Women drivers among trucking winners in 2017

Updated Dec 27, 2017

It was a good year for many to have been a trucker in 2017. A number of women drivers were recognized for their accomplishments on and off the highways. Here’s many of the ones we reported on in the year gone by. Congratulations to all!

Murray ManuliakMurray Manuliak

A veteran driver for one of North America’s largest trucking companies was named the Company Driver of the Year for 2016. Murray Manuliak, who drives for Bison Transport, was honored March 28, during the awards banquet of the Truckload Carriers Association convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. The award is presented by the TCA and Truckers News. Also, Landstar Systems’ Gary Buchs was named 2016 Owner/Operator of the Year. That award is presented by TCA and Overdrive. Manuliak and Buchs each receive $25,000. Both Driver of the Year awards are sponsored by Cummins and Love’s Travel Stops.

Gregg Softy, a Stevens Transport driver and retired 28-year U.S. Army veteran, won the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes 2017 Transition Trucking Driving for Excellence award in December. His prize: a new T680 from Kenworth Truck Co.

Gary Plant, who has been driving for 41 years, was named National Driver of the Year by the American Trucking Associations’ Safety Management Council. He has driven for Walmart Transportation for 27 years.

Trucking’s Top Rookie Daniel ShonebargerTrucking’s Top Rookie Daniel Shonebarger

A Georgia flatbedder was named the 2017 Trucking’s Top Rookie award winner during a ceremony at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas in August. Daniel Shonebarger, from Columbus, won the award, which includes $10,000 and a prize package. The award is presented by Truckers News.

Richard Woods, a Mississippi-based owner-operator who hauls intermodal containers, won the 2017 Overdrive-Red Eye Radio’s Trucker Talent Search finale Friday at the Great American Trucking Show in August. A panel of judges named Woods the victor in the after a sing-off style competition with the other two finalists Michael Lochmiller and Terrance Mathis. Woods won $1,000 cash and a free recording session with AxleOutPro, who will also produce a music video featuring one of Woods songs.

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A military veteran and longtime truck driver from Billings, Montana was the 34th Goodyear Highway HeroDavid Webb, who drives for Jim Palmer Trucking, received the award during ceremonies March 23, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. He was recognized for performing life-saving CPR on a fellow driver who had suffered a heart attack while driving. Webb received $5,000, a commemorative ring, and trophy.

Bendix Grand Champion of the National Truck Driver Championships Roland Bolduc (right)Bendix Grand Champion of the National Truck Driver Championships Roland Bolduc (right)

A veteran driver from Tennessee was honored for his years of accident-free service to Landstar System, Inc. Three million mile safe driver and Landstar Roadstar Conrad “Ray” Price received the BCO Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony. During the award presentation, Landstar President and CEO Jim Gattoni called Price an “ambassador of safety” for the company. Price, who lives in Cookeville, Tennessee, leased on to Landstar in 1989 and has driven nearly 3.5 million safe miles for the company. In 2000, Price was named a Million Mile Safe Driver, then in 2006 he achieved 2 million safe miles. In 2012, Price was named a Landstar Roadstar and, in 2013, he reached 3 million safe miles on the road.

Roland Bolduc, a driver for FedEx Express from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts is the Bendix Grand Champion of the 2017 National Truck Driving Championships, which were staged by the American Trucking Associations in Orlando in August. Bolduc, who also took home the Sleeper Berth class title, has more than 1.9 million safe driving miles in his career and has worked in the trucking industry for more than 36 years, spending the last 23 years with FedEx Express.

Throughout the year truckers around the country competed in their state associations’ truck driving championships. Winners in nine main categories went to represent their states at the American Trucking Associations’ National Step Van & Truck Driving Championships, Aug. 8-12, in Orlando, Florida. The qualifying categories were: 3-Axle, 4-Axle, 5-Axle, Flatbed, Step Van, Sleeper, Straight Truck, Tanker and Twins. See all the winners. 

Carbon Express Inc. driver Todd Stine was named the National Tank Truck Carriers‘ 2016-2017 Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year at the group’s annual conference in Chicago in May. The award recognizes professional tanker drivers for their knowledge of the industry, dedication to safety, ability to communicate the industry’s messages and overall safe driving record. Stine is a 16-year veteran of the industry and has driven 1.6 million accident-free miles.

Rhonda Kitchen, of Salt Lake County, Utah, was named the 2017 Driver of the Year in the public sector by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). She is the first woman to receive this award. The award honors drivers “who operate their trucks in a safe and responsible manner, have outstanding performance records, and whose contributions have enhanced the overall image of the solid waste industry,” the association said. Kitchen is an equipment operator for Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District (WFWRD) and is a 17-year veteran of the industry.

Werner Enterprises driver Charles Endorf, of Omaha, Nebraska, was named the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s 2017 International Driver Excellence Award winner. Endorf has driven 5.5 million miles for Werner in the over 40 years he’s been with the company. 

Groendyke Transport of Enid, Oklahoma, and GLS Transport of Bedford Park, Illinois, were named the winners of the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Outstanding Safety Performance Awards. The awards recognize carriers who “embrace a safety culture from the drivers’ room to the board room.”

A veteran driver from Missouri won an award aimed at recognizing top women truck drivers. Stephanie Klang of Fidelity, Missouri, has been named winner of the 2017 Overdrive’s Most Beautiful contest. Klang has logged 3 million miles on the road in her 30 years driving for CFI. The 37-year veteran of the road is a former America’s Road Team Captain.

The Truckload Carriers Association recognized the 20 finalists in its Best Fleets To Drive For contest in partnership with CarriersEdge, and awarded two fleets as overall winners during its annual convention in Nashville. Bison Transport was named winner of the overall Best Fleets to Work For award in the large fleet category and Grand Island Express took home the honor in the small fleet category.

Daisy DelaneyDaisy Delaney

Three women truly were named Queens of the Road during the first Real Women In Trucking’s Lady Truck Driver Cruise. Two more are honored as Trucking Industry Trailblazers and several others were also recognized. Chosen Queens of the Road were: Daisy Delaney, Dee Sova and the late Adriesue “Bitzy” Gomez, who was represented by her daughter Delores Gomez. The first Trucking Industry Trailblazers were: Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott. Honorable mention recognition went to: Alison Morris, Candace Marley, Naza Silvia and Janet Steverson.

A company driver from New York state was recognized for his highway heroism. Daniel Sieczkarski of Rochester, who drives for Melton Truck Lines, Inc., was named the 2016 Highway Angel of the Year by the Truckload Carriers Association and its partner EpicVue. The award was handed out at the TCA’s Annual Convention at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. The incident for which Sieczkarski was honored took place April 18, 2016 during record-breaking flooding in and around Houston. He was driving on I-10 near Brookshire, Texas, when he spotted a tractor trailer parked sideways near a bridge. Floodwater was rising around the truck, but the driver was still behind the wheel. Realizing that something was wrong, he quickly moved his truck to a safe place and ran back to check out the scene and rescue the stranded driver.

Trucker Buddy International recognized its 2016 Outstanding Trucker Buddy and Outstanding Teacher award winners during a press conference at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky in March. Gary Killian, a driver for Cargo Transporters, was recognized for his partnership with teacher Rita Woodley and her class at Cotton Belt Elementary in York, South Carolina. 

Citizen Driver winnersCitizen Driver winners

TA/Petro recognized its five latest Citizen Drivers during a luncheon at the Mid-America Trucking Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville in March. This year’s winners, all of whom will have a TA/Petro travel center named in their honor, included:

  • Martin Ellis of Carl Junction, Missouri, who drives for A & E Express (TA in Rogers, Minnesota)
  • Idella Hansen of Camden, Arkansas who drives for IBI Secured Transport (TA in North Little Rock, Arkansas)
  • Evan Haston of North Richland Hills, Texas, who drives for National Carriers (TA Amarillo, Texas)
  • Dick Pingle of Plover, Wisconsin, who drives for D & G Transportation (TA Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Jim Wilcox of Farmington, New Mexico, who drives for Spiff Services (TA Albuquerque, New Mexico)

John Middleswarth was in the trucking industry for 37 years before disability forced him to turn over the keys to his company truck. Middleswarth, of Zebulon, North Carolina, was named Citizen of the Year from the Zebulon Chamber of Commerce for cleaning up the streets of his community.

The American Moving & Storage Association recently announced the winners of the 2016 Super Van Operator Awards, which recognizes the nation’s safest moving and storage company truck and van drivers. The honorees were recognized in a ceremony in February. The winners were:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Robert Westfall of Dover, Tennessee.
  • Household Goods: Christopher Loftus of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. 
  • Special Commodities: Ronal Kappellusch of Lake Havasu, Arizona.
  • Rookie of the Year: Daniel Lobbestael of Farwell, Michigan.

Republic Services recognized the winners of its first National Truck ROAD-EO competition held in March in Phoenix, where the company is headquartered.  The ROAD-EO involved Republic’s 50 top drivers and technicians — among 15,000 nationwide — who earned the opportunity to compete in the national championship by winning local and area competitions. First place winners in the following driver categories were:

  • Front-Load Driver Erik Ruiz from Las Vegas
  • Rear-Load Driver Edgar Pino-Lara from Fairfax, Virginia
  • Roll-Off Driver Raymond Shirey from Marion, Illinois
  • Side-Load Driver Nate Lutz from Fort Wayne, Indiana
Starlene HallStarlene Hall

After 21 years as a company driver for Celadon, Starlene Hall racked up nearly 3 million accident and citation-free miles. She’s also trained about 60 drivers. Celadon recently recognized Hall with an award honoring the company’s late founder, Steve Russell who died in 2016. 

Pilot Flying J today announced the winners of its third annual Road Warrior campaign. They were: Jacqueline Rocha of Acworth, Georgia, grand prize winner; Kevin Mailand of Lawrence, Kansas, second place; Charles Johnson of Dubuque, Iowa, third place. Rocha receives $10,000, Mailand receives $5,000 and Johnson receives $2,500.

The Missouri Division of Workplace Development recognized Averitt Express for its commitment to hiring military veterans. The Cookeville, Tennessee-based fleet was presented with the Flag of Freedom honor as part of its Show-Me Heroes program. .

A driver with the company for 12 years won the third annual Duane and Connie Kottke Distinguished Driver of the Year award given by Kottke Trucking of Buffalo Lake, Minnesota. Jeff Bass received the award during a program at the Jackpot Junction Casino and Hotel in Morton, Minnesota.