Veteran driver wins $15,000 as Pilot's Road Warrior grand prize winner

Updated Oct 7, 2022
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David Sweetman of Wilmington, Delaware is this year's grand prize winner in the Pilot Company's ninth annual Road Warrior contest.

As such, Sweetman receives $15,000 and another $15,000 is donated in his honor to Trucker Buddy International. Sweetman is one of the original participants in Trucker Buddy International, which connects school classrooms with truckers who share stories from the road with students and teachers. 

The second place winner is Jeffrey Thomas  of Belews Creek, North Carolina. He received $10,000. 

For the first time in contest history, there was a tie for third place, selecting Greg Hepner of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Ron Rigdon of Tignal, Georgia, to win $5,000 each.

Sweetman, an Army veteran, has logged over 5 million safe miles during his 50-year career. 

"It is an honor to be able to give back to professional drivers and hear their incredible stories through our annual Road Warrior contest," said Jason Nordin, chief operator for Pilot Flying J. "We appreciate all the professional drivers out there who, like our winners, represent the heart, determination, and resiliency of trucking. Congratulations, David, Jeffrey, Greg, and Ron on being this year's winners – we thank you for the millions of safe miles, for being incredible stewards of our industry, and for your dedication to serving our country in many ways."

This year's contest attracted more than 2,000 entries.

Grand prize winner, Sweetman, is an Army Veteran with over 50 years and five million miles behind the wheel. 

Sweetman leases out his truck to Bennett Truck Transport as a power-only hauler for concerts, stage events, and equipment moves. He has also been a contributing writer and editor for various trucking publications for over 20 years. During the covid lockdown, Sweetman carried on, helping set up food banks, hauling generators for emergency hospitals, and helping move generators, showers, and water treatment units for FEMA after several natural disasters across the southern U.S.

"David is a great person with a tremendous set of core values while always being safety conscious," said Tom Woodall, president of Bennett DriveAway. "It is rare to find drivers with not only his qualities but who have driven over a million miles safely while out on the road. We are very blessed at Bennett to have David."

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Second place winner Thomas, is the independent owner-operator of Joly American Enterprises, LLC. He is a Marine veteran and driver trainer with over 35 years of experience.

Third place winner Hepner has spent 30 years and more than 3 million incident-free miles behind the wheel covering 38 states, 17 foreign countries, and three war zones and currently drives for Tidewater Transit Company.

The other third place winner Rigdon, is an Army veteran, father, and grandfather who operates a 53' race car hauler across the country for Parella Motorsports Holdings. Rigdon also started and operates Santa's Toy Run, a toy drive and fundraiser dedicated to providing toys and funds to children in need.