Dean Key – Road Team Captain

Mar 29, 2024

Ruan is pleased to congratulate driver Dean Key for completing his time as a Captain on the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) 2022-2023 America’s Road Team! Dean, who operates out of Ruan’s Holstein, IA, operation, has been with the company for 27 years, achieved an exceptional safety record, and earned a solid reputation as a mentor to other drivers.

America’s Road Team, a group of professional truck drivers with superior safety records, was created in 1986 to represent the trucking industry. Captains, with support from their companies, dedicate a few days each month to attend industry events, speak at schools, or meet policymakers on behalf of the trucking industry. They serve as trucking industry ambassadors, traveling the country to promote safe driving and teach about the industry and its opportunities. We are so proud of Dean and all the time and dedication he put toward fulfilling his role as a Road Team Captain.

We recently took a few minutes to reflect with Dean on his role. Check out his responses below.

Q: What did you learn from being a Road Team Captain?

Being a Road Team Captain, I’ve learned to be prepared for anything and have the flexibility to make things work. I’ve learned that I can speak to a large group of people without passing out! I have learned how to stay positive and on topic during media interviews. Working with other Captains, I’ve gained insight into how other companies operate. I’m always learning more about the Truck Driving Championships, how other companies and drivers practice and handle different aspects of the TDCs. There is knowledge at every event, and I’m willing to soak it all in!

Q: What were you able to see and do during your time as a Road Team Captain?

We toured Washington, DC, while we were there for the Road Team Captain selection process. We took Interstate One (ATA’s Classroom on wheels with a simulator) to the Nevada and Washington State Capitols. I saw a lot of beautiful trucks at the Walcott Jamboree in Iowa. We went to several high school and college campuses for events, quite a few right here in Iowa! We were able to see music performances including Walker Hayes and Ashley McBryde. I was honored to attend events in 11 states and drove through several states moving trucks. I’ve had the privilege of moving Interstate One and the Share the Road Truck to different events. We also have a Workforce Heroes (camouflaged) truck and Intermodal Carriers Truck.

Q: Through this opportunity, who did you meet along the way?

This is a huge question. I have had the privilege of meeting trucking company representatives, local, state, and federal legislators, state trucking association members and leadership, as well as folks from outside the trucking industry from all over the country. I had the honor of sharing a podium with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, now former FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) President Todd Spencer, and ATA’s own President Chris Spear. I was honored to represent Truckers Against Trafficking at Montana State University where I met leaders of their Heart Initiative program, university staff and students, and local Bozeman residents. I have met many of our country’s youth at events with the Interstate One simulator and our other trucks doing safety demonstrations. And finally the other Captains – Captains from every state I think. They are awesome group of drivers to work with and now call my friends.

Q: Can you share some highlights or memorable experiences from your role as a Road Team Captain?

Being on the Road Team at the same time that Ruan’s President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Van Alstine served as the ATA Chairman was definitely a highlight. Spending my birthday with members of the Road Team and Nevada Trucking Association’s President Paul Enos was also one for the books. Also listening to Paul Enos talk trucking and, more specifically, lithium (used in EV batteries) with Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor was amazing. I could go on and on. Each event we do has its own memorable moments.

Q: In what ways did you engage with the trucking industry during your time?

We continue to do safety demonstrations and industry promotion for youth and adults at various events from driver’s education classes to career days to State Capitol Trucking days. I was honored to be the speaker and a course judge for South Dakota’s 2023 Truck Driving Championships. Myself and another Captain maintained a booth twice at the Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree, and we were judges at the truck beauty contest both years. In South Dakota, I spoke at a news media event sharing the podium with others at a groundbreaking for new truck parking. At this event, I was also interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times. I have attended many industry conferences and was an ATRI American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) panelist for ATRI’s Big Reveal they do each year at ATA’s Management Conference and Expo.

Q: How did you feel representing Ruan?

It is an honor to represent Ruan around the country. I am humbled and thankful that Ruan allows me to participate in such an amazing program. Every event we attend, Captains are asked several times who they work for. I am proud to say Ruan! The next question is usually, “What do you haul?” That always leads to a conversation about what areas of the industry Ruan services. Those answers usually bring a response along the lines of, “Wow! I didn’t know that about Ruan!”

Q: How has being a Road Team Captain influenced your perspective on the trucking industry?

I’ve always felt that the trucking industry is a great industry. It has treated me and my family well. Every job has its own things that a person may dislike, and it’s easy to fall into the negativity of others. Being a Road Team Captain has definitely shored up my own beliefs. To hear the amazing stories of other Captains as well as other drivers and leaders in the industry makes me glad that I stayed in it for the long haul.