Longtime driver and Army veteran wins CVSA's excellence award

Updated Aug 12, 2022
Truck driver

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance today announced that this year’s International Driver Excellence Award (IDEA) recipient is Ruth McDonough, a specialized commercial motor vehicle driver responsible for hauling radioactive and nuclear loads with Hittman Transport Services.

During her 10-year tenure at Hittman, McDonough has traveled more than a million safe and incident-free miles. Furthermore, she has been driving large vehicles – in the military and as a commercial motor vehicle driver – for more than 40 years and about 4 million miles, all incident free, according to CVSA.

“I was absolutely shocked when I found out I won this award,” said McDonough. “I had tears in my eyes.”

McDonough’s trucking career began in 1979 when she enlisted in the U.S. Army. She received basic training and truck-driving training at Fort Dix in New Jersey as one of only a few women in her class. Upon completion of training, McDonough was assigned to the 181st Transportation Battalion 51st Transportation Company in Mannheim, Germany. McDonough supported transportation operations in Germany by delivering armored personnel carriers, ammunition, and general supplies. She earned the Army Achievement Medal for her time in Germany. She was then stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as part of the 839th Transportation Company where she received the Driver of the Year Award at the retirement ceremony of the unit.

After her military service, McDonough continued her transportation career by working as a professional truck driver. She worked at Tri-State Motor Transit Company, out of Joplin, Missouri, and was one of the first women drivers to work for companies such as Hershey Chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Mountain Valley Spring Water Company in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In December 2011, McDonough was joined Hittman Transport Services team and has been supporting the radioactive and nuclear field with Hittman ever since. Hittman Transport Services transports low-level radioactive waste and is one of the largest trucking companies for hauling nuclear fuel in the U.S. McDonough is one of few women who support the nuclear transport industry.

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When asked what she enjoys most about her profession, McDonough said she loves getting to travel and meet new people. She also really enjoys that she gets to transport specialized freight.

McDonough was nominated for this award by Tammy Summers, transportation compliance manager with Hittman Transport Services.

“Ruth’s attention to detail and dedication to safety have ensured that her driving record remains clean," said Summers. "Her extensive knowledge and outgoing personality continue to be a valuable asset to this company. Ruth’s pleasant demeanor and infectious laugh are welcomed each time she enters my office. She is truly a remarkable woman.”

With decades of driving experience and millions of crash-free miles driven safely on the road, McDonough has amassed valuable knowledge for ensuring she is safe on our roadways.

“I always keep my eyes moving and look ahead as far as I can,” said McDonough. “I check the ramps for incoming vehicles, I check around my vehicle, I check my mirrors. With open-bed freight, you check your mirrors a lot.

“I also like to look through the back windows and mirrors of the vehicles in front of me. You can observe a lot by looking inside the vehicles around you, such as the driver’s head bobbing, indicating that they might be sleepy or fatigued.”

When asked how she has managed to have so many incident-free miles for so long, she attributed prayer, the Lord and the gift of being very observant for her success.

In addition to her stellar safe-driving history, McDonough is also an active member of her church community and has traveled to Mexico, China, Tibet, and Ukraine on mission trips to help communities in need.

When she’s not on the road for work, McDonough likes to spend her time supporting her sister’s nursery and gardening business in Florida. She also enjoys traveling for fun.

“I’d like to thank the Lord; my parents Ray and Lois McDonough; my sister and brother-in-law Beverly and Doug McCain; and Tim and Julie Scott, my best friends and prayer warriors,” said McDonough. “I’d also like to thank my platoon sergeant in Germany, SFC Drost. He led tough tractor-trailer drills and maneuvers, including parallel blindside parking while wearing a gas mask. I believe his training early on shaped me as a driver to this day.”

McDonough added, “And, of course, I’d like to thank Tammy Summers for nominating me for this awesome award and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance for selecting me to receive the award.”

McDonough will receive her award next month at the CVSA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Rapid City, South Dakota. She will be presented with a crystal trophy and a check for $2,500 at the awards luncheon on Sept. 21.

CVSA recognizes the exceptional careers of professional commercial motor vehicle drivers and their commitment to public safety through its driver excellence award. The requirements to apply for this award are not easy to meet. Nominees must have at least 25 cumulative years of crash-free driving in a commercial motor vehicle with a clean driving record for the past three years, no felony convictions, no safety-related driving suspensions in the past three years and no driver violations in the past three years, excluding form and manner violations.

PrePass Safety Alliance sponsored this year’s IDEA.