Roger Daily credits his dad’s incredible work ethic and a man named Cliff Capps for his 30-year trucking career and an impressive 6 million safe miles behind the wheel as a driver for NFI Industries.
Daily, 55, of Tampa, Florida, said he never kept track of how many miles he had driven over the years, thinking he may have had between 4 million and 5 million miles under his belt, so he was surprised when he got a call from NFI that he had reached the 6 million-mile mark.
“I guess I work hard,” he told FreightWaves. “I love to drive and I don’t get burned out like other drivers do. Dispatchers used to call me Superman because if there was an impossible load that nobody wanted to take, they would call me.”
Daily noted he accumulated many of his miles before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) required carriers to run electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their cabs to track driving hours.
Nancy Stefanowicz, senior vice president of human resources at NFI, called Daily an “everyday hero,” thanking him for his “dedication to safety and excellence” in a LinkedIn message.
In 1991, Daily was 25 and needed a job to support his wife at the time and his daughter, Kimberly, when he started driving for NFI.
He’s seen a lot of changes over the years, some good, some bad, but a positive one has been improvements in the equipment. His first truck was a cabover with over 1 million miles.
“Now that was a rough ride,” Daily said.
He’s now behind the wheel of a 2021 blue Volvo 860 VNL, which he loves.
“Roger is not only a good, reliable and safe driver, he is a great person and a true family man,” Jack Allen, project manager at NFI, told FreightWaves.
Daily refers to a rear-end crash early on in his trucking career as a “life-changing moment,” one he credits as one of the driving forces behind his 6 million safe miles.
“The sun was in my eyes and right before I rear-ended this woman, I saw that she had two baby seats in the back of her car,” he said. “I just kept thinking that it could have been my daughter in the back of that car. She was 4 at the time.”
Fortunately, the car seats were empty and the woman wasn’t hurt, but from that day forward he said he vowed to pay extra attention to how far away his rig was from other vehicles.
“I have that whole ‘keep your head on a swivel’ thing down and I literally drive for everyone around me,” Daily said. “If somebody is going to hit me, it’s going to be one that’s unavoidable.”
Daily credits his dad for work ethic
Daily grew up poor and lived in public housing until his parents saved up enough money to buy a small house in Tampa.
After his mom died when he was 9, his dad, a shoe cobbler, suddenly found himself raising five children alone.
“I remember one year that money was really tight and my dad made moccasins for us to wear to school,” Daily told FreightWaves. “I was so embarrassed, but when I got to school nobody made fun of me and kids were asking me where I bought them.”
After his dad died in 2002, Daily said he gained a “whole new respect” for the man who raised him while going through his paperwork.
“I found his W-2 from 1977 and he made $3,200 that year, which was two years after my mom passed,” Daily said. “My dad did everything he could for us and raised five kids on $3,200. I honestly don’t know how he did it.”
While chasing a person who was trying to break into the family’s home when Daily was young, his dad stepped on a sprinkler and developed a foot ulcer, which never healed. Despite the painful, gaping wound in the bottom of his foot, the elder Daily never missed a day of work.
“I guess that’s where I get my work ethic from,” he said.
Doctors were forced to amputate his dad’s leg when he developed a severe infection after all efforts to heal the wound failed. His dad later lost his other leg to a similar infection and had to retire.
“My dad didn’t want to go on disability but he had no choice,” Daily said. “I came over to visit one time and my dad, now a double amputee, was 6 feet up on a ladder hanging Christmas lights. I couldn’t believe it.”
Although Daily paid a lawn service to take care of his dad’s yard, the crew would arrive to see his dad mowing the front yard on his knees.
“He didn’t feel he was being a productive man in the world without being able to contribute or work,” Daily said. “You just couldn’t stop the guy.”
Neighbor spurs Daily’s love of driving
Shortly after his mom died, a neighbor across the street, Cliff Capps, took Daily under his wing and taught him everything he knows about working on vehicles, driving and dirt track racing.
“When I was 11, Cliff tossed me the keys to his push truck [used in open-wheel racing for cars that don’t have starters or clutches],” Daily said. “I kept looking back at him, thinking he was joking, but he just laughed and said, ‘Just don’t crash it bad enough that we can’t get home.’”
That first memorable trip behind the wheel at the dirt track spurred his love of driving, Daily said.
“[Capps] took me to the racetrack just about every weekend when I was growing up,” he remembered. “He’s gone now, but I’ve never lost my love of driving since he tossed me the keys to his truck that first time. What a great guy.”
Lessons learned and memories from the road
One of the first loads Daily hauled for NFI was carpet padding. When he picked up the load, it was all stacked “neat and pretty” in the trailer. That wasn’t the case when he arrived to deliver the load.
“I flung the back doors open and about 40 rolls of carpet padding came shooting out at me, torpedoing me backward onto the ground,” he said. “I never did that again.”
Over the years, Daily has witnessed many crashes involving tractor-trailers on the nation’s roadways, although one still haunts him to this day.
“I was on I-95 down around Palm Bay, going north with a load of soda and a guy going south, hauling a flatbed with an excavator, had a front tire blow out,” Daily said. “The driver hit the guardrail and the excavator came across the interstate. The knuckle of the excavator came through the windshield of the truck driver who had just passed me and it killed him. There was just instant devastation everywhere.”
After the crash, Daily spoke with the deputy at the scene about what had just happened.
“I told him there’s no such thing as a small accident when you are dealing with these 80,000-pound beasts,” he said.
Few truck drivers stay with one company for 30 years anymore as many truckers are lured away by promises of better pay or more home time. But Daily said it was his personal goal to work for NFI, headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, for his whole trucking career, racking up over 6 million miles, because of a conversation with his dad many years ago.
“Dad said people don’t stay working for a company for their whole careers like they did back in his day,” Daily said.
After his dad’s death, Daily was able to pay off his parents’ house, which he lives in now, and he pays cash for vehicles and motorcycles, including a new Slingshot for his daughter.
“I don’t chase the dollar, but I still love to drive,” he said. “Maybe one day NFI will get tired of me and I’ll probably hang it up then, but until that happens I plan to keep driving.”
Click for more FreightWaves articles by Clarissa Hawes.
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