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. The awards ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 on the America Stong Stage in Hall “A” of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Quinton Ward spent a lot of time around heavy equipment as a tank mechanic in the U.S. Army, so when he became a civilian and was looking for employment, trucking seemed like an obvious choice.
“The (Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment) program allowed me to go to training and paid for me to go to training for truck driving. It just kind of fit,” Ward said. “Because of the skill set that I had and where it would apply in the civilian world, it worked really well for the trucking industry.”
Trucking wasn’t just a convenient option for Ward, though. He was also drawn to the open road because of his love for adventure. He’s already been able to drive all 48 continental states and nine Canadian provinces.
“There’s still a lot more to see, but it’s just the idea of being able to go and your views change and your environment changes. Your weather patterns change. There’s just so much change,” Ward said. “I know it sounds redundant, but it just comes down to having the opportunity to see the country that I once swore to defend.”
“It validates what I’ve been doing and it validates what I’ve learned,” Ward said about being a finalist.
Ward has had an eventful first year as a trucker. He was selected by Werner to represent the company earlier this year at a White House event discussing taxes. He says he was honored that his company chose him to represent them despite him being a rookie driver.
“It was a tremendous honor to be at the White House. It was even more of an honor for Werner to decide that I represented their values. Especially a driver with the year I’ve had being a rookie, it was a huge thing to do that and be asked to represent them and speak,” Ward said.
Ward’s goals for his trucking career involve becoming a trainer, an owner-operator, and making it to Alaska.
“It’s always that American dream to go out and work hard and make a future for yourself. I think the industry’s not going anywhere and it’s steadily growing and there’s always going to be a need for the transportation industry,” Ward said. “My goal would be to finally get to Alaska, for sure, and just grown into an owner-operator.”
The Trucking’s 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.