Vice President, Maintenance, Maverick Transport
A native of Fayette, Mo., Mike Jeffress’s career in vehicle maintenance began at about age 11 when he first spent a summer as a go-fer for H & S Auto Repair, where his father Willard worked. Willard later became part owner in the business, which became H & J Auto Repair.
Mike’s father and his business partner Franklin “Fuzzy” Hilderbrand were influential early in Mike’s career. “Fuzzy would bet me a 25 cent soda that I could not have a transmission out of a truck and in the transmission rebuild room in 30 minutes,” Mike says. Of course, Mike eventually realized that the cost of the soda was nothing compared to the productivity benefit to H & J Auto Repair.
In August 1985, Mike enrolled at Nashville Auto Diesel College. Mike had planned to return home after graduation to help build H & J Auto Repair’s business, but his father and Fuzzy informed Mike that they could not afford him. He finally landed at the Chrysler/International dealership in Moberly, Mo. Following up on an opportunity through a high school friend, Mike joined Maverick Transportation in Little Rock, Ark., in August 1986 as a tire/wash boy, having taken the initiative to complete some minor repairs on trucks in the yard while the foreman he had traveled to interview with handled a breakdown.
In the summer of 1987, Mike briefly became maintenance manager when his supervisor left abruptly, but the promotion was short lived. His boss decided that Maverick needed a maintenance manager with more experience with things like budgeting. The new manager, John Blackstone, joined Maverick in 1988 and instantly became Mike’s mentor.
He took me under his wing and taught me how to run the maintenance program, how to interact with upper management, and most importantly never to miss an opportunity to shut up,” Mike says. When his mentor retired in 1996, Mike had another chance to be maintenance manager. Another promotion came four years later, and now Mike reported to Chief Financial Officer John Culp. “John and I had a pretty rocky start,” Mike says. “He was out to perform maintenance at a lower rate per mile, and I was out to maintain our reputation in the industry for well maintained equipment that paid premium on the used market.” But John and Mike now have a great relationship and have learned a great deal from each other over the past 10 years, Mike says.
In 2002, Mike was elected into the Nashville Auto Diesel College Hall of Fame as its youngest recipient. The same year, he became a study group chairman for TMC. And in Arkansas, Mike, Carl Tapp and Jim Robertson were building a state maintenance and technology council.
In 2003, Mike received TMC’s highest honor, the Silver Spark Plug Award, and was elected TMC vice chairman. In 2004, he became general chairman.
Arkansas maintenance council had held a successful technician skills competition in June 2003, and Mike decided to pursue the idea as TMC general chairman within the framework of the Future Technician Task Force and what is now the Professional Technician Development Committee. The first TMC SuperTech competition was held at the fall meeting in Valley Forge, Pa., in 2005.
Other accomplishments Mike cites during his tenure as TMC chairman include development of the council’s website and development of a towing committee and recommended practice on towing.
Mike began dating the love of his life, Lynn, in 1984, and they helped each other through the loss of loved ones. They married in 1987. “I still give her credit for what I have become today,” Mike says. Mike and Lynn have two daughters, Cynthia, 20, and Kristen, 18, and a son, Dustin, 17.