'I love driving a truck': Belleville trucker in for the long haul

January 6, 2014 

Name: Wendell Firestone

Job: Truck driver, Frerichs Freight Lines Inc. at 3001 Otto St. in Belleville (277-9080)

Outlook: "I love driving a truck."

As Frerichs Freight Lines Inc. in Belleville is getting ready to mark its 65th year in business, the company has recently celebrated one of its own drivers for his ongoing service. Wendell Firestone has been driving the metro-east company for the past 45 years. His employer estimates that Firestone has driven a total of 4.6 million miles, which would equal 184 trips around the earth. Firestone was recently recognized by the National Association of Small Trucking Cos. as one of the nation's 10 safest drivers from a 55,000 candidates. Last week, he talked to business writer Will Buss about his work:

Q: Why did you become a truck driver?

A: "I've been in trucks since I've been in diapers. In Indiana, my uncle was a truck driver and my dad was a truck driver. When I was younger, back in '56 and '57, I drove a truck in Indiana. I've been in trucks forever."

Q: What brought you to the metro-east?

A: "When I lived in Indiana, it got to where there were no jobs, so I came to live out here with my cousin for a while. Then, I got a job out here at Weyerhaeuser, before it was (International Paper)."

Q: What kind of business was that?

A: "It was a cardboard plant. So I worked there for seven years and then they went on strike. So when they went on strike, in 1965, I went to work down in East St. Louis at a machine shop part time, and then I started working part-time for Frerichs, in '65. And then finally, the machine shop moved out in '69, so I started working full time in '69. But I had worked in the same building since '58. I've been doing the same thing now for over 40 years."

Q: You have also been known for rarely taking any sick days.

A: "I try not to. I had to take off when I had my knee replacement, but I hardly ever take off. If I get sick, I go to work anyway. I just keep going."

Q: What has kept you working at the same company for so many years?

A: "It's a job and I like working every day."

Q: How old are you?

A: "Seventy-five."

Q: Do you plan to retire?

A: "When I get old."

Q: When will that be?

A: "Who knows? Maybe tomorrow. Who knows? When I get old. I'm going to work for as long as I can."

Q: What keep you going?

A: " I just keep going. I will keep on going as long as I do my job. I love driving a truck. It means a lot to people and I like to get the job done. I just try to do my job the best I can."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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