After more than 44 years and over 4.7 million miles Gerald “Red” Popp, has not had a single accident. This is just one of many reasons the Minnesota Trucking Association is honoring him as a finalist for the state’s Trucker of the Year Award for 2022.
Popp is one of 12 truckers being honored in the state (1 for each month) for their trucking excellence and safety records.
With this many miles safely driven across America, it’s safe to say that Popp knows a thing or two about how to stay safe when out on the road and he’s got some good advice on the topic for all motorists.
“Pay attention to your surroundings,” he advises. “Put that cell phone down! And watch the road, take stock of your situation at all times. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, including especially big trucks. Pay attention and be patient. Stop being in such a hurry.”
Popp, 66, is as humble as he is safe. He doesn’t think of his millions of miles as remarkable.
“The average full-time trucker drives about 120,000 miles, and that’s average for most truckers,” he said. “I was humbled to be honored with that award, but all those years I was just doing my job. So many more drivers are more deserving than I am, like the ones who have to leave a wife and kids back home when they’re on the road.” He went on to explain that he was divorced many years ago and has no children.
In trucking, Popp found not just a job, but a passion. He recalls his time growing up on a dairy farm where his father and brothers were completely passionate about farm work.
“I didn’t share that passion,” he said. “I didn’t develop that kind of passion until years later when a friend taught me how to drive a truck. I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I caught the trucking fever. Some people get diesel fuel in their blood. I know I did and still do. I still love what I’m doing and hope to stay physically able to keep doing it, even if I have to slow down a bit.”
His absolute favorite thing about the job is the scenery found along the roads of our great nation.
“I love the country, especially its scenery. When I sleep in my truck and wake up somewhere and see oceans and mountains, I love those sights! How amazing this country is! When I see things like that, I just know there’s a higher power.”
When asked what his favorite is, he didn’t hesitate for a moment to name New York City.
“There is such a diversity of people there,” he said. “You have to be patient when driving through it because of the traffic, but it’s such an exciting city to be in.”
Popp also thoroughly enjoys meeting new people out on the road. He noted that almost everyone he’s met in his travels has been kind, helpful, very friendly, and eager to give good directions when he needs them.
“There are nice people everywhere I’ve gone, almost all the people I’ve ever met,” he said. “And I’ve never felt threatened by anyone. Not even once.”
This love of meeting new people is especially true of other truckers. Popp has always loved the special camaraderie among truckers at truck stops and in other places they happen to meet.
“I love to listen to drivers telling their stories,” he said. “And they are always such good stories and sometimes hilarious stories. We can all relate to other drivers and those great stories. It’s always great to run into some trucker I haven’t seen in a long time. We always recognize each other no matter how long it’s been since we last saw each other. That’s always a good surprise.”
The Trucker of the Year will be announced in mid-January by the Minnesota Truckers Association at its annual awards banquet in Brooklyn Center. The MTA was founded in 1932.