Traits of a winner

Randy Grider
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Six drivers – three company drivers and three owner-operators – were honored March 3 at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

They were recognized for being the top drivers who work for truckload carriers. The Company Equipment Driver of the Year is a longstanding awards program administered by the Truckload Carriers Association and sponsored by Truckers News and Detroit Diesel. TCA’s Owner-Operator of the Year contest is co-sponsored by our sister publication, Overdrive, and International Truck and Engine Corp.

What qualifications make up a finalist for these awards? First, a remarkable safety record with millions of miles logged over long careers. Secondly, a finalist’s resume must show commitment to stay with a company for more than a few months. No constant job-hoppers make the grade. Other things looked at are community service, educating the public about the trucking industry and mentoring younger drivers.

But these drivers shared other commonalities that aren’t as tangible as the lists of previous service and safety awards and driving records. Among them are humility, attitude and an appreciation of family.

During the awards presentations, the finalists all credited spouses and other family members for their success.

“I would like to thank my dad,” said 2007 Company Equipment Driver of the Year Doug Ladds of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. “He would be extremely proud. I’m a second-generation driver, and he instilled a strong work ethic in me.”

The MacKinnon Transport driver claimed the grand champion prize package that included a Cummins-powered Dodge pickup truck and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Grand Ole Opry among other sponsored gifts.

The two runners-up in the Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest – John Pipes of Joplin, Mo. (Con-way Truckload), and Steven French of Saint Cloud, Minn. (Anderson Trucking Service) – echoed Ladds’ feelings about family.

John Gill of Eagan, Minn. (Dart Transit), will receive a 9000i model International tractor powered by a Cummins engine for winning the 2007 Owner-Operator of the Year award.

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“Honey, you have done more than your fair share, and I can’t thank you enough,” a teary-eyed Gill told his wife, Catherine, from the podium.

The other two finalists were Billy Smith of Eagan, Minn. (Dart Transit), and Jimmy McSwain of Lakeland, Fla. (Sunco Carriers). Both thanked others for putting them in the position to receive the honors.

Four of the finalists served on a panel earlier in the day, fielding questions from fleet executives about driver satisfaction. All were candid about issues ranging from onboard recorders and hours of service to today’s younger drivers.

While they shared similar opinions on many subjects, they respectfully listened to differing viewpoints and sometimes further explained their reasoning so as not to sound disagreeable.

One of those issues was electronic logs. Ladds has used paperless logs and found them to work fine in his job. Smith, who said he preferred “pencil and paper,” later said he would be willing to try electronic logs if he had the chance.

This shows other common traits among the finalists – cooperation and compromise. They are all willing to do what it takes if asked. They’ve all applied these traits during trying times in their careers. They understand that trucking is more than a lifestyle. It’s a career that demands tremendous sacrifices.

There are many drivers out there who may never receive the accolades they deserve for doing their jobs. While there can only be one winner in each contest to wear a ribbon or a ring or to receive a plaque, these awards showcase to the public the good qualities so many truckers possess.

We applaud not only these winners and finalists, but all the truckers out there who exhibit the same traits as those with medals on their walls.

Ladds sums it up best:

“It’s been great getting to know the other finalists, who are just as deserving of this award. And there are many not here who are also just as deserving.”

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