Philip Keith, year’s top owner-operator, wins $25,000

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Updated Mar 28, 2018
Philip Keith, left, responds to the announcement that he was chosen as 2017 Owner-Operator of the Year.Philip Keith, left, responds to the announcement that he was chosen as 2017 Owner-Operator of the Year.

Philip Keith found himself on a bright stage at a fancy hotel Tuesday night, telling a few hundred trucking executives how honored he was to be named 2017 Owner-Operator of the Year.

“I’m proud to share the road with my fellow professional drivers,” Keith said, referring to the other finalists, as he accepted the award. “And I hope to inspire other drivers to be more like us.”

Keith, leased to WEL Companies of De Pere, Wisconsin, has driven more than 5 million accident-free miles.

His award was announced during a banquet of the Truckload Carriers Association at its annual meeting, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center outside of Orlando, Florida.

Philip Keith, of Long Beach, Miss., has been an owner-operator for WEL Companies since 1987. He hauls mostly frozen and refrigerated commodities.Philip Keith, of Long Beach, Miss., has been an owner-operator for WEL Companies since 1987. He hauls mostly frozen and refrigerated commodities.

The honor comes with a $25,000 cash prize, made possible by sponsors by Cummins and Love’s Travel Stops. The contest is produced by TCA and Overdrive.

TCA and Overdrive sister brand Truckers News also produced the 2017 Company Driver of the Year award. It was awarded Tuesday to Stephen Richardson of Big G Express, who also receives $25,000 through the sponsorships.

The other owner-operator finalists, Kevin Kocmich of Diamond Transportation System and Bryan Smith of Art Pape Transfer, each will receive $2,500.  Company driver finalists Donald Lewis of Wilson Logistics and Roger Wyble of Maverick Transportation receive the same amount.

The awards recognize safety, efforts to enhance the industry’s image and contributions to the community. For the owner-operator award, business acumen is an additional consideration. To be eligible for the contest, applicants had to have one million consecutive accident-free miles and meet other standards.

During his career with WEL, Keith has worked as a driver, dispatcher, terminal manager and customer service manager. He says he always was a driver first, though non-driving jobs taught him financial management that helps him as an owner-operator.

Likewise, “Being a driver helped me in the office with having the driver’s perspective. I was able to take my experience in customer service from the office out onto the road to help build relationships with customers.”

Keith will be featured in the May Overdrive and on OverdriveOnline.com.

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