Trucker retires after 80 years
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:30 PM
Driver reflects on 3 million miles of hauling goods
By CRAIG REED
For the Capital Press
LANGLOIS, Ore. -- After 80 years and about 3 million miles of driving truck, Lloyd Kreutzer finally took a break from behind the wheel in 2012.
He didn't drive a commercial mile over the past year, only a couple miles in an 18-wheeler in the Fourth of July Port Orford parade. So he concedes he's officially retired.
Kreutzer said he started driving at age 5 on country roads. Kids back in the 1930s went to work early, helping their parents with farm and ranch work. But that first driving experience wasn't without incident for the boy. When asked by his father to drive the 1927 Chevy truck out of the barn, Kreutzer hit an apple tree at about 3 mph.
The accident didn't sour him on driving. He made it a profession.
He drove most of those 3 million miles in Class 8 trucks -- tractor trailer rigs with a gross vehicle weight rating above 33,000 pounds.
His trucks hauled cranberries, hay, grain, livestock, lumber, logs and propane, and probably a few more commodities. He steered his trucks over many roads and highways, mainly in western and central Oregon and northern California.
In his early years, Kreutzer worked seven-day weeks with no vacations and no extra pay. He said it wasn't until he was almost 30 that he heard about weekends off, three-day weekends, vacations and overtime.
During a 20 1/2-month stretch in 1958 and '59, Kreutzer and driving partner Joe Allison drove Kreutzer's truck 275,000 miles on Northern California and southwestern Oregon routes, hauling propane from a refinery near Oakland, Calif. In one month -- January 1959 -- they put 20,800 miles on the truck.
Kreutzer said he revolutionized the trucking industry in 1978 while he was hauling hay from Central Oregon with a 1974 Freightliner.
"I put a pup trailer behind the semi," he said, explaining that he hooked a 24-foot trailer behind his 40-footer. He got a permit to do this after a state weigh master followed him for 60 miles on winding Highway 42 between Coquille and Winston, Ore., to see if he could keep the rig on his side of the road through the curves. Kreutzer was given a permit for the extra trailer after the test run. His loads increased from 80,000 pounds to 105,000 pounds on his hay runs to south central Oregon.
"I am sure it was the first one in the state and probably the nation," Kreutzer said of the pup trailer.
One year in the late 1970s, he said he hauled 1,800 tons of hay from the Klamath Falls, Ore., area to the coast. He said he loaded and unloaded the bales by hand with an elevator. It was a 20- to 22-hour round trip with chains being used on many of the winter trips.
Kreutzer said he also helped eliminate a Highway 101 traffic hazard at the Bandon, Ore., state scales and the Ocean Spray cranberry receiving plant scales. The two scales were almost across the highway from each other, forcing drivers with cranberry loads to turn sharply out of the state scales to cross both lanes to Ocean Spray. He brought the hazard to the attention of both Ocean Spray and state officials at a safety meeting.
It was then decided cranberry loads didn't have to be weighed on the state scales, allowing them to turn from the highway directly into the Ocean Spray scales.
"I got a phone call from the state a week later thanking me for letting them know what was happening," Kreutzer said.
Kreutzer wrapped up his truck-driving career by hauling cranberries during the 2011 harvest.
In 2012, he drove his son's bright blue semi truck in the Port Orford parade and then a couple miles to his 85th birthday party. It was enough to keep him smiling about his days of trucking.
A sign at his birthday party proclaimed, "Lloyd K. 80 Years Truck Driving."