By Bill Sterling
Guy Groton has been driving vehicles since he could barely see over the steering wheel as a young boy on his father’s farm. By the time he was 17, he was driving tractor trailers, hauling sea clams to Atlantic City, N.J. You could say the 58-yearold Cedar View resident is at home behind the wheel of almost any vehicle.
Now employed by the Virginia Department of Transportation for the last seven years, Groton displayed his driving prowess over the past few months by first winning the Hampton Roads District Roadeo in the Tractor-Trailer Lowboy competition at Suffolk in May, then finishing first again at the VDOT Tractor Truck with Lowboy Trailer Competition at the statewide Roadeo in August at Doswell, Va., before taking third in the Southeastern Regional Equipment Operators Roadeo in early September at Rogers, Ark.
What made his run even more improbable is that at the regional competition, many of the 19 drivers Groton was going up against drive tractor-trailers every day in their work. As a member of VDOT’s road maintenance crew, Groton doesn’t drive anything bigger than a dump truck.
“It’s like driving a bike,” said Groton recently. “I have to brush up on a few things with a bit of practice, but it comes back to me in a hurry.”
Groton was required to demonstrate a number of skills with the tractor-trailer, including parallel parking, backing in tight corners and zigzagging the 78-footlong truck between cones that were 45 feet apart. Several of the exercises required precise maneuvering of the truck to within inches of an object or curb.
The regional competition was in Rogers, Ark., where the first Walmart store was opened and also in close proximity to the headquarters of JB Hunt, one of the nation’s largest trucking and transport companies.
Groton had a companion on his airplane flight to Arkansas. Tyler Marsh, also employed at the VDOT office on the Eastern Shore, qualified for the regional competition by finishing second in a different driving category at the state level.
Groton, the son of the late Lionel and Veta Groton of Craddockville, worked long hours on the family farm as a young boy. And when he was 17, he recalled, “Billy Moore gave a kid a chance to show what he could do and let me drive a tractor-trailer. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.”
When he wasn’t driving the truck, he was on the farm helping his father and brother Bobby, older by 18 years. Things haven’t changed much today. His day at VDOT starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., but often he makes a quick change and heads for the farm to help Sonny and Lee Sturgis, his nephew.
“When you grow up on a farm, you get used to long days. I have never been afraid of hard work,” said Groton.
When Groton and his wife, Mary, take a vacation, he’s usually hauling the family’s 40-foot RV through traffic or pulling his 24-foot Carolina Skiff.
Following his father’s death in 1989, there was a time Groton was a full-time farmer with his older brother. But in 2002, they sold the farm. “Rent was going up to the point it was tough making a decent profit. We weren’t in debt and decided it wasn’t worth it to keep going,” said Groton.
After leaving the farm, he and his wife purchased a tractor-trailer and hauled sea clams for six years. They sold the rig when fuel prices started escalating and stricter regulations made it more difficult to keep the truck on the road.
He then rejoined Billy Moore and drove trucks for him for several years before joining VDOT. Working alongside him is his stepson, Daniel Shrieves, 42. “He’s a really good driver and a hard worker,” said Groton, looking to Shrieves’ house about 100 yards from his. “He’s like me, he’s always busy doing something.”