Irish Fuggins has spent 20 years of his total 31 years of driving with CalArk. He drove for other reputable companies in the industry but says CalArk has always treated him nice and he has nothing to complain about. Rebecca Melton, Operations, says Irish is a great guy who, "can be a handful but I have always enjoyed working with him and his driver manager knows how to handle him and keep him happy!" Michelle Finn, Irish's Driver Manager says, "Irish and I make a great team. He's one I can depend on for pretty much anything. He might fuss at me at times, but he always comes through for CalArk and for his dispatcher. I could not ask for a better driver."
Irish is from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he has lived his entire life. He and his wife Vickey have been married for seven years, and have four children and twelve grandchildren between them. Since he is from Louisiana, Irish has been given the CB handle "Crawfish" or "Fish" for short. When he isn't driving a truck, he loves to fish for Bass and White Perch. He doesn't get to fish as much as he would like to right now, but says when he retires you will be able to find him at the lake. Irish also likes to watch any kind of sports, but his favorites are tennis and golf. He also likes to listen to R&B and Country Music.
Over his 20 years with CalArk, Irish has accumulated many awards and accolades. He has received 100,000 to 900,000 Miles Safe Driving, 100% On Time Delivery each year, 5 Years of Service Plaque, 1 Million Miles Safe Driving, 10 Years of Service Watch, 2 Million Safe Driving Miles, 2.5 Million Safe Driving Miles, and is currently working on 3 Million Safe Driving Miles. When asked what he attributes his success to Irish says, "providing for my family has always been my #1 encouragement." He says he is also willing to make sacrifices and do what it takes to get the job done. Irish says that, "new drivers need to have the ability, understanding, and willingness to sacrifice." He adds, "watch your surroundings, be careful with your speed and turns, and watch your weight."
Thank you, Irish, for 20 years of stellar service with CalArk. We look forward to many more. It's drivers like you who keep the Wheels of American Business rolling.
Chris Patton has been with CalArk since September of 2006 and lives in Humphrey, Arkansas. His CB handle is "Runt" because he was always the smallest in his family growing up. He has one brother and two best friends who are like brothers to him.
Before coming to CalArk, he worked on a farm most of his life and was running trackhoes (excavators) and bulldozers at the age of 12. Chris says, "If it has wheels or tracks, I can drive it." If he can't operate something, it doesn't take him long to figure it out. When not driving, he likes to hunt, fish, and shoot guns, but he says all he really knows is work.
His dad and grandpa started him out at a young age. When he was 11 years old, his mother picked him up from school, and he got excited when she said his dad had gotten something for Chris and his brother to "play with." Hoping to see a new toy, Chris says he instead found a brand new chainsaw. His dad told him the plan was to use it the following weekend to collect wood to sell and that they needed to make enough money to pay for the chainsaw.
Chris intended to join the military, not drive a truck, after he graduated in 1995, but an accident with a 12-gauge shotgun changed his plans. In February of 1995, while hunting with some friends, Chris's shotgun misfired and shot a hole through his right hand, thus changing his career path forever. Through months of plates, screws, and several reconstructive surgeries, Chris kept a positive attitude.
12 years ago, CalArk's then-Director of Safety, Dennis Hilton, took a chance on him. Chris was ready to get to work driving a commercial motor vehicle, but regulations required him to have a special certificate called an SPE because of his injured right hand. He was concerned about how he was going to pay bills while waiting on the SPE to be approved. Dennis told him, "We're going to do what we need to so you can drive for us." Dennis then asked the maintenance shop to hire Chris while waiting for his certificate. Two months later, Chris was driving a CalArk truck, and he's been in one ever since.
He has since experienced tremendous success as a professional truck driver with CalArk. Among awards and recognition over the past 12 years, in addition to his current 1.5 Million Safe Driving Miles, Chris has achieved 100,000 to 1.25 Million Safe Driving Miles, 100% On-Time Delivery each year, Company Driver of the Year 2nd Runner Up 2008, Company Driver of the Year 2009, Company Best Fuel Mileage 2009, 2010 Arkansas Trucking Association Driver of the Year, 5 Year Service Award 2012, 10 Year Service Award 2016, Company Driver of the Year 2nd Runner Up 2016, was featured in Truckers Newspaper Magazine in 2009 and in Changing Lanes Magazine in 2011. Chris has also represented CalArk in the Annual Truck Convoy for Special Olympics and at the Arkansas Truck Driving Championship multiple times over the years.
Michelle Finn, Chris's Driver Manager, says, "Chris is a team player. He is extremely hard-working, professional, and dedicated. He is a high achiever and an amazing person to work with every day. I could not imagine being able to my job without him. He's a comedian when everyone is in need of a laugh. I could be having a horrible day, and he always takes a minute to cheer me up. He's just a great guy all the way around." Chris had positive words to share about his Driver Manager as well, saying that Michelle takes care of him and keeps him running the miles he needs.
In today's industry, it is a great accomplishment to stay with one company for 12 years. Chris says he has stuck with CalArk because of what Dennis Hilton did for him. Chris also says he told himself at first that he would give CalArk one year. Then he gave us two. Then three. Now he has been here so long he doesn't want to go anywhere else. Chris says, "When the President of the company sits down with you during Driver Appreciation Week and knows your name, that's special. Some people may not think that's anything, but that's huge to me. I'm happy here."
When asked what he would say to new drivers coming to CalArk, Chris says, "Find your way. Find your niche. Give it at least one year. If you have a problem, talk to someone. If you are willing to work, CalArk will work with you. You get out of it what you put into it. You will have bad weeks, and it may look like there is no end in sight, but stick with it."
Thank you, Chris, for sticking with it at CalArk. We are very fortunate you chose us and that you keep choosing us. Congratulations on 1.5 Million Safe Driving Miles. It's truly drivers like you who keep the Wheels of American Business Rolling.
Larry Smith came in to pick up his 1.5 Million Mile Award and to announce his retirement from CalArk on the same day. Larry has spent the last 11 years of his 41 year driving career with CalArk. Directly after leaving the army, Larry worked for a company called Royal Industries. The company made farm equipment and he pulled a flatbed for them from the plant to a rail yard. Among other companies on his resume are CFI, CRST, and Exxact Transport. He also spent some time as an owner operator.
He says out of all the driving jobs he has had over the years, he appreciates CalArk and the family atmosphere we have provided him the most. “You can come in and speak to anyone anytime; everyone is approachable no matter who they are or what they do."
Larry is from Holden, Missouri, but lives in Tampa, Florida, now with his wife Connie of 11 years. He has three children, two daughters and a son who all still live in Missouri. Now that Larry is retiring and will be spending more time at home, he plans to ride his Honda motorcycle much more often.
One of the most interesting facts about Larry is he not only served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1975, but he fought in the infantry during Vietnam. He carried a grenade launcher and says by the end of the war he was pretty proficient with his aim. Throughout his tenure in the army, he was stationed in places such as Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Lewis in Washington, Leonardwood, Missouri, Germany, Hawaii, and he was in Norway for one week where he was the coldest he has ever been in his whole life.
Known by his CB handle, Thunderbolt, Larry says he missed the old days of trucking where there was more driver camaraderie at customers and at truck stops, where you could pull out a grill and cook out with anyone who happened to be on the lot. He remembers the days of less regulation. While Larry reminisces over the way things were, he maintains there are some changes that have been for the better. For one, trucks are better. They are built better; the old Freightliners would get cold inside if wind hit because there was no insulation. And cell phones and Qualcomms have improved communications; no more hunting for a pay phone and hoping dispatch would answer when you happened to call.
Larry says he will miss the friends he has made at CalArk. He’s had several dispacthers he will miss, including his first dispatcher Malea McElyea. He mentioned specifically CalArk drivers Tammy Williams and Robert Anderson. He says they are “good drivers, and good people”. They’ve all been friends for years and he hopes to stay in touch with them.
When asked what he would say to his fellow drivers and those who are entering the industry, he said, “Stay vigilant. You have to stay vigilant.” “Roads are getting more congested, and the motoring public is getting more dangerous. Stay vigilant”.
Thank you, Larry, for your continued vigilance in keeping the wheels of American business rolling safely. Thank you for your service in the United States Army. You have made CalArk and your country proud. We wish you well in all of your endeavors.