Overdrive's Trucker of the Year finalists revealed

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Updated Jan 12, 2024
2023 Trucker of the Year finalists
Overdrive's 2023 Trucker of the Year finalists (pictured, from left) are Wisconsin headquartered John Schiltz and his Veterans Transportation Services independent business; Mississippi-based Jaybyrd Express owner-operator Jay Hosty, leased to Landstar; and Tim and Shelley Pulli's now-four-truck Pulli Express, pulling food grade tankers out of the Chicago area.

With 2023's end fast-approaching, the time has come to unveil three finalists in Overdrive's Trucker of the Year competition, from which one will emerge the winner with bragging rights for the year. All have shown resilence in the face of topsy-turvy freight markets, with a close eye on controlling costs and maintenance of customer relationships for revenue. Judges focused on both of those bedrock business concerns, but also kept in mind longevity in the business, willingness to change for improvement and their impact on local and/or broader trucking communities. 

The separation between these three and seven other contending businesses, ultimately, was as narrow as the trickiest mountain highway or off-road path you've experience in the truck, for sure. Here's a big congrats to those seven, too, about whom you can read and glean plenty in the way of examples of owner-operators doing it right via the list below as well as the Trucker of the Year home page on Overdrive here

Without further ado, your three finalists: 

John Schiltz, Veterans Transportation Services, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

John and Sarah Schiltz, VTS, collageOwner-operator Schiltz was nominated by his wife, Sarah (also pictured), after a decade trucking as an owner-operator and experience behind the wheel and in the shop from a young age. Schiltz brings his mechanic experience from long service in the U.S. Army to bear in the business, now teaching Sarah, too, plenty about how to turn those wrenches to get the jobs done themselves and save. No better way to advance a skillset than to teach it, as an old notion goes, and owner-operator Schiltz makes good on that now daily with Sarah also behind the wheel of her own rig (pictured, top right) as the pair run together working Midwest harvests, then pulling RGN and other platform freight in the off-season. Read more about the operation via this October Trucker of the Month profile of the business.

Jay Hosty, Jaybird Express, Diamondhead, Mississippi

Jay Hosty and his trucks, collageJay Hosty has four decades in trucking, all as an owner-operator, in his rear-view with a great deal of that long career leased to Landstar, who remains his principal customer today. Yet he carries forward the myriad lessons learned with a natural frugality for a lean and mean operation -- his 2006 Western Star long-paid-for and running in tip-top shape, Hosty's business showed the lowest operating ratio (expenses/revenue) of all this year's contenders. He pays it forward not only with engagement in trucking but with numerous disaster-response volunteer efforts, and by fostering children in need with his wife, Katt. Read more about Hosty via this April Trucker of the Month profile.

Tim and Shelley Pulli, Pulli Express, Indian Head Park, Illinois

Tim and Shelley Pulli, Pulli Express, collage with their trucksSitting at three trucks at the end of 2022, Tim and Shelley Pulli's Pulli Express business thrives on a close relationship with a direct customer, where they're dedicated pulling food-grade tankers each in separate rigs -- and maintaining a big family all the while. Investment in spare trucks and trailers paid off not only in growth for the small fleet, now at four rigs with a second owner-operator leased on in recent months, but in value to the customer and increased uptime. Even with the investments, profits have remained substantial for the business with robust expense management by virtue of Tim's long local and OTR experience and Shelley's close back-office accounting, even as she's routinely now behind the wheel herself. Read more about Pulli Express via this March Trucker of the Month profile.

After further deliberation among judges, Overdrive will announce the winner in the coming weeks.

Get your 2024 Trucker of the Year nominations started now

With announcements of these finalists, we're happy also to officially open nominations for the 2024 Trucker of the Year award.overdrive trucker of the year 2024 logoIf you've thrived even through the difficult market of this year, you're a worthy contender. Nominate yourself or another worthy owner-operator via this link to the entry page.

The remaining seven of Overdrive's Trucker of the Month honorees/semi-finalists throughout 2023: 

January: Kelvin Schmidt, Dassel, Minnesota
February: Ruth and Chris Smith, Dreamline Trucking, Crossville, Tennessee
May: Matthew Karr, K-Mac Trucking, Republic, Missouri
June: Debbie Desiderato, Walkabout Transport, Patrick Springs, Virginia 
July: Crystal Rives, C&R Trucking, Cleburne, Texas
August: Steve Massat, Mandy's Trucking, Peotone, Illinois
September: Rita and Roger Wilson, Rita's Absolute Trucking, Addison, Illinois

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