Tennessee driver wins 2019 Trucking’s Top Rookie Award

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Updated Aug 27, 2019
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A 38-year-old Army veteran is the winner of the 2019 Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award presented by Truckers News.

Dwight Arnold, who lives in Clarksville, Tennessee and drives for Stevens Transport, was announced the award winner Friday at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. He wins $10,000, and prizes from the RoadPro Family of Brands and Rand McNally. Arnold also received $1,000 from his company for winning the award.

He said of winning and the cash prize, “It gives you a buffer so I can work harder and get more done, clear debt and prepare a better life for my family. It’s a dream come true.”

2019 winner of the Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award Dwight Arnold2019 winner of the Mike O’Connell Trucking’s Top Rookie Award Dwight Arnold

On a more practical level, Arnold said he will use some of the prize money to fix the dryer at home and buy babydolls for his daughter. He also said he is looking at buying a truck.

The other 10 finalists, the driver training school they attended and their employer include:

  • Aaron Pratt, Maverick Transportation, Maverick Transportation
  • Bradley Chislett, National Tractor Trailer School, H.O. Wolding
  • Daniel Walton, Roehl Transport, Roehl Transport
  • Jaron Grier, New England Tractor Trailer Training School, U.S.Xpress
  • Kandy Qualls, United Truck Driving School, Earl L. Henderson Trucking Co.
  • Matthew Hepburn, Miller-Motte College, Melton Truck Lines
  • Oday Alhousha, CDL Xpress School, Hogan Transport
  • Pamela Girton (Coffman) Tulsa Technology Center, Groendyke Transport
  • Thomas Blitch, Roadmaster Drivers School, Werner Enterprises, Inc.
  • Tyria Snow, Diesel Driving Academy, TMC Transportation
Finalist Kandy Qualls had a group of supporters at the awards eventFinalist Kandy Qualls had a group of supporters at the awards event

Each received $1,000 and a prize package.

In his contest entry, Arnold explained how even after just a short period of time in the driver’s seat, trucking has improved his life and what it could further mean to him:

“Trucking has given me the opportunity to make a better home dynamic for me and my family. With me being able to be home more than when I was in the service, our family bond has deepened more now than ever before.

“I already have my own small trucking business, so I’m hoping to start a fleet with four to five trucks. I also hope to build financial stability with my family, thanks to the financial success that I have had with trucking so far.”

Arnold also said trucking is an ideal career for veterans:

“I especially see this industry attracting more veterans. As a veteran myself, I know we like to work hard. Trucking is one of the few industries where the harder you work, the more success you can have.”

Arnold joined the Army in April of 2001 and served until August of 2014. During that time he served as an ammunition handler, ammunition specialist, recruiter, training event coordinator, and special unit transportation supervisor, reaching the rank of sergeant.

The top rookie also has some thoughts on a significant problem that beleaguers the trucking industry:

“The current state around hours (of service) makes the industry unattractive for many individuals and deters them from entering the industry. If drivers are given the opportunity to work more and not get penalized for delays that happen at customers, the driver shortage could end.” 

Arnold’s trainer at Stevens said his student stood out among the many drivers he has seen.

“I have been a trainer for Stevens Transport since 2005 and out of the many students I have trained over the years, Dwight is certainly one that stands out,” said Clint Booker, a trainer for Stevens. “Students go through six levels of training while on the truck with a trainer. During Dwight’s time training, he had an excellent attitude at all times. He focused on what he had to do and did not let the stress of the environment affect his performance.”

Booker said Arnold took on the responsibilities of a co-driver and not just a student. He remained involved with the loads he picked and delivered, and would research customers ahead of time so “he would know the ins and outs of where he was going to execute his mission.”

In addition to winning $10,000, Arnold also receives 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.