a number of incidents. Eastwood once helped another driver whose trailer was on fire, saving the vehicle and the load. He also assisted police and emergency medical personnel when he was first on the scene at a fatal accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“Staying safe is about realizing when it is time for a driver to pull over and understanding your own circadian rhythm,” Eastwood said. “There is no shame or blame to pull over for a nap or a cup of coffee.”
Eastwood works 12 to 13 hours per day, beginning his shift at 8 p.m. and usually taking a break at about 4 a.m.
“When everyone else is sleeping I’m going up and down the road,” he said.
His runs typically take him on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, traveling between Baltimore and Western Pennsylvania.
“It’s essential for truck drivers to pull over,” he said.
Most of the convenient places for truckers to park get filled up quickly. “There isn’t enough safe pull-over spots for truckers,” he noted.
In his career as a trucker, which began with his father in the 1980s, Eastwood has hauled everything from construction equipment, wood products and steel pipes to refrigerator units and fruits and vegetables.
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Eastwood has learned it’s essential to pack healthy food for each run to help him stay alert. He avoids fast food as much as possible.
“I am absolutely honored to win this award,” Eastwood said, noting he is only the second driver from Pitt Ohio to receive such an honor. “They held a banquet for me and it was very special.”
Dean Yockey, manager for training and development at Pitt Ohio, said Eastwood is an “exceptional employee” who does everything wholeheartedly.
“He doesn’t do anything halfway,” he said. “I wish we could have 1,000 of him.”
Yockey said he nominated Eastwood for Driver of the Month last year.
Eastwood said after a long career in driving, retirement is on his mind. His goal is to drive for about 24 more months so he can make it to age 69 on the job.
“I love my job and I love the people I work with,” he said. “That makes all the difference.”