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Driver traded office job for cab and working the open highway
Mountain Valley Express driver Ray Utterback checks his air lines before making a series of deliveries in San Jose. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Ray Utterback wasn’t happy with his standard insurance sales job more than 20 years ago.

He had a wife and four children to support.  But rather than just gritting his teeth and bearing it for the sake of his paycheck, Utterback began looking for something that could support his family and keep himself sane at the same time.

Now that he’s reaching 30 years behind the helm of a tractor-trailer, Utterback has never looked back to the office settings, the phony sales pitches, or the ties.

“One of the greatest things about doing this is having the freedom to do it by yourself without someone looking over your shoulder,” said Udderback, who was honored in 2004 as the Mountain Valley Express Driver of the Year. “Just like anything you have bosses, and you have a list of things that you have to get done, but the pace is just so much better.”

A typically day for Utterback starts just before 8 a.m. when he arrives to get his bills of lading to map out what will be his typical day for his San Jose run. It is a region that he has gotten to know like the back of his own hand after spending more than a decade serving their needs.

Whether it’s a box full of construction equipment or cigarettes for wholesalers Utterback is not only quick with a hello and a friendly smile but has also become in some respects a part of their businesses as well.

“You get to spend so much time with people, and that’s really one of the reasons that I love coming to work every day,” he said. “It helps make the day go by so much faster, and it gives you something to look forward to in the future.”

And while his labor intensive job helps keep his over-the-hill physique in shape, Udderback – who’s wife Jacque helps operate the office at Anderson Truss in Lathrop – doesn’t exactly relax when it’s time to call to call it quits.

With outdoor hobbies like downhill skiing and mountain climbing on his list of things to do, Udderback also rides his mountain bike to work every single day when weather is permitting.

It isn’t the most conventional set of hobbies for somebody pushing thousands of pounds of weight on a daily basis and logging hundreds of traffic-filled miles daily.

“It’s something that I love to do, and something that I’m’ glad I’ve been able a pat of,” he said. “There are some good people I deal with on a daily basis. It’s been a good run, and it’s something that I’m looking to doing for as long as I can.”