Editor’s Note: Between now and Friday, Aug. 24, Truckers News will profile the finalists in its annual Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award, which will be presented at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
H.O. Wolding company driver Matthew Donahue was a jack of all trades during his time in the Navy Seabees, but the one thing he never did was tractor-trailer driving. When he returned to civilian life, he often thought about getting his CDL. In 2017, he decided to make that goal a reality.
“In my Navy career, from 1989-1994, I had a lot of experience in the Navy Seabees with heavy equipment and driving big trucks, but never tractor-trailer and I’d always had getting a CDL on my mind,” Donahue said.
Donahue, who is from Weedsport, New York, attended National Trailer Trailer School in nearby Liverpool and signed on with H.O. Wolding, where he’s driven solo since last August. He hauls throughout the Northeast, with a lot of his loads being paper.
Donahue was recently announced as a finalist for the Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award presented by Truckers News. He said he was overwhelmed when he found out he’d been named as a finalist.
“I think it’s a validation that I’m doing my job out here and it makes you feel good. It makes you feel good that you got nominated. I’m honored to be nominated. It was a little overwhelming but to me it’s a validation that I’m doing my job properly out there,” Donahue said.
In the Seabees,Donahue was able to get comfortable working around heavy machinery and complicated equipment, which has helped him in his trucking career.
“In the Seabees, you’re basically cross-trained in a lot of different areas from electrical to plumbing to equipment operation,” he said.
He earned a lot of certifications and licenses in the military, but at the time they did not transfer to civilian life. He wanted to get a CDL because he felt it’s a versatile license.
“Every company out there is pretty much looking for drivers no matter what. I don’t think it’s so much turnover of drivers, but I do think it’s just the fact that with a lot of the Baby Boomers retiring, they need more and more safe, conscientious drivers out there that can do the job,” Donahue said.
His biggest priority as a driver is safety.
“I would say my biggest goal in trucking is, number one, being as safe as you possibly can. Make sure you’re out there doing your job the way you’re supposed to do it. Being alert, Being conscientious, being reliable on what you do. That’s really important to me,” Donahue said.
The Trucking Top Rookie award winner will receive $10,000 cash and a package of prizes. The remaining eight finalists will each receive $1,000 cash as well as additional prizes.
The winner will be announced during a ceremony on the America Strong stage in Hall “A” at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 at the Great American Trucking Show at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
The full list of finalist includes:
- James Bell – Stevensville, Montana; Jim Palmer Trucking; Sage Truck Driving School
- Platt Brabner – Coupland, Texas; TMC Transportation; Roadmaster Drivers School
- Adam Cobb – Deltona, Florida; Celadon Trucking; Sage Truck Driving School
- Matthew Donahue – Weedsport, New York; H.O. Wolding; National Tractor Trailer School
- David Drummond – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Melton Truck Lines; Allstate Careers
- Terrence Goodau – Springfield, Missouri; Tri-State Motor Transit; Midwest Technical Institute
- Larry Maser – McKinney, Texas; Stevens Transport; Stevens Training Academy
- Darrell Philpott – Martinsville, Virginia; Epes Transportation Systems; CDS Tractor Trailer Training
- Quinton Ward – Westville, Florida; Werner Enterprises; U.S Truck Driving School
Partnering with Truckers News in the search for Trucking’s Top Rookie 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
Sponsors giving prizes to the finalists include:
- RoadPro Family of Brands
- Rand McNally
The Trucking’s Top Rookie winner receives:
- $10,000 cash
- More than $1,000 worth of DAS Products merchandise including a BlueParrott B450XT headset, RoadPro sauce pan, Garmin Speak, Rand McNally tablet with GPS and dash cam, Plantronics earbuds, Black Canyon Hi-Impact gloves, Black Canyon canvas backpack, and a Road King 5640 CB radio and mic
- ClearDryve 200 two-in-one headset and stereo headphones and a Deluxe Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas from Rand McNally
- A 29 LX MAX CB radio and a Dash 2308 Super HD Dash Cam with iRadar from Cobra
- A custom plaque from Award Company of America
- Feature story in Truckers News
- Interview on Red Eye Radio Network with Eric Harley
The other eight finalists will receive:
- $1,000 cash
- $100 worth of DAS Products merchandise
- ClearDryve 200 two-in-one headset and stereo headphones from Rand McNally
- A Dash 2308 Super HD Dash Cam with iRadar from Cobra
- A custom plaque from Award Company of America
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 helped show new drivers they are appreciated by the trucking industry.