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Mark Dennis and Todd Webber are building successful futures in the trucking industry. Mark, with 32 years of experience driving trucks professionally, has recently helped his fellow veteran and Transport America driver, Todd, fulfill his dream of becoming a driver instructor for Transport America.

Mark, 57, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years before becoming a truck driver in 1986. He has spent the last 12 years with Transport America and became a student driver instructor a year ago.

Todd, 34, became a chef in 1998 after graduating from high school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2006, and served in the First Air Division for four years. He was honorably discharged in 2010, and returned to his position as a chef until 2016 when the restaurant he worked for hit a rough patch. He decided it was time to try something new.

So, after obtaining his CDL, he found Transport America online. After training, he became a solo OTR truck driver with the intent of becoming a student driver instructor (SDI).

“Becoming an instructor seems like a natural fit,” Todd says. “I was a squad leader in the Army and managed a kitchen as a chef.”

“Mark has been guiding me through the instructor training process,” Todd says (at the time of this interview). “Right now, I’m driving a truck so I can understand the ins-and-outs of training firsthand.

(Note: Todd successfully completed the first step of becoming a driver instructor after completing his training with Mark. Todd is now instructing Pro Plus drivers for Transport America.)

Transport America requires instructors to go through a rigorous training process, with plenty of time behind the wheel.

“Transport America wants instructors to be teaching from experience,” Mark says. “Driving trucks can be dangerous work, so our instructors need to understand how to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

“Teaching someone how to drive a truck isn’t like training someone for a regular civilian job,” he explains. “Truck drivers need to be training constantly, because there’s always something new to learn.”

Mark and Todd agree that their shared experience in the military has made the training process easier and strengthened their budding friendship.

“Mark explains things to me using military terms,” Todd says. “That makes everything easier to understand.”

“Both being vets, Todd and I have a lot of common ground,” Mark says. “We clicked right away, which was a great thing in training a person for a new job.”

“The training was easier because we both approach situations from a military point of view,” Todd says. “Neither of us are ever willing to give up.”

“Veterans make some of the best drivers-in-training. They understand that each job requires different skill sets,” Mark explains.

“Veterans also are used to long workdays and intense training routines,” he adds. “The transition is a lot easier for them.”

“But whether the driver-in-training is a veteran or not, they are someone else’s son, brother, mother or sister,” Mark finishes. “Every driver needs to know how to get home safely, and I’m here to teach them.”

As a matter of fact, Mark has found that his favorite part of working in the trucking industry is teaching new drivers how to safely operate the vehicles and manage stressful situations.

“It took me 32 years to find the part of trucking I like best,” Mark says. “I get my rewards by teaching. I’m not just handing out textbooks, I’m sharing my own experiences and making an impact on others.”

“I love it when former students give me a call,” he adds. “That way, I know they’re driving safely and doing well.”

Mark and Todd have a few recommendations for anyone thinking of becoming a truck driver or a truck driving instructor – veteran or civilian.

“Don’t take this job with a grain of salt,” Todd says. “Treat it like a deployment. It’ll be challenging at times, but it will also be rewarding.”

“Go with Transport America,” Mark adds. “Todd and I have been treated very well. Their staff is top-notch, and the equipment is safe and high quality. In 12 years, I’ve never found a reason to want to go anywhere else.”

“Transport America treats us like family,” he explains. “They understand that things happen at home, and that you aren’t a robot.”

Transport America sets itself apart from other trucking companies by stressing the importance of respect.

“The staff uses our names when they speak to us, not our employee numbers,” Mark says. “Transport America drivers are also well-respected by customers.”

“Transport America has given us every tool and opportunity we need to thrive in the civilian workforce,” he says. “But, like any other job, you need to also get out there, work hard and learn for yourself.”

The post Fellow Veterans Find Success and Friendship with Transport America appeared first on Transport America.

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Transport America Student Driver Instructor (SDI) Glenn Williams recently put his truck driving skills to the test and came out big, winning Rookie of the Year.

Despite a challenging course and experienced opponents, Glenn took to the Minnesota Trucking Association’s annual truck driving championship like a fish.

“It was so much fun,” Glenn laughs, “I can’t believe I never tried it before.”

What may be more funny is that Glenn is no rookie, but an experienced driver who has been driving for Transport America for the last 19 years and currently serves as a full-time SDI providing training to drivers just out of trucking school. But, because it was the first time he competed in the competition, he was considered a rookie.

To qualify for the Minnesota Trucking Association’s Truck Driving Championship, a driver needs to be endorsed by their trucking company, and have driven the past 12 months without any incidents, such as traffic violations or accidents. Transport America is among more than a dozen carriers that compete each year in the annual competition. The winners of the individual truck driving categories are eligible to compete against more than 430 other truck drivers from all over the United States in the ATA’s National Truck Driving Championships & National Step Van Driving Championships scheduled to take place Aug. 15 – 18, 2018 at the Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Certainly Glenn competed head-to-head with other drivers in terms of his knowledge of trucking, his ability to handle his truck, and his in-depth understanding of safety violations. But what earned him Rookie of the Year honors was his approach to his work – that same approach that Glenn has used to drive more than 2.5 million miles without a traffic violation or accident.

He’s dedicated to safety and to his family.

“I’ve been married for 24 years, with three kids and seven grandchildren,” Glenn says. “I drive as well as I do because, at the end of the day, I just want to get back to them. To me, that’s all that matters in life.”

“Instead of saying what drivers should or should not do,” Glenn adds, “I shared my personal approach to driving – I talked about what I want and expect for myself as a driver.”

After it was announced that Glenn was named Rookie of the Year for the competition, one of the judges came up to him and said, “You won it because you personalized your driving to yourself and your family.”

“When I’m driving and I see a four-wheeler passing me, I imagine that it’s my wife or my daughter behind the wheel, or that my grandkids buckled up in that car,” Glenn says. “That’s my secret to driving safely.”

Competing drivers must navigate several stages in the competition, including a driving course, a written test and, for the first-time competitors, such as Glenn, an interview. The drivers also are judged on their knowledge of safety standards and ability to drive and park with precision.

Despite the challenges of the competition, Glenn reports that the atmosphere of the event is incredibly positive and nearly indescribable.

“In real life, sometimes drivers don’t always help each other out,” Glenn says. “But here in the competition, drivers from different companies will cheer you on and shake your hand.”

Glenn offers several pieces of wisdom to share after more than 20 years of experience driving trucks safely. He hopes to pass on what he knows about the trucking industry as both a driver and an instructor, and to continue making an impact on younger drivers.

First, Glenn encourages new drivers to stay positive.

“I start every day with a smile,” he adds. “I try to teach my students that a bad mood just makes a stressful situation all that much worse.”

And second, Glenn advises new drivers to be willing to continuously learn and be committed to the job.

“We’re training you to succeed, not to fail,” Glenn explains. “If you’re open to hearing what we have to say, you’ll be a much better driver because of it.”

“When I’m training new drivers, I won’t release them from training until I trust them to drive in the lane next to my daughter,” he adds. “That’s a high bar, so be patient with the process and be committed to the job.”

With years of experience already under his belt, Glenn looks forward to training the newest generation of truckers for Transport America and passing on his focus on safety. He’s also looking forward to competing in the championship and driving his next million miles safely.

The post Transport America Student Driving Instructor Wins Big at 2018 Minnesota Truck Driving Championships appeared first on Transport America.

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Trucking isn’t a job; it’s an adventure.  Taking you places that you may only have dreamed about.

Nobody knows this better than the Transprt America driving team of Scott and Peggy Braam of Crystal, Minnesota.

Peggy and Scott haven’t always been a team, nor have they always been truck drivers. In fact, they both started their careers in very different areas before joining the trucking industry.

“I was a farm boy from Mankato, Minnesota,” Scott, age 58, says. “And after four years serving in the Navy, I took an office job working with computers. I did network administration and programming for 24 years before I decided to take my career in a different direction.”

“I was never comfortable in an office,” he explains. “I just came to realize that I grew up working outside and driving farm equipment, so going into truck driving felt right.”

For Peggy, her dreams of seeing the country pushed her to make a career change.

“After graduating from North High in Minneapolis, I worked in a factory assembling circuit boards for many years,” Peggy, age 60, adds. “I was a dislocated worker for some time before deciding to go to trade school.”

“Ever since I was a little girl, I remember liking trucks. And at times, I dreamed about being a truck driver,” Peggy says. “I’ve always wanted to drive and see the country – and then one day, I realized, you can actually get paid to do that!”

So how did Scott and Peggy eventually meet?

As it turns out, fate would eventually lead Scott and Peggy to the same classroom at the Dakota County Technical College located in Rosemount, Minnesota, in 2003, where they would learn about truck driving.

“I thought he was kind of cute,” Peggy laughs.

It was after one of those classes that Peggy got up the nerve to ask Scott about his plans after he earned his CDL.

“She even asked me about team driving during that first conversation!” says Scott.

Conversations over coffee eventually led to some dates, and several months later, Peggy and Scott got married. They started driving as a team for Transport America, the first and only trucking company that they’ve ever driven for in January 2004.

“I think that husband-wife pairs can make some of the best driving teams,” Peggy says. “We already know each other, and we can lean on each other for support.”

“We get the perfect amount of quality time,” she says. “We’ll go out to restaurants on the road, fuel up, and switch spots.”

Peggy and Scott have been traveling all around the country for Transport America, finding their favorite places and living their dream together.

“Driving a truck has its ups and downs, but there’s so much out there. If you ever find yourself in Texas, be sure to go to the Saltgrass Steak House in College Station,” Scott says. “I’d never have known that it was out there if I didn’t drive a truck.”

“I’d never been out east until we started driving,” Peggy says. “I love Pennsylvania – the hills and trees are gorgeous. But driving through Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in the summer is my favorite.”

“If we didn’t drive, I would never have been able to see a palm tree or mists on the mountains out west,” she adds. “We get to see a different sunrise every day.”

Exploring the country together from the front seat of their truck has allowed Scott and Peggy to live the exciting life they had dreamed about.

“It’s not like doing the same thing each day at an office job. You’re never in the same place,” Scott says.

“Last fall, I worked at the Transport America support center for a few weeks after I broke my arm,” Peggy recalls. “I didn’t mind the paperwork, but that time was enough to show me that driving a truck is where I belong.”

“You’ll never be 100% happy with any job,” Scott says. “But the thing is, driving a truck isn’t a job – it’s a way of life.”

So what advice would Scott and Peggy give to other couples thinking about embarking on their own adventure as truck drivers?

First, “Be patient and plan,” Peggy says. “Look at your route and watch the weather.”

“We’re very lucky to be at Transport America,” Scott says. “They let you route yourself and pull over when driving is unsafe – no questions asked.”

“Driving in bad weather doesn’t bother me, but Transport America has treated us with respect when we do shut down to avoid dangerous driving conditions,” he adds.

“Our dispatcher has been great,” Scott adds. “She answers any question we have, but otherwise, she’ll let us do what works for us.”

Second, Scott advises, “Put your heart into it. Don’t sit around.”

“As a team, we realized very early on that to make a decent living at truck driving, you need to keep the wheels moving, that’s why we usually go out for two to three months at a time, and then come back home for a few weeks to take care of all of the stuff that anyone needs to do.”

“When we’re out on the road and we want to see something, we stop and we just Uber it,” adds Peggy. “We just want to soak it all in.”

Third, Scott and Peggy recommend driving with Transport America over a different trucking company.

“You really can’t go wrong with Transport America,” Scott says. “Especially when it comes to its hazmat endorsement.”

“The laws that cover carrying substances like paint, fire extinguishers, and engine oil can be complex,” Scott explains. “But there’s always someone in at Transport America to support you with working through the regulations.”

“You’re never alone,” he adds.

Transport America also gives Peggy and Scott the freedom to travel when they want, and how they want.

“Transport America gives us flexibility in how long we’re out on the road and when we’d like to visit home,” Peggy says

“We always get the bug to get back to traveling after two to three weeks at home, and Transport America understands that,” Scott adds.

“At the end of the day, our mortgage payment keeps us going like anyone else,” Scott says. “But driving a truck is in our blood – it’s our way of life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The post Minnesota couple hits the road for lifetime of adventure appeared first on Transport America.

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The trucking industry is changing, and no one knows that better than Sam and Pam Sutherland.

Sam started his trucking career 40 years ago, hauling LTL throughout the oil fields of Louisiana. From there, he worked his way up to becoming a manager, a dispatcher, a safety director, and finally, the owner-operator of his own truck, which he and his wife Pam drive for Transport America.

“I even tried dispatch for a year, but it wasn’t for me,” he continues. “But you can’t help but respect someone, such as your dispatcher, who does something that you have attempted. I learned a lot of lessons that year.”

Sam continued to climb the ladder in the trucking industry, eventually earning a safety director position with another trucking company with just a high school degree.

“Experience was more important in that case,” Sam explains. “I realized then, with just a high school degree, that I could make good money without a college degree.”

After working as safety director for four years, Sam was able to apply all of his skills to becoming an owner-operator. He bought his own truck, hitting the open roads as his own boss with his own goals. He has been driving as an owner-operator for the last 17 years; the last 11 of which have been with Transport America.

In fact, trucking has been so good for Sam and Pam that they are planning to retire early. Sam, at 59, and Pam, at 58, plan to call it a career within the next year and settle down near Charleston, South Carolina, where they are in the final stages of building a new home.

Mile by mile, Pam and Sam have been building their dream. They help each other out on the road and have lots of quality time to spend together, all while building a comfortable life for themselves and their family.

“We’re debt-free and we have a brand new home in South Carolina,” says Sam. “Simply put, we’ve earned the peace of mind we’ve always wanted. And that’s important to us. When you reach our age, every day counts.”

As an owner-operator, Sam is able to make sure that his 40 years of hard work and experience don’t go to waste. And Transport America has given him the flexibility and respect he needs to be successful and support him and Pam well into the future.

“We’re with Transport America for a reason,” Sam says. “As an owner-operator, they have the program that we, as owner-operators, feel we can be financially successful with.”

After seeing an advertisement for Transport America in a trucking magazine 11 years ago, Sam and Pam gave them a call.

“We were really impressed by that first conversation,” Sam says. “We realized that Transport America was serious in making things work for us.”

“At times, I’m asked by other truck drivers – especially company drivers – if I like the company that I’m driving for,” adds Sam. “When I say that Pam and I have been driving with Transport America for 11 years, that about says it all (because we all know that that’s unheard of anymore in the world of trucking). I like to see the reaction in their faces; especially their jaws dropping.”

The first thing that Sam noticed was Transport America’s common-sense policies, which set the company apart from other trucking companies.

“At other companies, there’s a total lack of respect for truck drivers and their personal lives,” says Sam. “From day one, we’ve always felt respected by Transport America.”

Transport America has been making changes to the trucking industry, they give drivers the freedom to make their own calls about when it’s safe to drive. Transport America also is dedicated to creating a more respectful environment for drivers, which is clear to Sam based on a lifetime of experience in the trucking industry.

For example, when Sam had some issues several years ago, he was pleasantly surprised when Katie Talcott, Transport America’s Vice President of Enterprise Driver Relations, personally called him to work things out.

“I’ve never met her, but I had an issue and she actually cared. You won’t find a negative word about her from anyone who knows her,” Sam says.

So what advice would Sam give to owner-operators thinking about making a move, or company drivers who’ve dreamed about becoming an owner-operator?

First off, Sam stresses the importance of finding a trucking company that’s a good fit. Be sure that you want to be there, ask questions, and write down what the company tells you. “Hold them accountable to the promises they make,” he insists.

Second, Sam advises, “Learn the business.” This means understanding that whether you’re an owner-operator or a company driver, you are responsible for setting your goals and committing to keeping your expenses down to enhance your personal profits.

Third, “keep the wheels moving,” Sam says. “Pam and I usually run five or six weeks at a time, throughout the entire country, to obtain the maximum possible mileage for the time we’re out on the road.”

And fourth, when buying a truck, Sam recommends buying used and treating it like a John Deere: as a piece of equipment rather than a home on wheels. “Look at the specs and look hard,” Sam says. “And avoid the chrome and all of the other trinkets that some drivers put into their vehicles.”

All of these habits have allowed Sam and Pam to achieve the financial independence that they’ve always dreamed of.

“Pam loves to fish,” Sam says. “We’ve got a boat and three acres in the county. There’s going to be no shortage of things for us to do when we finally settle down.”

“We’d like to be local missionaries,” he adds. “We want to keep being helpful to our neighbors. Show up with a baked apple pie and play cards.”

In respecting Sam and Pam, Transport America have helped to make their dream of freedom come true.

The post Forty Years in a Rapidly Changing Trucking Industry Makes Couple’s Dreams Come True appeared first on Transport America.

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The trucking industry is changing, and no one knows that better than Sam and Pam Sutherland.

Sam started his trucking career 40 years ago, hauling LTL throughout the oil fields of Louisiana. From there, he worked his way up to becoming a manager, a dispatcher, a safety director, and finally, the owner-operator of his own truck, which he and his wife Pam drive for Transport America.

“I even tried dispatch for a year, but it wasn’t for me,” he continues. “But you can’t help but respect someone, such as your dispatcher, who does something that you have attempted. I learned a lot of lessons that year.”

Sam continued to climb the ladder in the trucking industry, eventually earning a safety director position with another trucking company with just a high school degree.

“Experience was more important in that case,” Sam explains. “I realized then, with just a high school degree, that I could make good money without a college degree.”

After working as safety director for four years, Sam was able to apply all of his skills to becoming an owner-operator. He bought his own truck, hitting the open roads as his own boss with his own goals. He has been driving as an owner-operator for the last 17 years; the last 11 of which have been with Transport America.

In fact, trucking has been so good for Sam and Pam that they are planning to retire early. Sam, at 59, and Pam, at 58, plan to call it a career within the next year and settle down near Charleston, South Carolina, where they are in the final stages of building a new home.

Mile by mile, Pam and Sam have been building their dream. They help each other out on the road and have lots of quality time to spend together, all while building a comfortable life for themselves and their family.

“We’re debt-free and we have a brand new home in South Carolina,” says Sam. “Simply put, we’ve earned the peace of mind we’ve always wanted. And that’s important to us. When you reach our age, every day counts.”

As an owner-operator, Sam is able to make sure that his 40 years of hard work and experience don’t go to waste. And Transport America has given him the flexibility and respect he needs to be successful and support him and Pam well into the future.

“We’re with Transport America for a reason,” Sam says. “As an owner-operator, they have the program that we, as owner-operators, feel we can be financially successful with.”

After seeing an advertisement for Transport America in a trucking magazine 11 years ago, Sam and Pam gave them a call.

“We were really impressed by that first conversation,” Sam says. “We realized that Transport America was serious in making things work for us.”

“At times, I’m asked by other truck drivers – especially company drivers – if I like the company that I’m driving for,” adds Sam. “When I say that Pam and I have been driving with Transport America for 11 years, that about says it all (because we all know that that’s unheard of anymore in the world of trucking). I like to see the reaction in their faces; especially their jaws dropping.”

The first thing that Sam noticed was Transport America’s common-sense policies, which set the company apart from other trucking companies.

“At other companies, there’s a total lack of respect for truck drivers and their personal lives,” says Sam. “From day one, we’ve always felt respected by Transport America.”

Transport America has been making changes to the trucking industry, they give drivers the freedom to make their own calls about when it’s safe to drive. Transport America also is dedicated to creating a more respectful environment for drivers, which is clear to Sam based on a lifetime of experience in the trucking industry.

For example, when Sam had some issues several years ago, he was pleasantly surprised when Katie Talcott, Transport America’s Vice President of Enterprise Driver Relations, personally called him to work things out.

“I’ve never met her, but I had an issue and she actually cared. You won’t find a negative word about her from anyone who knows her,” Sam says.

So what advice would Sam give to owner-operators thinking about making a move, or company drivers who’ve dreamed about becoming an owner-operator?

First off, Sam stresses the importance of finding a trucking company that’s a good fit. Be sure that you want to be there, ask questions, and write down what the company tells you. “Hold them accountable to the promises they make,” he insists.

Second, Sam advises, “Learn the business.” This means understanding that whether you’re an owner-operator or a company driver, you are responsible for setting your goals and committing to keeping your expenses down to enhance your personal profits.

Third, “keep the wheels moving,” Sam says. “Pam and I usually run five or six weeks at a time, throughout the entire country, to obtain the maximum possible mileage for the time we’re out on the road.”

And fourth, when buying a truck, Sam recommends buying used and treating it like a John Deere: as a piece of equipment rather than a home on wheels. “Look at the specs and look hard,” Sam says. “And avoid the chrome and all of the other trinkets that some drivers put into their vehicles.”

All of these habits have allowed Sam and Pam to achieve the financial independence that they’ve always dreamed of.

“Pam loves to fish,” Sam says. “We’ve got a boat and three acres in the county. There’s going to be no shortage of things for us to do when we finally settle down.”

“We’d like to be local missionaries,” he adds. “We want to keep being helpful to our neighbors. Show up with a baked apple pie and play cards.”

In respecting Sam and Pam, Transport America have helped to make their dream of freedom come true.

The post Forty Years in a Rapidly Changing Trucking Industry Makes Couple’s Dreams Come True appeared first on Transport America.

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How do you sum up a career?

That was the question for Herb Windl, a Transport America driver who retired from the company last fall after 28 years as an over-the-road solo driver.

Herb launched his career as a professional truck driver at the ripe age of 50 years old, after he spent more than 30 years as a dairy farmer. Now, at 78, he’s looking forward to spending time with his wife, Bee, whom he married about two-and-a-half years ago, and working on his 35-acre farm near Sullivan, Wisconsin.

“The only reason I retired is because I didn’t want to miss retirement,” says Herb. “Bee is going to retire, too. She’s in the process of selling her dress alteration business in Fort Atkinson.”

By the way, Bee just turned 100-years-old and runs Berdine’s Stitchery, a small business that employs three other seamstresses.

While Herb misses his daily routine of driving for Transport America throughout the Midwest, he’s thinking about a different type of travel – visiting relatives in Texas and Arizona and just relaxing.

Back in the early 1990s, one of Herb’s two sons took over the family dairy farm and encouraged Herb to consider truck driving, which he did.

Herb started his career with a another carrier then switched to a local company, Robert Hanson Trucking, out of Darien, Wisconsin, which would eventually be purchased by Transport America.

“I went from being a driver for a company with 200 drivers to working for Transport America, which had more than 1,000 professional drivers at the time,” says Herb.

“I’ve always enjoyed driving for Transport America,” Herb adds. “They always treated me very well. And their commitment to safety is second to none. They respected me by allowing me to be the captain of my ship and to pull over when I felt driving conditions were not safe.”

It’s that dedication to safety that allowed Herb to reach his first 1 million miles driven safely in the early 2000s, and 2 million miles in 2010. He was just 40,000 miles away from earning 3 million miles when he had a minor driving incident on I-90 near Janesville.

“I hate that you have to start all over,” says Herb. “But I get it. That’s why it’s so hard to achieve.”

Lessons Learned

As he looks back at his career, Herb says there are some lessons he’s learned that he’d like to share with younger drivers, such as his sons Jeff Windl, and Andy Windl, both truck drivers.

First, realize that professional driving is a lifestyle.

“It’s a good life if you like it,” he says, “but you have to like to drive and you have to accept the fact that you’re going to be away from home.”

Second, be well organized and take your time to make sure your truck is operating well.

“I take safety really seriously,” says Herb. “Always take your time. Leave early so you don’t have to rush, and take that extra moment or two to make sure your truck and trailer are working the way they’re supposed to.”

Third, work closely with your fleet leader.

“It’s important to have good communications with your fleet leader,” he adds. “I don’t like waiting around, or not being home when I need to be. That’s why it’s important to be clear about what you need so your fleet leader can help you.”

“I enjoyed my time as a professional driver at Transport America.” said Herb. “I always appreciated their commitment to safety and they got me the miles I needed to earn a good paycheck”. “I really enjoyed that chapter of my life and am enjoying this new chapter too.
 

The post Lessons From the Road: Herb Windl Reflects on 28 Years of Truck Driving appeared first on Transport America.

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To Ken Kellogg, named 2017 OTR Driver of the Year by Transport America, it all comes down to respect.

Respecting your body and mind.

Respecting your time and that of the customer.

Respecting your truck.

Respecting the road and fellow truck drivers.

And earning that respect, too.

In the ten years since he earned his CDL, Ken has gained a deep respect for his job, his fellow employees at Transport America (the only company he’s driven for), and the trucking industry.

“I have deep respect for this job and for this industry,” he says. “Over time, I’ve learned many lessons that have helped me become the professional driver who I am today. I was shocked to be named Driver of the Year. There are so many drivers who are deserving of this award who work for Transport America.”


At 57, Kellogg, a resident of Raymond, Illinois, was honored as Driver of the Year for a number of reasons – on-time pick-up and delivery, no driving citations, a clean record of roadside inspections, his professionalism, and most of all, his dedication to his profession and his can-do attitude.

For Ken, he never dreamed of being named Driver of the Year. His big goal was to reach 1 million miles safely driven. Shortly after being honored by the company at the Driver of the Year ceremony in Transport America’s headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota, Ken learned he had reached his goal and has now driven 1 million miles safely.

So what is Ken’s version of what it takes to reach this level of professionalism?

“The key to being a successful driver, in my mind, is to study your schedule and make the most of every minute. I pride myself on being precise,” Ken says. “Practically speaking, that means taking the extra time to check all of your equipment to make sure everything is working properly. Getting out of your truck and taking a look when you’re backing up. Being mindful of driving conditions. Looking ahead down the road to spot problems before they happen. Avoiding distractions. Being focused. Respecting your role as a professional driver in keeping our roads safe for all.”

An over-the-road driver for Transport America, Ken has been married for 38 years to his wife Carol and are the proud parents of one daughter and two grandchildren. They live on a seven-acre wooded lot about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.

The road to becoming a driver began 10 years ago when Ken felt the tug to make a career change.

Starting as an industrial insulator, for 25 years Ken worked in a number of roles within the California construction industry building water plants, power plants, airplane hangers, etc. A native of San Pablo (San Francisco Bay area), he and his wife Carol most recently lived in Dixon, California (Sacramento area).

A little over 10 years ago, a number of factors converged to change Ken’s career path. His parents and those of his wife passed away. Working in the elements, especially hot, blistering days, every day became tiring. And the opportunity to sell their home and move to the Midwest near Carol’s relatives opened up.

While he wasn’t dissatisfied with his career in construction, he wasn’t excited about the future either.

“After we sold our house and moved to Illinois I decided to just take a year off and chill,” Ken says. “I worked on our lot and our home and being in the country and away from the city for the first time in my life, cleared my head.”

That’s when Ken decided to give truck driving a try. And, no surprise, he enjoyed it.

“I’ve always had a thing for trucks,” he says. “I don’t know why. There’s no trucking blood in our family. I just knew that it was something that I wanted to give a try.”

After obtaining his CDL, Ken researched a number of companies and went to work for a flatbed company based in Oklahoma.

“When I was recruited, I told them that I wanted to be home every weekend to see my wife,” says Ken. “When I went to their orientation session, they said it was going to be every two to three weeks. So I left and went back to looking. That’s when I discovered Transport America and I haven’t looked back since.”

Making a mid-life career change can be tough for anyone, but Ken has made the shift with relative ease, with the help of Transport America.

“Transport America has been a great company to work for,” says Ken. “I have a wonderful fleet leader – Marv Stoltz – out of the Eagan, MN. I really appreciate the company’s focus around safety – safety is number one. They say you’re the captain of your own truck and if the conditions are such that it’s unsafe to drive, they say it’s okay to pull over to a safe location. You make the call. I like that attitude.”

“But the one thing I admire and appreciate the most about Transport America is their open-door policy,” he adds. “They respect us drivers by encouraging us to get out of our trucks and come in through the doors and meet with the company’s leaders. They’re willing to listen to us – like real human beings. And they realize that we have a life outside of driving the truck.”

So what does it take to be driver of the year?

“I think it’s about respecting yourself,” Ken says. “Getting enough sleep so you’re alert while you’re driving, eating healthy, exercising, talking with your fleet leader so you know exactly where you’re going and when to be there, and keeping your truck clean.”

“It’s a big lifestyle change,” he adds. “You have to have the right mindset to make it work. It’s a mindset of respect.”

“I know Transport America and my Fleet Leader respect me as a professional driver but to be the best driver possible you need to also respect yourself and the road.” adds Ken.

The post From Construction to Professional Truck Driving: Ken Kellogg, Transport America’s 2017 Driver of the Year appeared first on Transport America.

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Imagine yourself sitting in a large, endless room of cubicles with fluorescent lighting overhead answering one customer call after another. And for 23 years, you’d look out the window on your way to the kitchenette dreaming about the places you’d love to go.

Alaska. Paris. Australia. Japan. New Zealand. Brazil. Italy…

But, you felt trapped. You had to keep the job and the health benefits. You had a home to pay off. You had a car loan. You had a boyfriend or girlfriend.

One day, Natalie Eubanks got up from her seat in that cubicle farm, looked around, and said, “I’ve had enough.”

And so begins Natalie’s second journey from a quality assurance advocate at Time-Warner Cable to professional truck driver.

“I finally reached that point where I had to make a change,” says Natalie. “I wanted to reclaim control over my life.”

With a strong desire to see the world, Natalie boiled her choice down between an airline flight attendant or a truck driver, both of which would allow her to see more of the world, or at least her own country.

Living in San Antonio, Tex., Natalie had seen Germany and parts of Europe growing up as a “military brat.” But beyond Texas and Arizona, where her military family was also stationed, she had never seen much more of the very country that she grew up in.

Choosing truck driving, Natalie enrolled in the Sage Truck Driving School in San Antonio to earn her CDL, and from there, she took another dramatic step:

She sold the house, sold the car, and she said goodbye to her beloved family and friends.

Today, at 42-years-old, Natalie Eubanks is seeing America, unencumbered by the baggage that weighs down her former cubicle farm co-workers. 

“I literally chucked it all,” says Natalie. “I told myself, ‘Do it for a year.’ Well, here I am, a year later, and I’ve decided, I’m going to give it another year.”

As a solo OTR driver for Transport America, Natalie has visited 30 states, so far; fished in Arkansas; walked through the Mall of America in Minnesota; dined in several restaurants featured in the television show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and has met many wonderful people.

And her favorite “new” place so far?

“I have to say, driving through Tennessee and West Virginia in the fall and seeing all of the fall leaves was simply incredible,” Natalie says.

But re-arranging her life to focus on travel has meant that every day Natalie is forming new habits to help her achieve goals such as traveling to Seattle this summer or go to Australia in two years.

Because travel is expensive, Natalie understands that she needs to keep her truck moving.

“I run hard. I spend weeks out on the road. I have family in Tennessee and I’ll take 36 hours to stop and see them. I go home to see my mother every couple months,” Natalie says, “but other than that, I’m running this truck and saving every dime so I can travel.”

In addition, Natalie eats carefully and makes sure to get a full night of sleep.

“I’ve learned that if you want to safely run a truck, you need to take care of your own engine first,” says Natalie, who pampers herself every couple weeks by staying in a motel or hotel to get a comfortable night of sleep and a bath.

For Natalie, choosing the trucking company to pursue her specific lifestyle was as important as making the decision to become a professional driver.

“I did a lot of research to choose the right trucking company for me,” says Natalie. “I looked for a company that offers a strong training program for new drivers, such as me, and I researched trucking companies that put safety first. Transport America came out on top.”

“For example,” she added, “with Transport America, your driver instructor actually is awake and sitting in the passenger seat while you drive to help you learn how to become a better driver. I learned with some other companies, the driver instructor is more like a team driver and actually sleeps while the new driver is learning the ropes.”

Natalie credits Mike Young, a driver instructor for Transport America, for preparing her to be a successful and professional truck driver.

“He was an excellent mentor for me,” says Natalie. “I can still hear his calm voice in my head sharing advice on this or that.”

And she credits her fleet leader, Angie Sholly, for keeping her rolling.

“I would not be as successful as I feel without her knowing how I like to run.”

Asked if she would recommend the same path for other men and women, Natalie offers this advice:

“Making the jump and following through on it, was a big accomplishment for me,” says Natalie. “I don’t feel as fearful about the future and about change as I used to.”

I believe you have to set goals to achieve what you want. I want to go to Ireland. I want to experience Carnival in Brazil. I want to go skiing in Germany. I want to go on an African photo safari. I’ve dedicated myself to this lifestyle. I have so many trails yet to uncover and I am proud to continue my journey with Transport America.”

The post Rookie Driver Sells Everything to Pursue Her Dream of Traveling More appeared first on Transport America.

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As anyone new to truck driving knows, it can get pretty overwhelming at first.

Especially if you’re driving solo and you’re looking for a piece of advice to make your life on the road better, such as how to drive in the mountains or alternative routes in and out of Chicago.

It can be harder, if you’re a driver from a far-away place, such as Guam, a territory of the United States, located 5,663 miles from Seattle.

“We wanted to create a safe, online community where professional truck drivers from Guam could connect with other drivers to not only feel more “at home” on the mainland,” says Charlie Tenorio, a professional driver with Transport America who grew up on Guam, “but to have a safe place to go with questions and concerns.”

Tenorio and his wife, Ann, created Chamorro Truckers (www.chamorrotruckers.com), an online community of truck drivers dedicated to helping each other navigate the U.S. trucking system.

The group originally started out as a place where drivers from Guam and other islands, such as Hawaii, could come together and share information. However, since it was founded more than three years ago, truck drivers from all walks of life have found comfort and camaraderie in the group.

“Our intent is to create better, safer, more well-rounded drivers who make more money,” says Charlie. “It goes with being from a small island culture – it is an honor and privilege to share our knowledge not only with each other from Guam, but with all new truck drivers. We want to raise everyone up. Everyone is welcome to join our group and learn from each other.”

“It’s our way of paying it forward,” Charlie adds.

So far, the group has attracted 90 drivers who work for a variety of trucking companies from all over the country.

Getting Their Start

Charlie started his driving career in 1987 as a truck driver for the U.S. Army while stationed in Europe. After completing his time in the service, he continued to drive professionally for a number of trucking companies when he returned to the United States.

In 2010, his wife Ann, a third-year nursing student, also from Guam, decided to join him on the road after earning her CDL. Driving together as a team since 2010, Charlie and Ann joined Transport America as company drivers in 2014. In November 2017, they were named by Transport America as its team of the month.

“We left Transport America for six months and then rejoined the company,” says Charlie. “We thought there was greener grass. We were wrong. We are so happy to be back home with Transport America.”

For those wondering, over-the-road, long-haul trucking is practically non-existent on Guam. Trucks on the small island are used either for construction or moving shipping containers according to Charlie, so if you enjoy truck driving and want to make it a career, the mainland U.S.A. is the place to go. On top of this, explains Charlie, the pay between what someone can make on the mainland versus Guam is like night and day. 

“If you enjoy driving a truck, you can make substantially more money driving on the mainland,” says Charlie.

Calling Camas, Wash., a suburb of the Portland, Oregon-Vancouver, Washington, area their home away from home, Charlie and Ann have made it their mission in life to “share the truth” with other truck drivers, particularly the new drivers.  As such, in addition to their participation in Chamorro Truckers, Charlie and Ann are often asked by Transport America to share their insights with new Transport America driving teams.

For example, the other day, a new driving team was having difficulty finding a safe place near Portland, Oregon to park their tractor-trailer. Charlie went out to meet them and guide them to a safe location.

“They were very frustrated,” Charlie says. “But you know what, we understand the struggles of new drivers. As drivers, we provide new drivers the context to help them stay focused and start building a successful career in trucking.”

According to Ingrid Riemann, their fleet leader, Charlie and Ann are often teamed with other new teams with little driving experience on their first three to four trips.

“Charlie and Ann help our teams learn how to drive the mountains and everywhere else,” says Ingrid. “They’re really good at what they do, have great attitudes and they understand how to teach.”

It’s that same helpful teaching attitude that led to the formation of Chamorro Truckers traces back in 2012 when Charlie and Ann helped another truck driver from Guam navigate his way through the industry and realized that there are many other drivers out on the roads who call him and Ann for advice or direction. The group grew organically from there to include drivers from nearly every state.

“We’ve learned the hard way. There are a lot of trucking companies who were not truthful with drivers, say anything to get drivers to come and work for them only to find out the truth when it is too late,” Charlie says.

“Often times,” he adds, “it’s pride that gets in the way. The driver of another trucking company doesn’t want to admit that the trucking company they are working for isn’t working out for them.”

That’s why everyone in Chamorro Truckers is dedicated to sharing the truth with one another. The group’s mission is help each other — especially the newer drivers (regardless of what company they drive for) — understand how to be better truck drivers.

“Everyone in our group collectively works together to help each other be better drivers and to make more money,” Charlie says.

Using a closed group on Facebook, Life360, as well as WhatsApp, the group has become a safe place where members can share questions ranging from how to safely drive during winter conditions to learning how to determine if a trucking company is treating its drivers right.

As the group has grown in size, friendships have been cemented over barbeque during Chamorro Truckers’ annual BBQ get-together, which is hosted by a member within the group each summer.

“Our fleet leader, Ingrid Riemann, has been a big help in supporting our efforts,” Charlie says, “she understands our desire to create more balanced, safer drivers who want to make a career as professional truck drivers.”

At the end of the day, what Chamorro Truckers proves is that what is old is still new – the idea of a community of driving professionals who want to grow and be more successful through the sharing of their experiences, insight and some good grinds – and Transport America has helped many of them embark on successful driving careers.

The post Mentoring a New Generation of Truck Drivers appeared first on Transport America.

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Thirty years is a long time to be a professional truck driver.

But driving for 30 years with the same trucking company is just about unheard of nowadays.

For Byron Bigelow, Transport America was the right fit for him when he started driving for the comany starting back in 1988 at the age of 28, and it continues to be a great fit.

“Why would I change trucking companies?,” Byron asks rhetorically. “This company has been good to me since day one. They care about safety and they care about me as a driver. I plan to keep driving for Transport America until I decide to retire.”

A resident of Austintown, Ohio, which is located about eight miles from Transport America’s North Jackson support center, Byron is a solo dedicated driver who is currently serving Transport America’s client, Kmart retail stores, primarily supplying stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

In his 30 years with Transport America, Byron hasn’t missed a day of work. He’s never filed a Workers Compensation claim for an injury while on the job. He’s driven more than 3 million miles safely. That’s a lot to be proud of, but to him, that’s just the start.

“I’ve been married for 30 years, I have three wonderful grown children and three grandchildren, and when I retire, I’ll probably be a millionaire, thanks to the 401k plan at Transport America that I faithfully invested into with every paycheck,” Byron says. “I have a lot to be thankful for. That’s all I can say.”


What is Byron’s secret sauce?

To him, it’s about maintaining and feeding a positive mental attitude.

What’s kept me at Transport America for 30 years is my attitude,” Byron continues. “It’s what you make of every experience. For example, there was this one time that a shipper was giving me a hard time about different procedures. I kept a positive attitude, kept my mouth shut, and listened carefully. After I was loaded she asked my name and truck number. She told me I was the first driver to not complain and she sent a letter to Transport America about how nice I was.”

“I’m happy I stayed,” he adds. “I’ve made good money, good friends, and I’ve safely driven 3 million miles. In addition, I’ve never had a problem getting home when I needed to be home.”

Another factor, says Byron, is that over the years, Transport America continued to invest in its fleet of trucks, and in the safety of its drivers.

When Byron started driving for Transport America, he drove a cabover with manual transmission. All communications with one’s dispatcher was done with a rotary (dial) telephone. Drivers used CB radios to communicate with each other about road conditions in their local area, because there were no cell phones and trucks didn’t have Qualcomm technology.

“Every new thing that Transport America has done has helped to make the life of the driver safer and more productive,” Byron says. “The more we can concentrate on our driving, the safer we can be as drivers.”

For example, Byron points to the forward dash cam.

“I know that there are some drivers who don’t like it,” Byron says, “But I had a hard brake situation in Buffalo, New York, where I came within a foot of hitting a car. When we looked at the video, two things were clear – it showed the driver merged into my lane while giving me very little space, and that the car’s back brake lights were out!”

Or, Byron brings up the electronic log books.

“Do you know how much time that has saved me!” says Byron. “It wasn’t my favorite at first. But listen, I’d much rather focus on driving than filling out more paperwork. Now I appreciate it.”

Byron has a good friend who works with another trucking company. One day, his friend stopped by with his truck and the two got to compare their trucks side by side.

“He was absolutely amazed by how much nicer my Transport America truck was compared to his. For example, at their trucking company, you don’t get a mini-fridge automatically installed in your truck,” grins Byron. “This is what I’m talking about – Transport America consistently goes out of its way to  make our lives as drivers nicer and more productive.”

So what words of wisdom can someone who has driven for 30 years share with other drivers? Here’s what Byron has to say:

  1. Find a trucking company, such as Transport America, that respects you and puts safety first.
  2. Work for a company that offers good benefits, such as a 401k plan and healthcare. And start investing in your 401k from day one.
  3. Be open to new technology.
  4. Always do a proper inspection of your truck and the trailer that you’re hauling. Don’t leave problems for other drivers.
  5. Treat your spouse with respect, love him/her for who they are, and help them learn how to take responsibility (and make sound, independent decisions) for managing the home while you’re on the road. Byron has been married for 30 years and has relied on his wife’s support in taking care of their home life.
  6. Carry extra valve stem caps.
  7. Use your 5th wheel puller.
  8. If you’re upset about something, talk to your fleet leader right away to get it resolved so you can focus on driving.
  9. Give yourself more time, so you’re not rushing to make a delivery time. The more you rush, the more likely you will have issues.
  10. And most of all, keep a positive attitude.

With an eye toward retiring in about nine years, Byron intends to live by his own words of wisdom and keep saving toward his dream of buying a Harley-Davidson Trike Motorcycle.

“Because when I retire, I’m going to pay cash for that bike!” says Byron.

The post 30 Big Ones: Byron Bigelow Celebrates 30 Years of Driving with Transport America appeared first on Transport America.

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