Highway Transport

Inside look: NTTC Driver of the Year candidate hunts for new ambassador role

Jan. 16, 2024
Highway Transport takes us behind the scenes with Ed Heard in this first installment of a three-part series following his journey to National Tank Truck Carriers’ 2024 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, where NTTC will reveal the 2023-24 Grand Champion in May.

Edward Heard, professional driver at Highway Transport, is one of eight finalists for the National Tank Truck Carriers’ (NTTC) Professional Driver of the Year. The program recognizes tank truck drivers who have an incredible driving record, a demonstrated commitment to safety, and a history of community service. During NTTC’s Annual Conference, finalists are presented for this prestigious award and one Grand Champion is named who will represent the industry and NTTC throughout the year. Heard is preparing to go to Washington, D.C., for a round of events and interviews as part of the NTTC’s selection process.

How does a long career in law enforcement and passion for hunting turn into an impeccable career as a tank truck driver? Just ask Edward “Ed” Heard, a professional driver specializing in hauling chemicals for Highway Transport.

Heard is an ambassador for doing the right thing, and it’s clear that he truly enjoys the work he does as he serves as both a driver and trainer. He’s from the Houston area and works out of Highway Transport’s La Porte, Texas, service center.  

“Truck driving wasn’t on my radar,” Heard said. “Some guys I was hunting with were struggling to back in a 30-ft. trailer, so I put it where it needed to go. A fellow hunter asked me if I’d ever consider driving professionally. I looked into it, and since I started driving 13 years ago, it’s all been tankers, and it’s all I’m going to drive.”

He says that, with 11 years behind the wheel at Highway Transport already, he’s committed to staying with the company as long as possible. “I love the people here,” he shared. “They care about the drivers and strive to keep good talent. They treat drivers and other employees well and I’d recommend them to anyone.”

It looks like that adoration is reciprocated by the company: Heard was chosen as the first Highway Transport Driver of the Quarter in the south region, has worked as a trainer for eight years, was nominated for NTTC’s Professional Driver of the Year, and in December, was provided a new custom-wrapped Mack truck. “The truck is beautiful, and I was so glad to have everyone around thanking me during the presentation,” Heard said. “We took a few pictures then did a Highway Transport video called ‘Cab Chat’ in the new truck.”

Training for success and safety

His general daily route is from Dow in Houston with delivery of latex to large paint manufacturers in the Dallas area and back. He can usually complete the round trip in around 13 hours. He’s racked up nearly a million miles with a spotless record. “I train a lot, so I’m riding with other drivers to observe and give feedback while they’re driving,” Heard said. “I give up a lot of miles for the greater good of teaching correct and safe driving to others.” He has trained roughly 100 drivers at Highway Transport.

Heard wants to pass along information to help other drivers get better, from how to turn, back in and manage on the road with unknown risks from other drivers. “I want trainees to learn as much as possible and be able to take a lot of pride in what they do.”

A commitment to serve  

Heard’s dedication to helping others was honed over 27 years in law enforcement where he worked with a Gulf Coast felony task force and specialized in mental health and crisis intervention. He trained and gave presentations there as well.

“Law enforcement molded me a lot,” he said. “I’m not here by chance, I think this is my destiny. Experience in law enforcement provides me with a unique way to get points across to younger drivers. I use the same tactics in different ways to reach people.

“Safety has a purpose, and you have to stick to it. Our safety culture is a big reason I’m here. I received a text from someone I recently released from training with a question on the right way to do a certain task. That’s gratification for me—the desire in someone else who wants to do things right.”

Preparing for NTTC’s Driver of the Year 

“I’m starting to realize how much is involved in this process to become Driver of the Year,” Heard said. “And now I’m focused, honored, and excited.” He says that he’ll use his law enforcement and driver training experience to organize his thoughts to tell his story.

“My brother calls me ‘The Senator’ because people talk to me. I believe I can be a good ambassador,” he said. “I want to continue to educate, inspire, motivate, and help our industry create a legacy of professional drivers that are safety driven, self-starters, and prolific learners.”           

First up is a trip to Washington, D.C., in January to interview and present to a panel of judges, meet the other finalists and complete other activities for the award. Then, it’s off to NTTC’s 2024 Annual Conference, set for May 4-7 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the finalists will be presented, and the Grand Champion crowned.

“I’m excited to meet the other finalists and be in a room of uncommon men and women,” he explained. “There’s a stigma on trucking and drivers. That’s what we’re here for—trying to change the image of the industry. It’s important.

“This could be the pinnacle of the year. It’s great to be in this position, but I’m going to work to be the No. 1 guy. I will work my tail off to bring it home to Highway Transport.”

When he’s not driving, Heard can be found with his family, including his wife of 25 years, Aileen. They have three adult children, Jazton, a captain with the Missouri City Police Department in Texas; Christopher, who is in insurance sales; and Melanie, an elementary teacher in a Houston suburb. He loves hunting and saltwater fishing.

“I’m all about getting home every day to the people and hobbies I enjoy and that’s where my safety mindset starts,” Heard concluded.

About the Author

BT staff