Driver returns to his ‘passion’ 8 years later

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Updated Aug 21, 2017
Daniel ShonebargerDaniel Shonebarger

Like many drivers, trucker Daniel Shonebarger always knew he wanted to be behind the wheel of a big rig. When he got his CDL eight years ago, however, his children were still young and the timing wasn’t right for him to be over the road.

So after six months, he gave up the wheel and worked in warehouses. Now, his kids are grown and Shonebarger has returned to the job he always wanted. He hauls flatbed for Melton Truck Lines and was recently named a finalist for Truckers News‘ 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award.

“I put it off until my wife was ready and the kids were older,” Shonebarger said. “It was something I always wanted to do. It’s a passion of mine.”

In his warehouse job, Shonebarger said he spent a lot of time working with shipping and receiving. He was a yard driver which had him do a lot of backing and maneuvering into tight spots. He went into warehousing because it was similar to the work he did while he was in the Navy. Shonebarger served in the Navy from the time he was 18 until he was 26. 

“That’s what I knew so that’s what I did,” he said. “What I really wanted to do was drive trucks.”

When he drove eight years ago, he was pulling a reefer. He knew this time around that he wanted something more physically active, so he went with flatbedding. He likes taking oversized and more difficult loads when he can.

“I always like a challenge. I always like taking the harder loads. Maybe going into an area, where maybe that load is legal, but where the going is crazy,” Shonebarger said.

Shonebargers says he pays attention to detail, which has helped him as a flatbedder.

“I’m very particular and organized. I’m very on point with everything, and I get annoyed if I’m not. That’s just the kind of person I am,” he said.

Because of all the different types of load securement in flatbedding, those organization skills get put to good use.

“Every load has to be secured differently or you have to use a different type of securement or tarps. It’s very diverse and that attention to detail and organization has definitely helped me out a lot. I guess I learned a lot of that in the military, as well,” Shonebarger said. 

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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.