Woolwich trucker covers country

Posted:  Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 7:45am

In all of Joe Westleigh’s travels as a commercial trucker, in all 48 contiguous states, the Woolwich man’s favorite stop so far has been the Grand Canyon. It was part of a combination honeymoon-work trip with wife Melisa.

Photos of the canyon don’t compare to seeing it in person, he said in a phone interview from Dexter, Michigan. 

His worst time on the road was harder to come up with. It might have been in Indiana, when he was broken down and had to wait hours for help, in freezing temperatures. He had a generator, luckily, he said. “It kept me warm.”

Originally from Bethel and formerly of Wiscasset, Westleigh credited his late stepfather Lanny Verrill, who had Lanny’s Auto Body in Woolwich, with encouraging him to follow his dream.

The Westleighs own the 2004 Peterbilt 379 18-wheeler he drives. She does the book work, including setting up the runs, so he can just concentrate on the driving, he said. “It takes a big load off of me. She’s a big part of what I do, whether she’s here or she’s home.”

The company they are leased on with, Landstar System of Jacksonville, Florida, recently recognized him for two million miles of safe driving. Melisa has been a passenger on a lot of those miles and has seen his ability to avoid getting into accidents with other motorists she said were not driving safely.

“I’ve seen a lot of close calls and he’s been able to avoid them,” she said. “I’m very proud of him. To just avoid being in an accident is an everyday task, and to do it for two million miles is quite something. It just blows my mind sometimes.”

Landstar President and CEO Jim Gattoni states in a press release: “Joe Westleigh is among the safest and most talented owner-operators in the industry. Woolwich should be very proud of him and this outstanding accomplishment.”

It’s the latest of several. Melisa provided a list that included her husband’s million mile safe driver award from Landstar in 2007, and a 2008 Landstar Roadstar Award she said is very difficult to get due to a series of requirements on revenue, compliance and other items. The National Safety Council named him the 2015 Joseph P. Kaplan Safe Driver of the Year, Northeast Region, Melisa said. 

Her husband is not looking to retire any time soon. “I like my freedom. I can do what I want and see the country,” he said, adding, “There’s too much left to see.”

His favorite state? “Maine,” he said.

The Westleighs, who have three grown daughters between them, will be married 19 years in October. Melisa said she’ll be with him, on the road, for their anniversary.