Back row (from left): Ritch Fundell, Richard Frazer, Derrick Thorpe, Bob Bramwell, Charlie Fuller, James Ellis, Dean Key, Jesus Davila. Middle row: Eric Stein, Salvador Gonzalez, David Schroeder, Darrien Henderson, Ron Round, Glen Kirk, Michael Buck. Front row: Lalo Fernandez, Paramjeet Singh, Jeff Rose, Gina Jones, Ken Duncan, Teddy Butler. Absent from the group photo was Kevin Byrnes (see below).
An immigrant from India, a former Marine and a grandmother joined an elite team of 22 professional truck drivers to make up the 2022-23 America’s Road Team Captains.
“I’m proud that they will be representing the industry and ATA as our newest and best ambassadors — educating the country about trucking’s essential role in keeping America moving safely and efficiently,” said Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations, about the incoming group during an induction ceremony Jan. 19. “This industry, like our country, is diverse, hardworking and patriotic, and this new class of America’s Road Team Captains reflects all of that.”
Created in 1986, America’s Road Team is a group of professional truck drivers with excellent safety records who dedicate a few days each month to educate people — from senators on Capitol Hill to kindergartners and state fair attendees — about the industry.
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Among the captains were P.J. Singh, a driver for Penske Logistics, of Stockton, Calif. He left India 26 years ago in search of the American dream and has been a driver for 22 years, with 2 million accident-free miles.
Gina Jones, a 59-year-old driver with Werner Enterprises, is a grandmother of five. She started driving at age 50 in her second career after working in retail. Jones, from Peoria, Ariz., team-drives with her husband Steven on a Phoenix-to-Denver route.
“I think the challenges that women drivers face are pretty equal to men who drive,” Jones said. “I love my job, waking up to see the sunrise and ending with the sunset each day.”
Jesus Davila, 36, of San Antonio, drives for Werner Enterprises. He has been driving for four years with 450,000 accident-free miles. He left the Marine Corps after 12 years.
“I planned on staying in the Marine Corps for 20 years, but was wounded,” Davila said. “I think being a professional truck driver fits so well with my military training.” He said having to do pre-combat inspections is similar to the preparedness involved in making pre-trip inspections. Truck driving met his needs in choosing the new career.
“I want to let veterans know that there is life after the military and always a purpose for you in the world,” he said.
The captains still drive their work routes, but in public appearances they will climb aboard a new Volvo VNL 760 truck.
The Volvo VNL 760 that America's Road Team captains will drive is on display at American Trucking Associations' headquarters in Arlington, Va, Jan. 19. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Keys to the new truck — equipped with safety technology including blind-spot detection, lane departure and active-braking features — were handed to Spear by Seth Gruber, director of strategic projects for Volvo Trucks, which sponsors America’s Road Team. This marks the 20th consecutive year of Volvo’s sponsorship.
“America’s Road Team is one of the most visible groups of professional truck drivers in the country, and we believe that their hard work to promote the profession and safety pays dividends for our industry. We thank the captains for their strong engagement and being passionate ambassadors of this great profession,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America, in a news release.
Kevin Byrnes of UPS
Attending the introduction was 2013 Captain Herschel Evans, a driver with Yellow, from Georgia. He spoke about the gratification of delivering disaster relief to communities, when trucks can deliver supplies directly to the areas where people need them the most. “After a tornado, we can put 50,000 bottles of water to help people that very day,” he said.
After the December 2021 tornado in western Kentucky, Evans drove his truck four times to the stricken area to deliver emergency supplies including water, diapers and pet food. “When I walked over to the church to have lunch, all the people in the whole church clapped,” he added, reflecting on one relief journey there.
This year’s class of drivers comes from 13 companies and 17 states. Combined the drivers have logged more than 45 million miles of accident-free driving.
The complete list of captains for 2022-23:
• Bob Bramwell, ABF Freight System, Centerview, Mo.
• Michael Buck, Yellow, Moore, Okla.
• Teddy Butler, ABF Freight System, Hampton, Ga.
• Kevin Byrnes, UPS Inc., Sparta, N.J.
• Jesus Davila, Werner Enterprises, San Antonio, Texas
• Ken Duncan, Walmart Transportation, Gorham, Maine
• James Ellis, Grammer Logistics, Erwin, N.C.
• Lalo Fernandez, FedEx Freight, Battle Ground, Ore.
• Richard Frazer, Yellow, Rockford, Ill.
• Charlie Fuller, FedEx Freight, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
• Ritch Fundell, FedEx Freight, Tonica, Ill.
• Salvador Gonzalez, TForce Freight, Ocala, Fla.
• Darrien Henderson, J&M Tank Lines Inc., Mobile, Ala.
• Gina Jones, Werner Enterprises, Peoria, Ariz.
• Dean Key, Ruan Transportation Management Systems, Primghar, Iowa
• Glen Allen Kirk, Old Dominion Freight Line, Franklin, Ind.
• Jeff Rose, Yellow, Creston, Ohio
• Ron Round, Pottle’s Transportation, Enfield, Maine
• David Schroeder, FedEx Freight, Bellaire, Ohio
• Eric Stein, Werner Enterprises Inc., Canajoharie, N.Y.
• PJ Singh, Penske Logistics, Stockton, Calif.
• Derrick Thorpe, TForce Freight, Rahway, N.J.