Reg Delahunt: 2011 Highway Star of the Year

Reg Delahunt gets behind the wheel of a cherry red Lamborghini. It’s not his car. Trucking’s been good to him, but not that good.

Moments later he’s behind the wheel of a Ferrari Testarossa, then a Porsche, then a McLaren SLR.

Beautiful cars, for sure, and fun to drive… but in a trucking career that has spanned 54 years so far (and going strong), they’re just another kind of freight. He carefully backs them off the fully-enclosed car carrier, gets a signature on the bottom line, and pulls his rig back onto the highway, heading for the next stop.

Since 1957, Reg Delahunt has hauled everything from plywood to ice cream, covering more than six million accident-free kilometers, coast to coast, through 10 provinces and 44 U.S. states.

This year the 70-year-old driver who still crosses the continent on a weekly basis for Independence Transportation in Winchester, Ont., was named Highway Star of the Year by Highway Star magazine.

Reg Delahunt
Reg Delahunt, 2011 Highway Star of the Year

He was presented with his prizes—including  a laptop computer, his and her watches, an in-cab heating system, and
a cheque for $10,000—at this year’s ExpoCam truck show in Montreal. (ExpoCam and Highway Star are both owned by Newcom Business Media, the same company that produces Today’s Trucking.)

“This is tremendous,” he told the crowd that gathered in the Freightliner booth at the show. “I feel very honored and I want to thank the judges and sponsors very much.”

The sponsors of the event—Freightliner, Cummins, Espar Heating Systems, Meritor, and the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC)—had only one objective: to honor a driver who embodies the term professionalism,
who improves the image of the industry, operates safely and efficiently, and gives back to his company, his industry, and
his community.

This year’s field of candidates was extremely strong, but Delahunt stood
out just a little bit from the rest with credentials that impressed the judging panel of four trucking editors and last year’s Highway Star of the Year winner, Cliff Lammeren.

Among the highlights of the nomination, sent in by Delahunt’s daughter Jamie were:

  • his many years of service;
  • the breadth of his experience;
  • the assistance he lends to police at accident-scenes;
  • his involvement in the industry as a member of the inaugural Road Knight team in Ontario;
  • the donation of his time to discuss road safety with young drivers at a local driving academy;
  • his participation in local politics and service groups;
  • and his dedication to his family, taking pains not to miss important moments, and taking them with him on the road whenever possible.

He has passed his love of trucking on to his son, Jeff, with whom he has an ongoing competition to see who travels through more North American states and provinces.

“I think he’s up one on me,” says Delahunt. “If someone could get me a load to Alaska, I’d sure appreciate it.”

Reg Delahunt
Reg Delahunt collects his $10,000 in prize money from Newcom Media and sponsors, as Highway Star of the Year.

His career started in the mid-1950s, before he was even legal behind the wheel. From the age of 14 he drove a 1941 Fargo—mostly off road but sometimes on the road too—for  his father’s concrete company in Stittsville, Ont.

“As soon as I turned 16, I went down and got my chauffeur’s licence and then I started driving his dump trucks for him,” he says. “I got my licence on the 12th of July and I was driving on the 13th.”

He worked there for a few years, moving from the Fargo to a brand new GMC dump truck, before leaving the family business to drive straight trucks laden with plywood for Laidlaw.

“They called me into the office one day because the guy who drove the tractor trailer had broken his foot,” Delahunt recalls. “The boss asked if I could drive tractor, and I said I could, and he goes, ‘Well, you’re on the tractor-trailer tomorrow.’ But the thing was, I’d never driven a tractor-trailer. I meant a farm tractor.”

So, thanks to Lloyd Hudson’s broken foot, Delahunt drove a tractor trailer for the very first time the next day.

“I headed out on the highway. And when I got where I was going, I could see where I needed to be, but it was snowing and I was afraid to put my foot on the brake. I didn’t know what the trailer was going to do!” he says. “So I slowed up and drove right past the place, and then came back a little slower.”

The first thing he learned about driving tractor-trailers: it was a lot more fun than driving straight trucks.

“Back then, only the old guys got to drive a tractor trailer,” he says. “The young guys started on straight trucks. You started driving a small truck, then you move into a bigger truck, then you move into a bigger truck. That’s how it went. Until you got to the big rigs with sleepers on them. You had to work your way up. It doesn’t go like that anymore, and I think that’s a disadvantage to our new drivers because each step up gives you little more experience, a little more understanding. You’re never stretched too far. Nowadays, you go to a driving school for eight or 12 weeks, and then they put you into 75 feet of machinery!”

Then, from payload to payload, company to company, Delahunt learned his craft.

“The job I really enjoyed was hauling high-end cars,” he says. “Some of them were worth $750,000. And, best of all, I got to drive them all. All the big expensive cars you see at the car show, I’ve driven them.”

He remembers one receiver—a man and woman—met him at a truck stop to get the 1958 Chevy convertible they’d been anxiously waiting for. The man was jumping up and down, while the wife cried and took pictures.

“I’m getting too old for that kind of work now,” he says. “You’re bent over all the time, working in a confined space, doing and undoing the tie downs. It’s
not like an open carriage where you
can do that from the outside. And anything that could scratch the car has to come off. Sometimes you had to work in bare feet because your boots could damage the cars.”

He may be getting older, but his boss Scott Thomson, owner of Independence Transportation, says he’d take as many drivers like Reg as he can get.

“He has the energy and stamina of a 45-year-old. He is the most professionally-minded driver I’ve ever met,” says Thomson, who hired Delahunt five years ago when he hit the mandatory retirement age at Erb Transport, a federally-regulated operation.

Now, Delahunt’s regular run is to Vancouver and  he loves it.

“I like seeing all the different stuff out my window while I drive,” he says. “Like going through the prairies, one day it’ll be snow outside my window, the next it’ll be mud. Then you see them working the fields, they’re drying up, then they’re turning green, turning yellow, turning gold… it changes constantly.”

On his last trip through Saskatchewan and Alberta, the stubble was coming up, and he saw thousands of white-tailed deer and antelope.

“They were everywhere you looked!” he says. “Or, a while ago, I was driving somewhere in the United States and I saw a rock formation just sticking out of
the ground, sticking straight up like a chimney. I enjoy seeing stuff like that. There’s always something different out the window if you want to look for it.”

 

 

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