He stood there. His face wizened in his old age, but his wits weren’t a second slower. At the age of 79, Don Cook etched his name into truck driver lore forever. He’s the 4 Million Mile Man. In Don Cook’s 47-year trucking career, he’s driven 4 millions miles with no accidents. That’s right – not so much as a fender bender.
For context, 4 million miles is slightly more 8 round trips to the Moon. Yup, that’s to the Moon and back.
That’s a lot of miles – and plenty of time for things to go wrong. We tried to find out Cook’s secret and he answered as only a trucking savant could. “You have to have your wits about you,” he said wryly. What makes Cook’s milestone more impressive is that he didn’t get it driving down big, lightly trafficked highways in the South or out West. The New Jersey native spent the bulk of his career on the East Coast’s busiest, wildest highways. “When you go across the George Washington Bridge, if they’re driving like nut cases, you gotta do the same,” Cook told the Morning Call jokingly.
He’s no stranger to recieving road safety accolades. Nine years earlier, Cook was celebrating 3 million miles accident-free. On both occassions, he received a leather jacket. In 2012, his jacket had a patch that read, “3 Millions Miles Safe Driving”. This year, his new jacket’s patch reads “Hall of Fame” – to mark his enshrinement among the his company’s legends. “He deserves it,” one of his coworkers told the Sun Gazette. Cook’s routes took him into New England at the height of winter and, heaven help him, the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, where driving is a mad and dangerous dash all year round.
Cook may attribute his success to skill and patience but he knows it takes a lot of luck. There are millions of motorists on the road at any moment. Some of them are inattentive, brash or under the influence. Yet, none of them have blemished Cook’s impeccable safety record. Even Mother Nature took care to not to give Don her absolute worst. Cook’s career is an anomaly of sorts. Just ask Hank Cambiotti, a trucker with 35 years of experience. “The 2 million drivers, there’s a few,” he replied, when asked about trucking in the Northeast. “The 3 millions, I know of two. There’s one 4 million and that’s it.” Cook himself said he only meet other 3-million milers on his routes down South.
Despite his lengthy, successful career, Cook doesn’t have his sights set on stopping. “I’m not retiring,” he said. “I’m still a young pup. And my wife would drive me crazy.” He’s only teasing, of course. Don and his wife are on the 58th year of their marriage – still going strong. Throughout the years, Dolores Cook was her husband’s rock. Trucking comes with its sacrifices, especially for married couples. Don sacrificed many nights with his lovely wife while he ran routes all the way up to California and Texas. Nowadays, he doesn’t get too far from her. He drives an overnight route – 400 miles to Akron. He runs it a couple of times a week.
In all his years with trucks, Cook has developed a Zen approach to driving. Nothing about his craft bores him or irritates him. “You get bopping down the road and pretty soon, you’re where you’re supposed to be,” he said. It seems like nothing can undo Don’s excitement for the road. It seems to rejuvenate him. “I’m an old guy,” he said, “but when I sit behind that wheel, I’m 30 years old again.”