When the keys to a new Kenworth T680 were handed to him, Army veteran Ivan Hernandez took a moment to remember his fallen comrades before vowing to honor their sacrifices with his success.
“Right now I’m thinking of those that aren’t here. We all have those people, our friends, in our lives. Let’s live our best lives for those service members that never came back,” Hernandez said during a small, socially-distanced event at the Kenmore Manufacturing Plant in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Hernandez, a Werner Enterprises truck driver, was named the 2020 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner. As the winner, he was given a new, full-loaded Kenworth T680 truck and the opportunity to be an owner-operator.
“We are pleased to recognize Ivan Hernandez for his 20 years of military service and continued service to his community. We are grateful for Kenworth’s ongoing commitment to veteran owner-operators in the industry as the T680 will greatly support Ivan’s success,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes.
Hernandez was one of four finalists selected following a yearlong competition among veterans, National Guard members and reservists who have made the successful transition in the trucking industry following military service. A public vote and an independent selection committee narrowed the field down to Hernandez and three other finalists.
Ray Miller, a U.S. Army veteran and Stevens Transport driver, was this year’s runner-up. He was presented with a $10,000 check during the ceremony, while the other two finalists were presented with a $5,000 check. Gail Losee, U.S. Army veteran and Stevens Transport driver, and Shaun Mason, a U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army veteran and Prime Inc. driver, tied for third place.
“Each of the finalists recognized today embodies the skills and abilities instilled by the military and have applied these qualities to be successful in their new career field: the trucking industry,” said Lisa Berreth, Kenworth Marketing Director. “You are all role models. You are the everyday heroes that keep our country moving forward.”
FASTPORT President Brad Bentley mentioned that this year the Transition Trucking recognition program received the second highest number of rookie veteran driver nominations and the most female nominations in the award’s history. Hiring Our Heroes, Kenworth Trucking, and FASTPORT launched Transition Trucking in 2016 to highlight employment opportunities in the trucking industry and encourage companies to hire veterans.
“The trucking industry gives veterans unparalleled access to incredible training and employment opportunities through programs such as apprenticeships and other on-the-job training, and there is no better example of how valued these transitioned service members are to the industry than the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award that gives a new T680 truck to a previous service member every year to help launch his or her career,” Bentley said.
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Hernandez enlisted in the Army in 1998. As an infantryman, he completed four deployments collectively to Iraq and Afghanistan where his actions resulted in two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
Later, he served as a U.S. senior advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. In this role, he assisted in the development of the first Command General Staff College, a senior level military school, for Saudi Arabian military officers.
In January 2020, Hernandez graduated from the Roadmaster Drivers School and became a professional truck driver. He’s been employed by Werner Enterprises since February and has a safety record of more than 35,000 accident-free miles. His goal is one million safe miles.
“Ivan Hernandez is an incredible representative of this military cohort, and we are thrilled to see where it takes him in the years to come,” Bentley said.