Top Rookie finalist goes from welding to trucking

Aaron PrattAaron Pratt

Aaron Pratt went from building trailers to hauling them. Before he started driving flatbed for Maverick Transportation in January, Pratt was a welder who helped build trailers.

He would always see drivers coming through to pick up the trailers he helped build and when he started researching trucking, he realized it may be a good fit for him and a pay raise.

“Trucking has made a tremendous, positive impact on my life so far and I feel like it will get even better with time. It definitely hasn’t been an easy task getting started in this industry but it is paying off now that I’m slowly getting an understanding of how everything works. Being able to provide everything my family needs and more is most important to me and this industry lets me do that,” Pratt said.

Pratt 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.

His previous career welding trailers gave Pratt a leg up on navigating pre-trips and knowing the parts of trailers.

“It helped me understand the way air brakes worked and the components of the trailer,” Pratt said. “It helped me with the pre-trips and all that on the trailers.”

Pratt has enjoyed the freedom and travel that come along with a trucking career. He likes driving through wide-open areas like Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

“I think the freedom of going and seeing all kinds of different states and having your own schedule and your own freedom, to a certain point, and not having to go and work in a shop every day like I was doing before” is Pratt’s favorite part, he said. 

During his home time, Pratt spends his time with his wife and 2-year-old son, who is already showing an interest in his father’s truck.

“When I’m on home time I take my truck home to sweep it out and I bring him up in there to help,” Pratt said. “He’s in there pushing all of the buttons on the truck.”

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-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.