Retired sergeant, Top Rookie finalist’s aim is to train

Chris OliverChris Oliver

Chris Oliver’s love of teaching started when he was a platoon sergeant in the U.S. Army. At any given time he was overseeing 30-35 soldiers. In the Army as you move up in rank your primary focus, Oliver says, becomes training soldiers.

So it makes sense that he wants to be a driver trainer now that he’s retired from the Army and started a trucking career. Oliver, from Southside, Alabama, runs a Dollar General account for Werner Enterprises. He’s been driving for almost a year and plans to inquire about becoming a driver trainer in January. He was recently announced as a finalist for Truckers News’ 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award.

“It’s always been my focus to try to train people the correct way to make an organization better,”Oliver said. “That mostly applied in the Army, but you see it in trucking, too. It’s the urge to make things better around you. The better the company you work for is the better your life will be.”

He currently does mentor runs for Werner, where a driver new to the account will ride along with him for a day or two. He says if he were to win the Top Rookie award, it would give him more credibility as a mentor and trainer.

“If you are named Top Rookie, there’s a certain amount of respect that goes along with that. It would put me in a better position as a trainer,” Oliver said.

Long term, he sees himself pursuing a fleet manager or corporate role.

“I really enjoy this,” Oliver said. “My only experience is with this account so I don’t know how everybody else runs everything, but I really like the people I work with. I like the way the system is set up.” 

Every day is an adventure for Oliver. It’s a physically demanding account, with six hours or so of manual labor each day. He has to load and unload his own freight, moving the shipment into the receiving section of the store. When he first started working the account, he weighed around 235 pounds. He’s now down to around 178 pounds and says he’s in the best shape he’s been since he was 16 years old.

Each day on the job is a challenge, and Oliver enjoys that. He equates trucking to the thrill of riding a motorcycle.

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“It’s like a feeling of freedom mixed with excitement,” he said.

The winner of the 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award will be announced during a ceremony Friday, Aug. 25 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

Partnering with Truckers News in the search are the three national organizations overseeing truck driver training:

  • Commercial Vehicle Training Association
  • National Association Of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools
  • Professional Truck Driver Institute

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.