TCA Names 2024 Professional Drivers of the Year

How Does a Truck Driver Get Home Safely Each Night? Four Award Winners Say It's Complicated
TCA drivers panel
Professional truck drivers James White (from left), Rosalinda Tejada, Clark Reed and Tim Chelette address attendees at the Truckload Carriers Association Safety and Security Meeting. (Truckload Carriers Association)

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INDIANAPOLIS — It’s not by chance that four award-winning truck drivers get home safely every night after spending a demanding day on the road. It’s by design.

By their own accounts, it’s a combination of experience, ability, patience, knowing your equipment, staying fresh and learning how to keep your cool when a car juts in front of you.

Those words of wisdom came from winners of the Truckload Carriers Association professional 2024 driver of the year award. They shared their experiences at a June 4 “View From the Driver’s Seat” session at TCA’s 2024 Safety and Security Meeting.

“You have to keep in touch with your equipment, your surroundings, what’s in front of you, beside you and behind you,” said James White, a driver for P&S Logistics, which ranks No. 33 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America. “It’s not just sitting behind the steering wheel. You have a lot to do.”

Truckload Carriers Association logo

“It’s so fast out there. Everybody’s in a hurry to go nowhere, and we’re out there trying to do our jobs,” added White, a 29-year veteran. “We’re always looking for the unexpected.”

“You have to be constantly vigilant,” said Clark Reed, a 19-year veteran driver for Nussbaum Transportation. “You can’t let down just because you’re on a wide stretch with nothing around you. You have to pay attention even when there’s nothing to pay attention to. Because anything can happen at any moment. It’s a mentally straining job.”

Which is why he said drivers have to take care of themselves, stop every so often and take a short walk. And Reed should know. In his earlier days, he’d drive long stretches between breaks, which contributed to health issues.

“That led to me getting blood clots, put me in the hospital intensive care for four days, took me out of work for two weeks, and I had to walk with a cane for a month. All because I didn’t get out of the truck and walk around,” he said.

You may have an idiot if front of you. Give an idiot room to be an idiot. Keep that following distance.

Clark Reed, driver for Nussbaum Transportation

Clark Reed

“Behind the wheel, we always strive for safety first,” said Tim Chelette, a driver for Big G Express, former America’s Road Captain and a 22-year veteran. And he said an important part of safety is doing a thorough precheck before heading out.

“You have got to look at your equipment,” Chelette said. “You can’t just walk around it. You gotta make sure it’s in good shape.”

Rosalinda Tejada, a driver for Knight Transportation, enjoys the opportunity for new experiences once on the open road.

“I love the travel of it,” said the 25-year veteran who spends a lot of time driving in California. “I love the adventure of being a driver, and I love to train young women to drive.”

But Tejada and the others stressed that there are challenges, one of the biggest being finding a safe place to rest.

“What keeps me up at night is my safety because there’s no parking out there,” she said.


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Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings ranks No. 7 on the for-hire TT100.

Tejada and the other drivers all wish they could get a little help from regulators and Congress at building out more places to park when their allowable driving hours are maxed out and they’re desperate to find a parking place. The American Transportation Research Institute has listed truck parking as one of the industry’s top issues.

Trying to find a parking place can be stressful and even potentially dangerous, Tejada said. She said she sometimes has to park in neighborhoods or, sometimes, plan around parking at a favorite fuel station and truck stop situated a good distance down Interstate 10. “If we had more parking, I’d feel much safer at night,” she said.

Traffic during the daytime can also be a white-knuckle experience.

“Drivers are going to cut you off [and] slam their brakes in front of you,” White said. “Be patient. Everything’s not going to work the way you want it. You have to be open-minded because things are always changing.”

“You may have an idiot if front of you,” added Reed. “Give an idiot room to be an idiot. Keep that following distance.”

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