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Why Drive For Knight Ports: Interview with Ports Driver Mike Sanford

Knight Transportation Port semi-truck

Q: How did you get started in trucking?

A: Honestly, trucking started for me when I was 10 years old, I think. I saw these trucks all over the road, and I said, “I’m doing that.” And then, I finally made it to the Navy. My parents said, “Here’s your choice: Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marines.” So, I chose the Navy because they had these CBs. “CB”s are a construction battalion, and I started driving trucks for the CBs. When I got out [of the Navy], I went to a heavy-haul company, and then some years later… here I am. I’ve been here for nine years.

Q: Why did you choose Knight?

A: The first thing that caught my eye with Knight Transportation was hometown carrier. So, then I called the recruiter, and she said, “Yes, we are a hometown carrier. If you work here, you live here, and your home time will be here.” At that time, I didn’t even know about the Port division. I just came to work for Knight Transportation. But then when I got here and saw all the sea containers, I inquired. And since that day, I’ve been doing it.

Q: What is it like working in the Ports division?

A: I like this more than bumping docks with traditional trailers because you don’t have to deal with customers, so to speak—which is not a bad thing. I hook my containers here, and then I take the trip to L.A. And if you time it right, you rarely ever hit traffic unless something bad happens on the road. And then when I get down there, it’s just total excitement when you go into the ports. Are there long lines? Sure there are. But [with other trucking divisions] you sit at a shipper and receiver for 2,3, or 4 hours. I’m in and out of the ports on average in about 2 hours. I get my load in; I get my load out; I’m on my way back, or I go to bed down there.

Q: What do you like about the schedule?

A: What I like about [Knight Ports] is the flexibility. It’s MY schedule; it’s not their schedule. They don’t tell me when I want to work. I don’t like to tell people when I want to work because they’re my supervisors, but they ask you, “What kind of schedule do you want to run?” When new guys come on, [the supervisors] ask them.

I just trained a gentleman, actually, and he wants to work the same schedule that I work. He’s home every day with his wife, at one point or another—either in the morning or late at night. He’s always home, just like me. I’m home every day.

And what helps a lot with the Ports division is you can do that. They can set the appointments when they want you down at the port. A lot of times [in other trucking divisions], the customers set the schedule. The customer says, “Be here at 8 o’clock. Be here or don’t bring it.” But it’s not like that down at the ports. They can work around OUR schedule, and that makes life good. If you want an equal amount of time at home and at work and make money, try Ports. Plus, I have this brand new truck. I have a 2020 Challenger GT. I live good. I take good care of my wife, and she takes good care of me.

Q: Tell us about the recognition program at Knight and the route to becoming a Million Mile Driver.

A: So, recognition starts 100,000 miles. They hand you a little box of goodies. It might be a sticker or a magnet or a lapel pin. I have a hat full of pins. You get shirts. I’m always in uniform. There hasn’t been a day that I’ve worked here that I haven’t been in a shirt uniform. I’m not sure about the other divisions of Knight services, but in the Ports division at Knight, we get uniforms.

The next level of recognition is 250,000 [miles], and then half a million and then 750,000. So, there are different stages of recognition. And then at 1 million miles, there’s the brand new truck that you see me bopping around in right now. Plus, it comes with a healthy bonus—don’t forget that. You didn’t even know about that one. That’s good to take a vacation on or buy your wife a puppy, which is what we did.

Q: What about other Knight driver benefits?

A: After so much time [working for Knight Transportation], they give you shares of stock. You accept them and you own them, and you can build a portfolio. I’m not huge into it. I sort of just give it to my son, who loves all the stocks and bonds stuff. He says, “If they keep giving it to you, just keep letting me know, and we’ll keep doing stuff with it.” It’s free money, at the end of the day. I just looked at a thing, and I got $2,000. And that’s on top of the other bonus stuff. So, the longer you’re here, the more stuff [Knight] throws at you. You might start off with getting 10 shares, and then a few years later you get 20 shares. The last one they gave me when I hit the Million Miles, I think, was 30 shares. So, I have a handful of shares of Knight Transportation stock. It’s awesome to be part of the biggest company in the country—let’s be honest. It’s very impressive. We’ve always got friends out there, whether it’s Swift or Knight or any of the other companies we have.

Q: The Ports Division is also called “Port/Rail”. Do you go to the rail yards?

A: Yeah, we go. I haven’t been in a while, but they’re one and the same—Port and Port/Rail. Don’t try to transfer because they’re the same.

Q: What’s it like being a truck driver trainer?

A: Being a Ports trainer is interesting. Now that the ports are opening up a bit, they’re letting more people in. Being that we run on two logbooks and since it’s close enough to L.A., one driver drives out and the other driver drives back, and then both guys go home. And then, I do it again the next day. I get four or five turns in a week that way. Right now, I’m phone training a guy in the ports. He’s already got his own truck, and I walk him through the ports over the phone. I’ve trained 3 guys, and all of them are still with Knight Transportation and still love this job.

Q: In general, what do you like about truck driving?

A: Yeah, some people find it hard to believe. People say, “How do you drive the same road every day?” I just do. I enjoy it. I like to know where I’m going and where I’ve been. And if my wife needs me or my family needs me, I know how much time it’s going to take to get home. Even if I don’t turn around on a dime (which I could probably do) because I had to deliver, I know how long it’ll take, and I can tell my wife when I’ll be home. On the other hand, if I live in Phoenix and I’m in Mississippi driving over-the-road when my wife needs me, it’s gonna be a plane ride home or still a three- or four-day trip in the truck. Either way, you’re not going to be home when she needs you. I made my wife that promise that she’ll always know where I am, and I can be home at the drop of a hat. And if I’m stuck out in L.A., I can hop on a plane at three or four airports that are close by. I already researched it. It’s easy to do.

Q: What do you do to keep the drive interesting?

A: With today’s technology, it’s great. We can stream; we can listen to the news. You can listen to anything and everything. The technology in the trucks now is great. It plays right over the whole stereo in your truck. That’s what we do. Or sometimes you just sit there and just relax and enjoy the sounds. I do that, too. I enjoy the ride. At the end of the day, those are my final words. I enjoy the ride even when I do the same drive every day.

Q: Do have the option to work locally?

A: If you live locally (and by local, I mean, Tucson or anywhere within two hours) and you have a thing going on, you just tell the guys in the office, “Hey, can I work local?” You can still work and still be home if you don’t want to be away from the house. I mean, that’s how flexible Knight is. I can work local for the next two weeks if I want to—just like that. You just gotta let them know. Communication is the key to success in this place. I think that’s important.

Interested in driving Ports for Knight Transportation? View Trucking Jobs

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