By Hilary Reeves
The Miller brothers’ introduction to the trucking profession began on a whim.
Their father was a truck driver, and was hauling for Monfort when he was dispatched from Denver to Montana with a load. He decided to take the family with him.
“We made a family trip out of it, if that’s what you would call it,” said Jeremy Miller, the eldest of three siblings along for the ride. “In the truck was my dad, my mom, who was pregnant with my brother John, my sister Jessica, and me. We left Colorado in the middle of the summer wearing shorts and tank tops. Three days later, we woke up in Montana, where there was several inches of snow on the ground.”
According to Jeremy, the trip was one of firsts.
“We found out my sister was allergic to strawberry soda,” he said. “I lost my first tooth in a motel in Montana. My dad let my mom drive his truck. He traded Sprees for cold-weather clothing. My dad always told us kids never to get into the trucking business, and now here we are 30-some years later, and all three of us boys are in the same business.”
And all three Miller brothers work for the same company: Anchorage-based Carlile Transportation Systems. Jeremy is the company’s Director of Operations. John is a loader operator in Prudhoe Bay, making trips up the Haul Road when he’s not on the slope. And Jerry, who was born years after the epic Montana road trip that started it all, is the company’s Project Manager of Heavy Haul in Fairbanks. He said he grew up wanting to be a truck driver like his father.
“My grandparents have a cabin in Breckenridge, Colorado, and I remember spending a lot of time there while we were growing up,” Jerry said. “I remember skiing with my grandpa, Sarge. We called him ‘Sarge’ because he thought ‘Grandpa’ made him sound old.”
Jerry started skiing at the age six. When they weren’t at the cabin, he remembers the family gathering at his grandparents’ ranch near a town called Black Forest outside of Colorado Springs.
“We had horses, motorcycles, and a big pond where we could do all the fishing we wanted to,” he continued. “Working on the ranch with my brothers is kind of where it all started. We used to wake up before the sun came up and take care of more than 110 acres for our grandparents. It was a building block for our work ethic, and our ability to work together and trust each other. I was nine years old when we made the big move to Alaska. I still to this day don’t know why my mom chose Fairbanks, but I’m happy she did. It led to a life I never would have lived if we had stayed in Colorado.”
Jeremy joined Carlile first, in July of 2000; he was hired as a loader operator in Prudhoe Bay.
“Before Carlile, I’d been flying around to all the interior Alaskan villages, delivering goods,” he explained. “I remember standing in the door of the airplane – the temperature was 40 below (zero) – and thinking, “man, the guy in the loader has it figured out.”
He ran a loader and drove truck until September of 2002, when he took six months off and left for McMurdo Station in Antartica to work for Raytheon. Jeremy returned to Carlile in Prudhoe Bay as a local driver, then the Operations Manager, and then transitioned into an Anchorage-based position as a Project Manager with a focus on the company’s oil and gas customers. In 2013, Jeremy was selected as the Director of Facilities. He was promoted to Director of Operations last year.
“If I was to identify something that few people realize about my work, it would be how much it means to me personally,” he explained. “I have roughly 384 direct and indirect employees, and to me that means I have 384 families that are depending on me to make the right decision, support the right people, and endorse the right customer. That’s a lot carry, and I’m proud I have the opportunity to do it.”
His greatest challenge, he explained, is time.
“I never have enough time,” he said. “Balancing home life with work life, a feel like I’m shorting both sides of the coin. I spend 50 percent of my time traveling to terminals outside of Anchorage, which is good, but then I have employees here I haven’t been able to spend much time with. I think employee interaction is a huge park of what got Carlile where it is today, and it will be an even bigger part of getting us where we are going tomorrow.”
John also worked at Air Cargo Express – with both of his brothers – before joining Carlile. He was a DC6 and C46 loadmaster, and said he loved to fly with the guys to all the remote locations in Alaska.
“He’s the only person I know that can sleep for two hours on a one hour, 45 minute flight,” said Jerry of John, laughing. “He would fall asleep before they even started the engines.”
Like Jeremy, John joined Carlile 15 years ago. His first job was working in Prudhoe Bay as a warehouseman. He then transferred to Carlile in Fairbanks where he worked in the DRA yard loading bulkers for the Fort Knox mine
Jerry joined Carlile 14 years ago in December of 2001, just one year after his older brothers. He started in the warehouse in Prudhoe Bay. He was just 18. He later became an Operator, loading flatbed trucks and DC6 airplanes. When he was 21, he was granted a Commercial Driver’s License and began making local deliveries. He transitioned to Line Driver, but after the birth of his second child, he decided to try to stay closer to home.
“I didn’t want to be gone for such a long time,” he said. “We used to work three weeks on, two weeks off in Prudhoe. I still remember my first trip up the Haul Road. My Dad said I was crazy because he thought it was too scary.”
Jerry was just 23 when he started ice-road trucking.
“It felt pretty good being able to accomplish what most people my age at the time would never have thought possible,” he said.
After”retiring” from the open road, he went back to the warehouse as the Dock Manager in Anchorage, which led him to Logistics. He spent two years working with Conoco as the CD5 Transportation Liaison.
“It was pretty neat to get out of my comfort zone and basically work for another company,” he said. “There were lots of new challenges and (I gained) more expertise in our Heavy Haul department, as many of the loads for the CD5 project were either Bridge Girders or 80-foot-long pipe.”
Jerry is now the Project Manager for Heavy Haul in Fairbanks, a position he describes as “the road not yet traveled during my career at Carlile.” He plans to continue to grow and rebuild the company’s Heavy Haul Deparment in the Northern region of Alaska. Jeremy, too, is focused on growth.
“I want to continue to grow this company and the families that depend and contribute to that growth,” he said when asked about his future at Carlile. “ I can’t think of anything I would rather do than this.”
At Carlile, Jeremy concluded, trucking and family go hand-in-hand.
“I learn things from both of my brothers all the time. I steal quotes from my brother John to use at my own safety meetings, like “Keep your head where your hands are,” he laughed. “Like many of my coworkers, I bleed blue – Carlile blue. When I hear my daughter talk about a Carlile truck going down the road, I feel nothing but pride. I’m proud of what I do, and when asked if I would want my daughter to be in the trucking industry, I’m proud to say, ‘yes!’”