Listen closely and Thomas Blitch, a daily slip driver on a dedicated Walmart account for Werner Enterprises could be mistaken for one of the many drivers on the road today who talk mostly about being paid to see the country and to be free of a boss looking over their shoulder.
But before getting his CDL from Roadmaster and climbing in a truck cab, the Florida resident had a successful career as a naval officer just like his father, owned a company that operated several successful faith-based preschools, and worked for a time as an accountant in the southwest.
Today, aside from leaving his home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida each day to deliver dry groceries, paper goods and bottled water to Walmarts in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, Blitch is the author of a book about his father and is working a screen adaptation. And, he is a finalist for the 2019 Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award presented by Truckers News as well as a finalist for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award, which recognizes military veterans who are rookie truck drivers.
Blitch had been working as an accountant in Phoenix but said he “grew restless with the click-click-click all day long on the keyboard and the house in Florida was suffering from the neglect. My wife and I decided I should return to Florida and fix the house back up.” It was while back East that the idea of a career in trucking came to him.
“While making my cross-country trek, I noticed all the semi-trailers with placards advertising careers in the CDL-A business,” said Blitch. “This sounded like fun. When I got back to Jacksonville, I made some calls to various trucking companies, including one to Roadmaster, whom I had done business with when I owned the Florida preschools.”
He said he met with folks from Roadmaster and enrolled in their program for military veterans. He trained in Tennessee, went over-the-road with a trainer for several months and returned to Florida to finish his schooling. It was there he learned of the opportunity with Werner.
Since then, he said he likes “the freedom of being out in the country without the incessant phones call, emails, etc. Plus, the trucking community is, on the whole, very nice to work with. Most truckers (yes, there are some trolls) are very helpful and happy to share their advice and road stories.”
Blitch adds driving “provides me the opportunity to see the beautiful countryside in a relaxing way and at the same time work out the intricacies of my book and other endeavors. Pay should be higher for all drivers considering the sacrifices they make, particularly the time we are on the job but not driving and therefore not getting paid, and it can be considerable.”
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.
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-canceling 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.