Dean Key

My day jobs are being a team safety instructor and a truck driver.

I grew up in the trucking business—my family had a trucking company in Wyoming—and I started to learn to drive a truck when I was 15 and got my learners permit. As soon as I was 16, I drove after school and on the weekends.

My early routes were all local—a lot of what’s known as “belly dumps.” This means you take the semi-trailer, load it from the top and when you get to your drop-off site, gates open at the bottom with air cylinders and your load is dumped out. This method is used for anything that pours—grain, gravel, dirt. I often hauled bentonite, which is a clay-like material that’s used in kitty litter and is mined in Wyoming.

Eventually I decided I wanted to veer away from the family business and switched to long distance driving. I’ve always liked to drive and I’m a bit of a loner—I like being on the road.

Over my career, I’ve traveled all over the lower 48 states and parts of Canada. I’ve narrowed down the type of loads I haul—now I’m working for a company that hauls countertops and doors and most of my stops are Home Depot and Lowes stores.

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten involved in the safety side of things at my company and I’m a safety instructor at the local terminal. It’s been interesting to watch how things have changed in the industry over my career. Technology has played a huge role, especially in terms of safety and communication.

My most memorable caffeine would be hard to pick—there’s no certain moment that stands out and truck drivers tend to drink a lot of coffee. One thing I’ve always enjoyed is just having coffee with other drivers on the road. And what makes those connections more memorable is when you run into those guys 500 or 1000 miles away from home.

My current caffeine of choice is pretty straightforward. I’m a Folgers classic roast kind of guy. I also like iced tea and my wife has gotten me into cappuccinos occasionally. But mostly, it’s just regular old coffee.

My favorite place for caffeine is the front porch of my parent’s cabin in the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming. The phones don’t work, the TV doesn’t work. And it’s beautiful.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are at two levels: personal and not. On a personal level, I’d have coffee with my parents. I don’t get to see them as often as I like because they’re still in Wyoming and I live in Iowa now.

If I were picking someone I don’t know, it would be Bob McEwen and Shania Twain.

Bob was a senator for the state of Ohio. He has a way of explaining politics that’s easy to understand and I learned a lot from him. I’m heard him speak several times and he’s an exceptional speaker.

Shania is a superstar! I remember the first time I heard her on the radio—I like her music and it’s had a big impact. Plus, she has a neat back story and seems like a good person.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Human trafficking. It hasn’t affected me personally, but I know drivers who have seen it firsthand and it’s really affected them. As I’ve learned more, it’s made me question some of the contacts I’ve had with people over the years. I worry I missed something and that bothers me. Truckers Against Trafficking is an organization that does a lot of work educating drivers of all kinds—truck drivers, bus drivers—so they know what to look for and what to do. Trafficking is a $32 billion industry. It’s just horrible and I wish we could stop it.