The Hiring Our Heroes T680 Signature Edition Anniversary Truck parked in front of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, OhioFinalists for the 8th annual “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award program were recently announced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program, Kenworth Truck Company and Fastport. The award program is dedicated to finding America’s top rookie military veteran driver through a rigorous nomination, selection committee, and public voting process. The program recognizes top drivers who have made the successful transition from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet.
Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Semi-FinalistsAll 17 semi-finalists traveled to Columbus and Chillicothe, Ohio, to be recognized as the trucking industry’s top emerging talent. During the trip, the semi-finalists visited the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, appeared on the Dave Nemo Show with Jimmy Mac on Road Dog Trucking Radio live from the MHC RoadReady Center in Chillicothe, and received an in-depth 90-minute tour of the Kenworth Chillicothe manufacturing plant.
Reception at National Veterans Memorial and Museum - Columbus, OhioThe finalists are summarized below in alphabetical order by last name:
Todd Kraus, U.S. Army (CW3), Werner Enterprises
Todd Kraus served nearly 22 years in the Army. Retired as a Chief Warrant Officer, Marine Deck Officer, Todd was in the “Army's Navy,” stationed at an Air Force base where we transported the Marines and taught the Coast Guard. It was on an all-expense paid tour of the world. As a Transportation officer in the Army, he was well-trained for any position in logistics or transportation. When Kraus retired from the Army, he found work at the Post Office. Upon retirement from the Post Office, he wanted to earn his CDL and decided that it was time to hit the road and see the country from the driver's seat in a big rig.
Brandon Meredith, U.S. Army (E-7), Slay Transport
Brandon Meredith is a native of Spring Valley, Illinois, and currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and 2 daughters. Brandon retired from the U.S. Army on March 31st, 2023 after 20 years of active service to his country. He has earned many awards and decorations and spent 13 years in the Special Operations Forces. He is currently employed at Slay Transportation as a Tanker Driver and Delivery Professional for liquid products. His goal within the transportation industry is to become an owner-operator and mentor with his current company and become a subject matter expert in his field.
Ondrae Meyers, U.S. Marine Corps (E-7), CRST
Ondrae Meyers was born in Trenton, NJ where he lived with his single mother and younger brother. Wanting to expand his opportunity, Ondrae joined the US Marine Corps after graduating high school, which turned into a 22-year career. Ondrae is a combat veteran who served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, took part in humanitarian efforts in Indonesia, served as a section leader in the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East, and served 11 years overseas in the Pacific where he met his wife with whom he now has two beautiful children. Ondrea’s MOS was Motor Transport and was the spark that lit his passion for driving. After retiring honorably in July 2021, Ondrae obtained his CDL through Troops into Transportation and started on his new goal putting to use his love of driving to make a career in transportation.
Jessica White, U.S. Army (E-5), Stevens Transport
Jessica hails from Conyers, Georgia. She enlisted at 19 in the Army to serve as a MOS 88M – Motor Transport Operator. The highlight of her career was serving a 25-month tour in Germany where she was responsible for driving a heavy-transport truck in the transportation of equipment, missiles, and live ammunition throughout 15 countries of Europe. During this same tour, Jessica was selected from amongst many other drivers to drive for the U.S. Secretary of Defense on a VIP visit to Belgium. She deployed from Germany in support of operations in Kuwait for 9 months. Jessica is married with no children, and her hobbies include cooking, playing basketball, traveling, and hiking. In her spare time, she has earned 9 credits toward her Associate’s Degree.
LaTravis Wilcox, U.S. Marine Corps (E-8), Prime Inc.
Culminating more than 23 years of honorable, dedicated, and faithful service and retiring as a First Sergeant, LaTravis Wilcox entered the Marine Corps in 1997 and started a varied military career in roles from Motor Vehicle Operator, Aircraft Avionics Technician, and Drill Instructor at various leadership levels. After a successful tour and several deployments, LaTravis was able to stay active and involved in “making Marines” at Officer Candidates School and The University of Mississippi serving as the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor for the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.
From left: Brianna Potthast, Kenworth on-highway marketing manager; Todd Kraus, finalist; Ondrae Meyers, finalist; Jessica White, finalist; LaTravis Wilcox, finalist; Brandon Meredith, finalist; Cara Howes, Kenworth assistant director of marketing; and Kyle Kimball, Kenworth director of marketingIn recognition of Kenworth’s 100th anniversary, this year’s award is the T680 Signature Edition truck, equipped with a 76-inch sleeper and the PACCAR Powertrain featuring the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455 horsepower, PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission and PACCAR DX-40 tandem rear axles. The first runner-up will receive a $10,000 prize and the remaining finalists will receive $5,000 each.
“It was an honor to meet and recognize the 17 semi-finalist drivers in Columbus and host them at our Kenworth Chillicothe manufacturing plant where the grand prize T680 Signature Edition truck was made,” said Kyle Kimball, Kenworth director of marketing. “Kenworth is proud to participate in the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence program, and we look forward to awarding the T680 100th anniversary truck to this year’s winner, a deserving veteran entering the trucking industry.”
“The five finalists for the 2023 Transition Trucking award have drawn on the skills they developed in the military and quickly translated those skills into success in an industry that allows them to play a vital role for American businesses,” said Eric Eversole, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes.
“Each of our semi-finalists are accomplished Veterans driving positive change as professional truck drivers, and this is especially true for the finalists representing their newly adopted industry. Moving past military-friendly, this Veteran-ready industry is providing a key avenue to bring in a great new generation of trucking talent like these inspiring individuals,” said Brad Bentley, Fastport president.
A popular vote will take place online from Nov. 1 until Veteran’s Day Nov. 11. The winner will be determined by a Selection Committee and announced on December 15th at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
For more information, visit transitiontrucking.org.
Kenworth Truck Company, founded in 1923, is the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Throughout 2023, Kenworth is celebrating its historic 100th anniversary. To learn more about the 100th anniversary celebration visit www.Kenworth100.com. Kenworth is “Driving the Next 100 Years.” Kenworth’s Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com. Kenworth is a PACCAR company.