This article was originally published by East Idaho News and can be found here.
In the last 14 years, Bart Clements has driven more than two million miles.
The 64-year-old Hibbard man is a driver for Salt Lake Express. Six days a week, he drives round trip from Rexburg to Salt Lake City along Interstate 15, with multiple stops along the way.
In January, he became the first driver in the company’s history to reach this miles milestone.
In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, Clements says he’s typically on a time crunch to get passengers where they need to be, so there isn’t any time to sight see. But the sheer number of times he’s driven this route has allowed him to witness things in passing he ordinarily wouldn’t have seen.
“During the spring along the Malad pass, I’ve seen a lot of deer on the side of the road feeding,” Clements says. “I’ve seen semis haul some interesting loads. I saw one semi hauling Thomas the Tank Engine from that TV show.”
He recalls seeing a trailer near Brigham City, Utah, hauling the Batmobile from the “Batman” movies, and he’s seen the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile along this route multiple times.
Clements has also experienced more than his share of hairy situations due to inclement weather.
“It would be easier to tell you when it wasn’t hairy, especially during the winter,” says Clements. “This last winter was brutal.”
He describes driving a van with five passengers up Malad pass on his way back to Idaho in whiteout conditions.
“I could not see past the front of the van,” he says. “I looked out my side window and I could see the wind was blowing hard enough the snow wasn’t sticking to the road. I could see the white center line and I slowed down to about 10 miles an hour and I was able to go up the hill following that line.”
The weather cleared once he got to the top of the hill.
As a native of eastern Idaho, Clements has a lot of experience driving in snowy conditions. He’s been driving since he was 12, but he says Salt Lake Express drivers are also trained to know how to transport passengers during harrowing situations safely.
“One thing you can’t do is panic,” says Clements. “Some people would panic and stop right in the middle of the road. I couldn’t do that because I knew there was a semi about a half mile behind me.”
Though not a physically demanding job, Clements says he typically puts in a 12-hour day. He arrives at work around 4:30 a.m.
The length of the trip each day varies, depending on the number of passengers and the number of stops. But on average, Clements says it’s about four and a half hours one way, or 250 miles.
The mental concentration required is draining, he says, and he needs time to unwind when he gets home.
Despite this, Clements says he loves the job and it’s the interaction with people that makes it rewarding.
“I love to visit with people. We’ve had some interesting conversations. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people,” Clements says. “It’s rewarding when you drop people off at their destination and they tell you, ‘Good job. You’re a good driver. I’ve enjoyed riding with you.’”
Salt Lake Express wasn’t Clements’ first career choice. He worked at Artco in Rexburg for 29 years before getting laid off in 2009. He lived off his severance package for several months while thinking about what to do next.
He was considering getting his CDL so he could become a truck driver.
“I got a call from my oldest daughter, whose best friend happened to be the daughter of the owner of this company. She said her father was looking for drivers,” Clements recalls.
He remembers applying on a Wednesday and getting hired on Friday. His first solo route was on Sunday.
While there are other Salt Lake Express drivers that have been with the company longer than Clements, he is the most senior full-time employee. He is one of four drivers to reach 1 million miles, but so far, he’s the only one to surpass 2 million miles.
Though he spends long hours on the road, Clements says he still enjoys taking trips with his wife in his spare time.
“Sometimes, we just go without any particular destination in mind, and those are the best trips because you’ve got no plans, no place to be,” he says. “For some reason, I make my wife nervous when I drive … so when we go together, she drives.”
Clements is eligible to retire in a couple years, but he’s planning to continue driving for the foreseeable future.
“Just like any other job, there are good days and bad days,” he says. “When I first started, I thought, ‘I’ll do this until I find something else.’ Fourteen years later, I never found anything else.”