'I wouldn't change a thing'

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

Allen Albert isn’t one to hesitate when making a decision.

The 85-year-old OOIDA life member from Sanford, Fla., tends to act swiftly.

Albert got married when he was still a teenager and quit high school to become a trucker. Heck, a night in the mid-1970s that included a few beers with his brother even led Albert to buy a house in Sanford without consulting his wife.

But Albert doesn’t second-guess any of those decisions.

He relished a long, happy marriage with his wife, Carmen, and Albert has enjoyed a successful career in the trucking industry that includes 6 million safe miles. Within a few months of his impulse housing purchase, Albert’s wife agreed that the warm weather of Florida was better than the frigid temps of Connecticut. The couple lived in Sanford for decades until her death in February. They had been married for 67 years.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Albert said. “If I was 20 years old today, I’d do it all exactly the same way.”

When Albert was 18 years old, he was working on the docks for Coles Express in northern Maine.

“I quit high school because I wanted to drive a truck,” Albert said. “I started on the docks. They let me use an old tractor in the yard. That’s how I learned to drive.”

Then one day, Coles was short a driver so they turned to Albert.

“They asked me if I thought I could handle delivering the loads that day,” Albert recalled. “I said, ‘sure.’” I never worked on the docks again. I’ve been a truck driver ever since.”

Albert bought his first truck, a 1968 Brockway with a 318 Detroit, in 1967.

“That 318 was the king of the road,” Albert said.

He paid $21,640 for that first truck.

“My payments were just a hair over $600 a month,” Albert said. “Everybody I talked to told me that I’d never pay it off and there was no way I could make that kind of payment on a truck. Well, I paid it off and was never late on a payment. I proved them all wrong.”

With a member number that includes only two digits – 53 to be precise – Albert has watched OOIDA rise from its early stages.

“During the fuel shortage, a bunch of truck memberships popped up,” Albert said. “I looked at several of them, and I chose to join OOIDA. The others, they’d come and go. OOIDA is the only one that became a true representative for the truck drivers. They’re the only ones who really ever did anything for truckers. And they’re still doing it.”

Like OOIDA, Albert is still doing it. Many people are surprised to hear that Albert makes the occasional haul, at the age of 85.

“They don’t believe it,” Albert said. “They say, ‘you should see a doctor and have your mind examined.’ I tell them that I should have had that done when I was 20 years old.”

But Albert said the job has been good to him. Through a profession in trucking, he and Carmen were able to raise four children, pick the warm weather of Florida to live in, and travel all over the United States together.

“I’ve always told everyone that I’ve never worked a day in my life,” Albert said. “I’ve never considered driving a truck to be work. I enjoyed it from day one.

I still enjoy it today.” LL