From Seabee to steel hauler
May 27, 2011 | by: Lucinda Coulter
Tom Gallo had already driven trucks empty when he was 16, growing up only 20 miles east of Pittsburgh and its steel-making hubs. When he was deployed to Vietnam four years later, it made sense that the Navy Seabee served as an equipment operator, driving an American rig.
Only 20 and based 27 miles southwest of Danang, he and a fellow operator wrote Overdrive in February 1970, expressing hope for their return home:
“This is a picture of the 1966 International in which we haul supplies and building materials to combat bases. Power comes from a 501 gas job; transmission is a 5-speed with a 2-way transfer case; rears are 34,000-lb. Eaton. This is one of the very few civilian trucks in Vietnam,” Gallo, standing left in the photo, and equipment operator Gary B. Keene, of Miami, Fla., wrote. Though Gallo is no longer in contact with Keene, he recalls their letter.
“We are both counting the days ‘till we get back to the world where we have smooth highways and don’t have to worry about getting sniped at or running over land mines. We are both former truckers and appreciate everything you are doing for the trucking industry,” the Seabees wrote.
In 1970, Gallo returned to his hometown and, over the years, became an owner-operator hauling steel with a lucrative career and family. He says when he retired last year, he had hauled steel for 39 years with no accidents and was never sick. Now, he and his wife attend truck shows for fun and spend more time with three grand-children and two daughters.
His long ago hopes while he was in Vietnam were fulfilled.
“My job was my hobby,” Gallo said. “It was so great having a career you enjoyed.”
The enjoyment must have shown in his record, which includes several safety awards. For several years, he was the youngest trucker with Long Transportation, based in Taylor, Mich. Later he leased to other carriers.
He was proud of keeping his trucks clean and well-maintained, one of which is shown above. He remembers the early ones he drove, including a 1959 International R180 with a gasoline engine and a 2-stick transmission. He had only four trucks during his career. The 1969 Kenworth W100 he owned is still on the road, he says.
Gallo learned a lot in Vietnam that helped him later: “Being in the military gave me the discipline to be on time and to present myself as a professional.”