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“You’ve just got to do your best every day,” said Jamestown native, Mark Hannon, talking about his 36 years of driving for Upstate Niagara Cooperative. In March, Hannon was awarded the NYS Motor Truck Association Driver of the Year for the Western Region, at a ceremony in Albany. This past April Mark was also inducted into the National Truck Drivers Hall of Fame with a ceremony in Cincinnati Ohio.
The National Hall of Fame is operated under the aegis of the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), a national trade association dedicated exclusively to representing the nation’s private motor carrier fleets. To qualify for the annual Hall of Fame induction, a driver must have driven 3 million miles, or for 20 years or 50,000 hours of consecutive driving without a preventable accident. Only four drivers are selected across the country every year from the nationwide pool of qualified drivers. At the April 26 induction ceremony, NPTC honored four truck drivers from across the country who have together logged more than 15 million miles of safe driving in approximately 153 combined years of service. Since the program began in 1987, NPTC has honored more than 100 drivers from a broad spectrum of the nation’s top private truck fleets. Readers can learn more at https://www.nptc.org/.
Asked about the hardest part of the job, Hannon answered with a smile, “I’ve driven far enough for four or five trips to the Moon and back by now. The hardest part of the job, though, is the physical demand.” Beyond driving, Hannon loads and unloads his cargo of fresh-from-the-farm milk every day at the plant and at every delivery point. “The hours can be tough, too, because the job just has to get done, no matter what.” Backing up that statement is Hannon’s remarkable record of calling in sick only one day in all his years.
“The other drivers on the road, the ones in their cars, can be a problem, too,” Hannon admitted. “You have to become aware of your surroundings all the time. People have so many more things to distract them than they used to, like cell phones and GPS units.”
Safe driving, however, is also a team effort. “Another reason I haven’t had an accident in 36 years, is a credit to my company,” Hannon explained. “They always make sure we have safe vehicles. When the trucks need to get fixed, they get fixed, or they give you another one to drive until it gets done.”
Hannon said, “First, I would be remiss if I did not thank Upstate Niagara for this nomination and the NPTC for their ongoing commitment to professionalism and excellence in driving. I could never have imagined when I began driving for Upstate 36 years ago that a nomination for such an honor would have been in my future. In truth, I was a young man looking for an opportunity to put in a hard day’s work to provide for his family. I believe my long career at Upstate more than speaks to that being exactly what I found at the co-op.”
Unstated by Hannon’s employer or NPTC, but at the core of his career and his Hall of Fame award, is a strong work ethic. “I wish I could share two ideas with everyone entering today’s workforce, no matter where they are and regardless of their job,” Hannon said. “I have found a couple of things to be true. First, I do not simply drive for Upstate. I have always believed I, as a small part of the whole, am Upstate. I have always prided myself on being the front lines for my employer. I carry myself with integrity and treat every person I meet with the upmost respect. To date, I am extremely proud to call many of these people friends.
Another thing I have learned is that a job can be just a job, or it can be more. In three decades of driving it has never been about punching a time clock. Rather, I have viewed every day as an opportunity to work hard providing a valuable service to my community, and in so doing model for my two sons and daughter the importance of accountability, working hard and doing something you love.”
Hannon added, however, that work is not the most important thing in his life. “My family is. The most important commitment I have honored is the one I made to my wife who I have been with for 33 years as man and wife…We have brought three children into this world of whom I could not be more proud. They are each college educated and in careers of their own that they love; my two sons as Lutheran pastors [whose columns, “Faith Matters”, can be read in the Jamestown Gazette every week] and my daughter in insurance sales. We raised them to love their family, better their community and honor whatever they call work. We are proud to see them raise our five grandchildren in the same vain.”
Mark has a long record of staying committed to everything important in his life; he has been a NYS High School Football Official for 32 years. In 2011 he was presented the Section VI Football Federation Honors for the Southwestern Chapter at Ralph Wilson Stadium. During the season, you can find him on any given Football Field across the Southern Tier.
Mark Hannon’s wife, Stacey, added, “Our jobs are completely different, but Mark and I certainly share the same values and work ethics. That’s how you make a strong community, successful families and good employees.”