Trucker passes safety milestone pulling a heavy heart

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comFebruary 9, 2012 

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Norman Seckinger of Seabrook constantly squints at the horizon, but never reaches it.

Over every hilltop is another hilltop, another town, another factory, another day of grinding 10 gears in a 450-horsepower diesel.

Seckinger has, however, just reached a milestone that's precious to him.

He's driven an 18-wheeler 2 million miles without an accident. That's 80 times the circumference of the Earth -- or 21 years of rumbling through the mountain passes and boundless prairies of America's Lower 48.

Seckinger's family roots run 180 years deep in Seabrook, the little community by the banks of the Whale Branch River. But in his over-the-road world, "You go from point to point to point to point to point."

In trucks governed at 65 mph, he hauls raw materials, consumer products and manufactured goods for Werner Enterprises of Omaha, Neb. It was founded in 1956 when Clarence L. Werner used his car for a down payment on a Ford F800 gasoline-powered truck. Now, it has a debt-free fleet of 7,250 trucks, with Seckinger among about 100 drivers to reach the 2-million-mile safety mark and the company hall of fame.

Safety is no accident, he said. "Slow down in adverse weather, take each day one at a time, stay alert and focused on what you're doing, and take care of your equipment."

He's usually on the road for four weeks, then home for four or five days.

"To do this job, you have to be a wanderer," he said. "I like to be here today and gone tomorrow. That keeps it interesting. I'm a people person, and I've met so many interesting, different people all over America."

He met his second wife on the road. She was a driver for the same company. In 1995, they both got delayed at a truck stop in Great Falls, Mont. They married a year later in Midland, Texas.

Rhonda L. Seckinger came off the road to keep their new home in Seabrook. She was an instructor at Programs for Exceptional People on Hilton Head Island. She was founder and head coach of Island All Stars Special Needs Cheerleading Squad on Hilton Head. She taught vacation Bible school at Shell Point Baptist Church.

Rhonda died Jan. 8 after a four-year fight with cancer.

They say lives of separation make good marriages stronger, and tear apart weak ones. Seckinger had a strong one.

"There's rocking chairs on my front porch where we were going to grow old," he said.

Seckinger, 54, will be back on the road next week. His medical expenses, time off and a shrunken 401(k) will keep him out on the road longer than he'd planned.

But he'll be at home there, hauling a sense of loss with his sense of accomplishment, one horizon at a time.

David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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