Fine Arts Painter Named Truck Driver of the Year


Ralph with his family.

Ralph with his family.

Last Friday, I wrote about our Driver of the Month program, and how we’ll continue honoring the superheroes of our industry in 2015. Before we move forward, however, we need to give out one last honor. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce Ralph Coats, our 2014 Driver of the Year!

During the interview that followed his win, we learned that Ralph’s road to the shipping industry has been filled with twists and turns. A native of Dunn, NC, he earned a business degree from Campbell University, an excellent choice, especially considering he met his wife there! Later, Ralph studied art and painted at the famous Art Students League of New York. He spent many years working as a fine arts painter and a stay-at-home parent. Some of his pieces have fetched thousands, and patrons still commission him to work. (He completed a painting just before Christmas).

One of Ralph's paintings

One of Ralph’s paintings

But when 50% of his wife’s Fortune 500 Company was laid off in 2011, the couple decided to join the family business. Ralph’s father-in-law has owned a shipping company since 1942 and, thanks to his business degree, Ralph was able to accept a position recruiting and managing drivers.

One of Ralph’s drivers was named Clark. Everyone at the shipping company where he regularly picked up loads called him “Clark Kent”. One day, when Clark couldn’t complete his usual route due to an injury, Ralph stepped into an imaginary phone booth and emerged seconds later, ready to drive that truck himself. The rest is history!

Ralph now drives regularly for one of our export shipping customers, making trips from their warehouse to the port up to three times a day. Our shipping customer writes:

“Ralph is a true professional and an absolute pleasure to work with. He always comes through with picking up loads; in fact, he’s usually the first person at the loading dock each morning. His communication is great– if for some reason the port gets backed up, he calls to let us know. If there is a problem on his end; he doesn’t bother us with it, he just takes care of it. He is most deserving and we are delighted that he is the Matchmaker Logistics Driver of the Year!”

Another painting by Ralph

Another painting by Ralph

Ralph says that truck driving and painting have more in common than you think. They can both be solitary activities involving a lot of quiet time, which Ralph fills by listening to books-on-tape. They also offer a lot in the way of unexpected inspiration. “Once I was on a run to Charleston, WV,” Ralph told us. “Trucks were backed up for hours, and as I was sitting there, I noticed a man in the truck next to mine. He was a huge, bearded guy, who looked like he belonged on a horse instead of in a truck. I asked him if I could take his photo and he agreed. One of these days I’m going to paint that driver.”

We can’t wait to see that painting. Meanwhile, we’re delighted that Ralph discovered his ‘alter ego’ and his hidden superpower of truck driving. Congratulations, Ralph, and thank you for your sharing your talents on canvas and on the road!

Remember: in 2015, we’ll be honoring a wide range of heroes, including the drivers, dispatchers, and shippers that make our industry so powerful. If you’d like to nominate someone, send me their story today.

Practice your art this weekend,