A distinguished Army veteran who took over her late mother’s tank truck business is the top military veteran rookie driver for 2022.
Ashley Leiva, a South Texas owner-operator who hauls crude oil for Draco Energy, received the prestigious “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” honor during a special ceremony held last month at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.—and her reward was a new Kenworth T680 Next Generation.
Leiva retired early from the military and returned home to Corpus Christi, Texas, after her mother, Noemi Leiva, lost her battle with cancer two years ago. Upon graduating from the transportation training program at Del Mar College, she and her brother began running Leiva Trucking, which they renamed Noemi Trucking in their mom’s honor.
Leiva is the first winner nominated by a member of the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools.
“This is certainly a very special moment for me,” Leiva said. “My mother inspired me to go into truck driving. She said driving a truck made her feel like she was on top of the world. It is an honor to receive the Transition Trucking award of the T680 Next Generation from among all the outstanding nominated veterans and fellow truck drivers.
Kenworth teamed with FASTPORT and Hiring Our Heroes for the seventh consecutive year to identify America’s top rookie military veteran who made the successful transition from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet. Leiva’s new T680 Next Gen is equipped with a comfortable, spacious 76-inch sleeper and PACCAR Powertrain featuring an MX-13 engine, TX-12 automated transmission, and DX-40 tandem rear axles.
Other featured speakers were Eric Eversole, Hiring Our Heroes president and U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president; Brad Bentley, FASTPORT president; and Jesus Di Vila, American Trucking Associations, Road Team Captain and Workforce Heroes Program.
“We are honored to recognize Ashley Leiva for her service to our nation and commitment to excellence in the transportation industry,” Eversole said. “Kenworth’s tremendous contribution of a T680 Next Generation will ensure her continued success as an owner operator.”
The two runners-up in the Transition Trucking program—Sean Adams (U.S. Navy/McElroy Truck Lines) and Dave Marihugh (U.S. Navy/Roehl Transport)—each were awarded a check for $10,000.
For the first time, all 11 semifinalists received a trip to D.C. to be honored for their military service and participate in the awards ceremony. Under the program, driver nominations can made by any for-hire carrier or private fleet employers, training organizations, general public, and other interested parties only by completing a nomination form on the Transition Trucking website.
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.