Eight veteran truck drivers were chosen from a record-setting field of 104 entrants to receive TA Petro’s Third Annual Citizen Driver Awards, which were announced Friday, April 1 during a luncheon at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.
Judges sorted through the field of 15 finalists and chose to honor:
- Bill Ater, Jr. an owner/operator for Landstar from Arlington, Texas
- Mary “Candy” Bass, an owner/operator driving for Transport Design from Temple, Texas
- Dennis Litalien, from Biddeford, Maine, who drives for Clifford W. Perhaps/Shaw
- Michael Zanella, an owner/operator driving foe Pizza Hut from Columbus, Ohio
- Bill and Robyn Taylor, owner/operators for Landstar Ranger from Enfield, Connecticut
- Bill Underwood, an owner/operator for Underwood Farms in Alta Vista, Kansas
- Jon Osburn, and owner/operator for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association from Boise, Idaho
Each will have a TA Petro location named in their honor.
The award, according to Tom Liutkus, senior vice president for marketing and public relations for Travel Centers of America, recognizes drivers not just for their considerable on-road skills but also for being involved in their communities.
“This is an amazing group of people,” said Liutkus.
For example, Ater has been involved in hurricane relief efforts, responding to help effected areas after 12 storms, Bass founded a charity to help wounded veterans and the Taylors are deeply involved with the International Trucker Buddy organization. Litalien has been recognized by two organizations for his highway heroism, Underwood helped get a young runaway girl help and back to her family and Zanella is a spiritual advisor to two prison inmates.
But, it was a story told by TA Petro Executive Vice President Barry Richards that brought the deeds of these drivers into sharper focus.
In April of 1987, Bass was driving on Highway 40 in New Mexico when a pickup truck towing a motor home struck her truck. The resulting accident left Bass severely injured, near death.
A medical flight arrived at the scene and the medical technician onboard was Osburn, who trained as a medic in the Navy.
Nominations for next year’s awards open in May.