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RDO trucker marks million-plus accident-free miles

Ed Maninga finds his role behind the wheel to be energizing. "I can go all day and it doesn't bother me," the 71-year-old said of his role hauling potatoes for RDO Trucking. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Inestimable tons of potatoes have made their way from storage to the R.D. Offutt Park Rapids plant, thanks to Ed Maninga.

At 71, Maninga, has logged more than 1.1 million accident-free miles carrying spuds across Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

"Always with music," he said of his solitary journeys. "And if there's nothing good on, I sing to myself."

Joining the RD Offutt Trucking division in 1994, he at one time went into the field to retrieve corn and potatoes, when RDO planted rotational crops. Now he moves solely potatoes from storage to warehouse.

"Every day is a beautiful day," RDO Trucking secretary Sherri Tatro said of her co-worker. "Even when it's 40 below and snow's up to his neck, he never complains. And he never has a bad word about another worker."

"I feel like I'm 40," Maninga said. "I've never called in sick." And he has no plans to retire.

"A person's gotta keep going," said trucker who embraces Ben Franklin's "early to bed (8 p.m.) early to rise (3 a.m.)..." credo.

Maninga is behind the wheel of a Volvo, capable of hauling a gross weight of 98,000 pounds. "That a lot of potatoes."

He's concluded anyone attempting to count the cargo one-by-one would lose his mind.

Maninga's schedule is based on plant production. He may be behind the wheel for three weeks, with two to five days of down time. "It depends on where we're hauling from and if there are mechanical issues," the former Wolf Lake dairy farmer explained. He works year 'round.

He's had no mechanical breakdowns during his journeys. "Just a flat tire once in awhile."

Maninga sees "all kinds of weather," including wind, blizzards and icy road conditions. But he takes it in stride: "It's Minnesota."

The seasoned driver's advice: "Keep your eyes open; watch for other drivers. There are crazy drivers out there."

His perch in the large vehicle affords a unique view of roadster occupants below. Memories of some of the incidents draw a grin, but a refusal to elaborate.