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 Strong Stage in Hall “A” of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
As a single father of two, Darell Philpott has always put his now 29-year-old daughter Porsha Martin and his 21-year-old son Jordan Philpott first. He spent 15 years working in a factory making windows to support them, but he knew once they graduated he wanted to find a different career. Window production was hard, thankless work, and he knew there had to be something better out there for him.
“Truck driving came into my head. Basically, a little voice said, what do you want to do? I said I want to travel the world and I want to make money, so truck driving came up,” said Philpott, who is from Martinsville, Virginia.
Philpott now hauls dry van for Epes Transport. He was recently named as a finalist for the Mike O’ Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award presented by Truckers News. He says he’s just thankful for the people at his company who supported him and helped him achieve this accomplishment.
“I’ve told them it’s not about me, it’s about them. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Philpott said
His previous career as a factory worker was grueling, but he does think it helped him develop the physical and mental toughness he needs as a truck driver. Trucking, though, has given him much more freedom and flexibility than he was able to have in factory work.
“I just always wanted to kind of be my own boss and have a little bit of control over my own life. I just wanted to just be happy to go to a job and work. I always wanted that dream,” Philpott said.
He says he’s achieved that goal by becoming a truck driver. He advises would-be truckers to take the time to vet companies and find a trucking company that’s a good match for them.
“This company, they put the driver first,” Philpott said about Epes Transport. “They really go out of their way for you. They show that they appreciate what you do out here on this road, and I really like that about them.”
The highway is a classroom and Philpott is an eager student.
“Everyday I learn something new and I’m always open to learning while I’m out here on the road,” Philpott said. “Like my trainer told me when you stop learning then you need to come off the road.”
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.