After 20 years at sea, Top Rookie finalist becomes trucker

Daniel WaltonDaniel Walton

After spending 20 years at sea working in maritime transportation, Daniel Walton was ready to come off the water. He’d always been overseas, so he traded in one transportation job for another and took up trucking as a way to explore his country.

“I had spent so much time overseas that I’d never seen America. I truly had not traveled inside the United States very much,” Walton said.

He’s been in trucking for about a year now as a flatbed driver for Roehl Transport. Not only has he been able to explore the country from coast to coast, but he’s also found fast success in the trucking industry. He became a driver trainer four months ago and was recently announced as a finalist for the 2019 Mike O’Connell Award for Trucking’s Top Rookie. The award will be presented by Truckers News at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Aug. 22-24.

Living in close quarters on a ship helped prepare Walton for the trucking lifestyle. Trucking has actually provided him more freedom and flexibility, Walton says because he can pull over if he needs something and doesn’t have to pack for all contingencies like he had to on the ships. As a flatbedder, maritime transport also taught him relevant skills.

“Cargo securing is another one because I do flatbed driving. I’ve found that translated well. I understand a lot about how to keep things secure on a moving platform,” Walton said.

Walton became a driver trainer because he also wanted to be a part of other peoples’ journeys.

“I’ve had a really good time in a short period of time getting success and learning the systems at work here at Roehl so it’s nice to share that with people and help them get a foothold,” Walton said.

Walton, his wife, and their four kids live on the beach in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He’s a member of the Pass Christian Yacht Club and returns to the water in his downtime to sail.

“We like to get out and just have lots of fun down on the coast,” Walton said.

The Mike O’Connell Award for Trucking’s Top Rookie will be presented at the Great American Trucking Show Friday, Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. on the Truckers News Stage in Hall “A” of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. Registration for GATS is free online in advance of the show.

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The winner receives $10,000. They also receive a prize package worth $530 from the RoadPro Family of Brands, which includes a RoadKing Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headset, LUMAGEAR Headlamp, PowerDrive 1000 Watt Bluetooth Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter, BlackCanyon 64 oz. water bottle, BlackCanyon Large Duffle Bag, MobileSpec Qi Wireless Charging Mount, and RoadPro 12-Volt Soft Side Cooler. The winner also receives a ClearDryve 200, Rand McNally’s premium noise-cancelling 2-in-1 headphones with removable earpieces and adjustable boom mic and the current Deluxe Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas.

The other 10 finalists receive $1,000, a RoadPro Family of Brands MobileSpec Qi Charger, and Rand McNally’s ClearDryve 200.

The Top Rookie award is presented by Truckers News with the support of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, National Association Of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools, and 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. The award is named in his honor. He believed that honoring a top rookie driver helped show new drivers they are appreciated by the trucking industry.