Top Rookie finalist plans veteran-owned, operated fleet

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Sean HardingSean Harding

As a kid, Sean Harding knew he wanted to grow up to either be in the military, be Spider-Man, or be a truck driver. When he retired from the U.S. Army after 28 years of service, it was time for him to start trucking.

“I’m not shooting webs anytime soon, so it looked like I was going into truck driving,” Harding said.

Harding, from Kileen, Texas, pulls a reefer over the road for Stevens Transport. He was recently name a finalist for the 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award.

Harding is a company driver, but he already has plans for his own trucking business. Harding and his team driving partner, Greg Softy, formed Hell on Wheels LLC and are working toward buying their first truck. Harding retired as a Sergeant First Class and Softy retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, and they want to have a fleet full of fellow veterans.

“The idea was to create a company that was going to be veteran-owned and veteran-operated,” Harding said. “We want the kind of guys that are like us. We want the guys that don’t rattle easily.” 

Harding’s career in the military has helped him find success in his first year of trucking. Skills like knowing how to deal with stress, time management, living in close quarters, meeting deadlines and communication have all translated well to truck driving. Trucking, just like the military, is also a team effort.

“A lot of people join trucking and they just think oh, I’m going to be this independent truck driver and do everything by myself, but that’s not the case. There’s a whole lot of support that goes into sustaining that one truck,” Harding said.

The maintenance department, safety department, compliance department, driver managers, and other support staff all work together to help the trucker get the job done.

“In the military we call them combat support, but as a trucker it’s kind of trucking support. All of these support systems are in place to make sure that truck can move from Point A to Point B,” Harding said.

Harding says he wanted to learn the trucking business from the ground up before building his own fleet. He to compete with the trucks he sees everyday on the road, but first he wanted to learn the industry from a driver’s perspective.

“You can’t tell a driver what to do unless you’ve driven. You have to know those things first,” Harding said.

The winner of the 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award will be announced during a ceremony at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, and will receive $10,000 and a package of prizes.

The winner receives:

  • $10,000 cash
  • Expenses paid trip to the awards presentation in Dallas
  • A custom plaque from Award Company of America
  • Interview on Red Eye Radio Network with Eric Harley
  • $1,000 worth of DAS Products merchandise featuring the RoadPro Getting Started Living On-The-Go Package
  • American Trucking Associations “Good Stuff Trucks Bring It” package, which includes a logoed polo shirt, baseball cap, model truck and utility knife
  • An IntelliRoute TNDTM 730 LM GPS Unit and a Deluxe Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas from Rand McNally
  • A dash cam and CB radio from Cobra
  • Feature story in Truckers News

The other nine finalists receive:

  • $1,000 cash
  • A custom plaque from Award Company of America
  • $100 worth of DAS Products merchandise, featuring the Road Pro MobileSpec Portable Life Package
  • American Trucking Associations‘ “Good Stuff Trucks Bring It” package which includes a logoed polo shirt, baseball cap, model truck and utility knife
  • An IntelliRoute TNDTM 730 LM GPS Unit
  • CB radio from Cobra

Sponsors include:

  • The RoadPro Family of Brands
  • Rand McNally
  • Cobra Electronics
  • Progressive
  • RedEye Radio
  • ATA

Recognizing the top rookie driver was the idea of the late Mike O’Connell, who was formerly the executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association. He believed that honoring a top rookie driver helps show new drivers they are appreciated by the trucking industry.