Rookie finalist understands safety after job as machinist

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Updated Aug 21, 2017
John CaseyJohn Casey

For rookie truck driver John Casey, working around big machinery isn’t anything new. Casey spent almost 20 years working in a metal factory before starting his trucking career.

He was a supervisor in charge of about 30 employees. He ran machinery making parts and other metal items. When his job got shipped overseas, Casey was looking for a new gig and saw a trucking school advertisement. He applied, was accepted, trained and now hauls flatbed for TMC Transportation. He was recently named a finalist for Trucker News’ 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award.

“That’s all this really is, is a big machine,” Casey said of his truck. “You have, not a fear, but a respect for it. You don’t take risks. When you’re in a big manufacturing facility running big machinery you don’t push things to the limit.”

Safety was a large part of his career as a machinist. In the factory, Casey saw people lose fingers, limbs, and even their life around the machinery they used. It made him prioritize safety, and he’s carried that with him into the truck.

“I definitely have a healthy respect for the truck based on my experience seeing what machinery can do,” Casey said. 

Casey said he wanted to go into flatbedding because he wanted to stay active. He likes doing physical labor and hauling a flatbed lets him spend time working outside the truck.

“The couple hours a day outside the truck is good for you,” Casey said. “The fresh air. You meet the people. You don’t just back in, bump the dock and wait for a light to flash colors and drive away. I’ve met people all over the country and the physical part is what I like.”

Casey wants to reach a million safe-driving miles. After that, he’d like to transfer into the safety department.

“There’s still a lot of things that can be addressed as far as safety to make it safer for the driver and other people on the road,” he said. “I think that department carries a lot of weight as far as doing things the right way and the wrong way.”

Casey advise other rookies just starting out to treat trucking like a chess game. He says planning ahead is key to avoiding issues while over the road.

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“You want to know two or three moves ahead. You don’t want to end up in a problem,” Casey said.

The winner of the 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award will be announced during a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. 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.