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December 14, 2018 4:30 PM, EST

Werner Driver Quinton Ward Wins Driving for Excellence Award

Werner driver Quinton Ward and ATA President Chris SpearWerner driver Quinton Ward (left) and ATA President Chris Spear by Dan Ronan/Transport Topics

Quinton Ward of New Orleans, who served five years in the U.S. Army until he was injured and received an honorable discharge, is the winner of the 2018 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Program.

Ward, 30, who drives for Werner Enterprises, received a fully loaded Kenworth T680 truck on Dec. 14 at an awards ceremony in Washington. Kenworth and FASTPORT cosponsor the program as part of an overall effort to curb the driver shortage and create immediate jobs for transitioning military service members.

Werner driver Quinton Ward and his service dog Kirra

Werner driver Quinton Ward and his service dog Kirra check out Ward's new Kenworth T680. (Dan Ronan/Transport Topics)

“I definitely want to thank FASTPORT for the opportunities here, Kenworth for providing a great truck. I’m a big Kenworth guy, I love the KWs. ... Hiring Our Heroes for going out of their way to make sure veterans are being noticed and being put out into the workforce, and [American Trucking Associations], which is always an ambassador for the trucking industry, and the veterans especially,” said Ward. “I’d like to thank all of the finalists because we were standing in the back saying, nah, I didn’t win, you’re going to win.”

For the first time, four finalists were selected instead of three out of hundreds of drivers who competed. The three semifinalists received between $10,000 and $5,000. The sponsors added an extra semifinalist because the competition was so intense, and each of them deserved to be recognized.

The other semifinalists were:

  • Mordaunt “Platt” Brabner, U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy, TMC Transportation.
  • Summar Hanks, Air Force, U.S. Xpress.
  • Christopher Young, U.S. Army, Stevens Transport.

Ward successfully completed a vocational rehabilitation program through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provided him the tools and resources to begin his career as a professional truck driver in 2017.

“We’re very proud of Quinton, and Werner benefits every day from his outstanding professionalism, safety and dedication,” said Werner President and Chief Executive Officer Derek Leathers. “We congratulate him on this outstanding recognition and thank him for being an excellent representative for the transportation industry.”

Finalists for the Driving for Excellence Award

Finalists for the Driving for Excellence Award surround winner Quinton Ward (center). (Dan Ronan/Transport Topics)

The award was established in 2016 as part of an effort to curb the driver shortage and create jobs for transitioning military service members. One winner is selected each year among veterans, guard members and reservists who successfully transition to the trucking industry following their military service.

“We are now 50,000 drivers short in this country, a number that will double to 100,000 in the next five years, 176,000 by 2026. This trend has got to stop. We have to take steps — aggressive steps now, not 10, 15 years from now — to make certain our country remains competitive and we remain a leader around the world, and it starts with truck drivers,” said ATA President Chris Spear, who spoke at the event. “We have got to shore up that number and this program is an integral park of that solution.”

Ward told Transport Topics that winning the truck is a first step toward eventually becoming an owner-operator and developing what he believes will be a long career in the industry. “Growth in the industry is so important, I am hoping to build this into becoming a fleet owner,” he said.

Werner ranks No. 15 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.