The Fayetteville, North Carolina-based driver tied for third place in Pilot Flying J’s annual contest, which recognizes the hard work, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice of professional truckers who go “above and beyond” to keep America moving.
David Sweetman of Wilmington, Delaware, claimed the $15,000 grand prize; Jeffrey Thomas of Belews Creek, North Carolina earned $10,000 as the second-place winner; and Ron Rigdon of Tignal, Georgia, tied with Hepner for third. Hepner and Rigdon each earned $5,000 for their “incredible stories,” Pilot Flying J said.
“It is an honor to be able to give back to professional drivers and hear their incredible stories through our annual Road Warrior contest,” said Jason Nordin, chief operator for Pilot Flying J. “We appreciate all the professional drivers out there who, like our winners, represent the heart, determination, and resiliency of trucking.
Hepner has spent 30 years and more than 3 million incident-free miles behind the wheel covering 38 states, 17 foreign countries, and three war zones. Rigdon, the other third-place winner, is an Army veteran, father, and grandfather who currently operates a 53-foot race car hauler for Parella Motorsports Holdings.
Sweetman is an Army veteran with morethan 50 years and 5 million miles behind the wheel. He leases out his truck to Bennett Truck Transport as a power-only hauler for concerts, stage events, and equipment moves. He also has been a contributing writer and editor for various trucking publications for more than 20 years. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Sweetman carried on, helping set up food banks, hauling generators for emergency hospitals, and helping move generators, showers, and water treatment units for FEMA after several natural disasters across the southern United States.
“David is a great person with a tremendous set of core values while always being safety conscious. It is rare to find drivers with not only his qualities but who have driven over a million miles safely while out on the road. We are very blessed at Bennett to have David,” said Tom Woodall, president of Bennett DriveAway.
Sweetman also is one of the original Trucker Buddy professional trucker volunteers, working with classrooms to help educate young students across America. Through reading, writing, and mentorship, Sweetman and others encourage future generations of professional drivers through tales of the road and showcasing how essential trucking is to the economy and our way of life.
“One of the great things about the project is that it gives us, the people traveling the country, a chance to share not only what we do but it teaches school children, who’ve maybe never left their hometown, where produce in the supermarket comes from,” Sweetman said. “It comes from trucks.”
To recognize his contributions and further the work of Trucker Buddy, Pilot Company surprised Sweetman during his award ceremony at the Bennett Family of Companies with a $15,000 donation on his behalf to the organization.
“David, a founding driver of Trucker Buddy when Gary King started the program, has been showing students a positive image of the trucking industry for over 30 years,” said Randy Schwartzenburg, assistant treasurer and former executive director of Trucker Buddy. “We appreciate companies like Bennett and Pilot for working with us to encourage young students to excel in school and to bring education from the road to the classroom through the lens of a truck driver.”
Thomas, Pilot Flying J’s second-place Road Warrior winner, is the independent owner-operator of Joly American Enterprises. He’s also a Marine veteran and driver trainer with more than 35 years of experience.