Consistently Dependable in a Sometimes Inconsistent Work Environment

posted on Thursday, January 11, 2018

“He’s hardworking and dependable, and always willing to lend a hand when someone needs it,” said Chris Renihan, dispatcher for Iowa Select Farms. Chris is talking about Eric Pryor, one of our thirty truck drivers.

Being a truck driver isn’t easy, especially as ice and snow pelt the state through the winter months. “It’s really tough being out there with changing weather and road conditions, but Eric keeps a positive attitude,” said Chris.

We caught up with Eric a few months ago, when he may have drawn the short straw on a special project. Ron Rush, our director of transportation, said his assignment was to drive a semi-truck and trailer to Des Moines, run it through Blue Beacon and then get the truck and trailer to a photo shoot.

“I’ve had worse assignments,” laughed Eric, who has been with the company for 19 years. The vision was to have a photo of the truck transform into a wall wrap on the inside of Derby Sow Farm. “I thought it was nice to have the transportation team be a part of the permanent artwork inside the farm.”

On a normal day, Eric is one of 30 employee drivers who transport pigs between farms, referred to internally as an “inner sanctum” driver. With his tenure, he’s hauled to and from just about all 800 farms. “Í take pigs out, put pigs in,” said Eric, “Gilts, undouble stocking, weaned pigs, it all depends on what needs to get done that day.”

That week Eric had been driving a truck with a gooseneck, pulling out of the truck wash facility around 3:00 a.m. every morning, arriving at a sow farm in southern Iowa between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. He works with the farm crew to load 21-day-old piglets, then heads north again to deliver to a nursery or wean-to-finish farm.

Other times he’s in the semi and trailer, hauling bigger animals, like gilts from a breeding project farm to a new or sow farm, or an “undouble stocked” group of feeder pigs to a finisher. “I really like the variety—in the sizes of the pigs, what farms I’ve visiting and generally how the day goes,” he said.

Chris says Eric has a great work ethic, and is always consistently dependable, in an often times inconsistent work environment. “Weather changes, road conditions change, and loading and unloading also varies,” said Chris. “And load schedules change, it’s all part of the business. Eric does a great job with being efficient, driving safely and following biosecurity protocols, too.”

“Because we are drivers it may seem like we are loners, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Eric. “We’re a team—with the other drivers, with our dispatchers, and with the farm crews. We’re all interconnected. If something happens at a farm, we could load quicker, or have to wait awhile, and that triggers a chain reaction. We all have to help each other out and do our best.”

Eric lives in Hampton with his wife, Wendi. He has a daughter, Mariah, a soon-to-be son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Before getting his CDL he was a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Waterloo. “It was quite the change, but I really like this career, it’s a good fit for me.”

“You have to be very careful and contentious as a driver,” said Eric. “We always have to pay attention to surroundings when we are driving. Especially on gravel, we slow down minimize dust, stay alert for any activity. We make mental notes about houses that have pets, or vehicles regularly meet on the roads, we have to be very aware of what is happening, especially in the winter.”
I think most drivers will agree that we love spring, summer and fall-anything but winter,” he laughed. “Anything the road conditions are impacted, it gets tough on us. It all comes with the job.”

“I really like getting up and getting after the day,” said Eric. “I like driving a semi, and I appreciate that the company has investing in upgrading a lot of our trucks and trailers.”