I’ve worked with Henry Albert for many years, and I often learn something in every conversation we have. Spending time with him, you quickly learn why he was driver of the year and also has a TA location dedicated to him. He continues to be an awesome advocate for Freightliner, owner-operators, and the whole industry, as well as giving us feedback to help our products be the best. His passion and pride in what he does is so admirable and easily contagious. For years, I’ve wanted to ride or drive along with him on his route to learn and grow. I finally had that chance during a week in October. This was an epic journey and something I will not soon forget. A journey that tested both of us mentally and physically. One of my main goals was not to drag down Henry’s fuel economy average - as most know, Henry takes much pride in.
Our journey began in Portland, Oregon. Daimler Truck North America typically hosts customers and dealers during a special week in the year, where we focus on making our customers' experiences better and learning from what they run into using our products. What a perfect avenue for Henry to meet and communicate with many different departments. This event fell in the middle of the week in Portland, OR, and unfortunately, close to another event Henry was invited to in southern Texas happening at the end of the week. So, the stage was set for a tight deadline and hard running.
Before we hit the road, Henry presented something very special to me. He had a new shirt ordered with his company logo on it and my name sewn on the shirt. I was humbled Henry would allow me to don his brand. I was proud and excited to do my best to represent him. Of course, I opted to participate in wearing a tie just like Henry does. I jokingly told Henry that rookies in his company start out wearing a blue tie, while more experienced drivers can graduate to a gold color tie like he does. It was amazing to see the reactions of everyone as we walked together in most cases to service stations. We often received many double-takes and were complimented on our appearance. It takes energy and pride to wear a tie every day, especially in an industry as tough as trucking.
We began our drive running east into consistent rain, which eventually turned into unexpected snow in Idaho and Wyoming. This was my first experience driving a truck in heavy climate conditions, so it was exciting, but stressful at the same time. Once through the snowy conditions, we began experiencing high winds through most of Colorado. I was afforded comfort in the assistance from the Active Lane Assist system helping me stay in my lane (I had to plug some kind of product, as I’m in marketing). During this shift, I was lucky to catch the song “Convoy” on the radio, which brought a big smile to my face. Hearing songs like this gives you a small glimpse into the nostalgia of trucking. This spurred Henry to share with me a lot of the history of trucking, and how things have changed so much over the years.
This trip also offered the opportunity to sleep in the bunk of a moving truck. It was not as smooth as I thought it would be, and I quickly gained a new appreciation for anyone running as a team. Even with the comforts of air suspension on the chassis and cab, it was still quite bumpy in the rear of the sleeper. During my early morning shifts, I experienced two sunrises along our journey and was in awe of their beauty. Seeing Mother Nature all around is definitely an amazing benefit of being an operator.
To further challenge my driving skills, we encountered heavy traffic in the Dallas and Houston areas. During this period, we also ran low on DEF, which caused an unexpected stop since the truck began to derate. This turned out to be another great lesson, as the roads leading near this area were much tighter and proved challenging pulling a ’53 trailer behind. I also had the opportunity to join Henry on a podcast/talk show he frequents to assist in answering some product questions from eager operators out there looking to run more efficiently. Henry’s wealth of knowledge served well in helping others make decisions. We made it to our destination in time, and with minutes to spare.
Once in Texas, Henry demonstrated his energy and passion once again. Even after a few nights of restless sleep, Henry was still energetic and ready to show off his truck. I was out of sorts and sitting down to slow my spinning head, while Henry powered through, excited to discuss whatever questions came his way. He really inspired me and gave me the energy to keep pushing. Special thanks to the new Houston location for allowing us to participate in their customer appreciation event.
By some luck, I managed to not bring down Henry’s average fuel economy and pulled my weight most of the time. Henry was patient with me throughout the trip and taught me many lessons along the way. I highly encourage anyone in the trucking industry who does not drive day to day, to get out on the road occasionally to experience what operators face every day, and to see how your products or services are experienced each day. Personally, it gave me a slew of ideas for how we can make our products even better, and to have a better understanding of what operators face every day.
Product Marketing Manager
Daimler Truck North America