“Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” semifinalists recently were recognized as top rookie military veteran drivers in trip to Columbus and Chillicothe, Ohio.
During the trip, the semifinalists visited the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, appeared on the Dave Nemo Show with Jimmy Mac on Road Dog Trucking Radio live from the MHC RoadReady Center in Chillicothe, and received an in-depth 90-minute tour of the Kenworth Chillicothe manufacturing plant.
In a surprise announcement by FASTPORT President Brad Bentley, the elite 11 driver semifinalists discovered they will all go to Washington, D.C., where the Driving for Excellence award winner will be named at a December ceremony. In previous years, the program’s top three finalists earned a trip to the nation’s capital for the final award ceremony.
“Kenworth’s continuing participation is a way to thank our military veterans for their service, and to encourage the trucking industry to offer them career opportunities and support. Congratulations to our 11 drivers who will vie for the Kenworth T680 Next Gen in Washington, D.C.,” said Genevieve Bekkerus, Kenworth director of marketing.
“Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence,” is dedicated to finding America’s top rookie military veteran driver. The program recognizes professional drivers who successfully transitioned from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet. For the seventh year, Kenworth has teamed with FASTPORT and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes to support this effort.
This year, Kenworth is providing a Kenworth T680 Next Generation for the first time as the top award. The T680 Next Gen is equipped with a 76-inch sleeper and the PACCAR Powertrain featuring the PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission, and PACCAR DX-40 tandem rear axles.
“We thought it was worthwhile to do something a little different this year and honor our semi-finalists in a special way—by bringing them all to Washington, D.C.,” Bentley said. “We encourage the trucking industry to reach out to our veterans and help them make a smooth transition back into civilian life. This program is one way to drive that effort.”
The 11 driver semifinalists, listed with their military branch of service and current truck fleet, are:
- Sean Adams, U.S. Navy, McElroy Truck Lines
- Jason Van Boxtel, U.S. Marines, Veriha Trucking
- Cale Jensen, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army, G. Dubbels Farms Trucking
- Ashley Leiva, U.S. Army, Draco Energy-Noemi Trucking
- Paul Gouker, U.S. Army and National Guard, Stevens Transport
- Dave Marihugh, U.S. Navy, Roehl Transport
- Chris McDowell, U.S. Army and National Guard, EPES Transport
- Joe Nyenatee, U.S. Army, Melton Truck Lines
- Talon Rogers, U.S. Army, CRST
- Justin Silk, U.S. Army, Paschall Truck Lines
- Michael D. Thomas, U.S. Marines, PRIME Inc.
“The tremendous collaboration in this effort led by FASTPORT and Kenworth assists veteran drivers in growing their careers while supporting our work to connect veterans and family members with high-demand meaningful careers in the transportation industry,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
To qualify, drivers had to meet three eligibility requirements:
- Must have been active military or member of the National Guard or Reserve.
- Graduated from PTDI-certified NAPFTDS or CVTA member driver training school, with a valid CDL.
- First hired in a trucking position between Jan. 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022.
A popular vote will take place online from Oct. 28 until Veteran’s Day Nov. 11. This voting is an important determiner for the award’s selection committee, which makes the ultimate choice for the next Transition Trucking award winner.