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Proud Professionals

By on May 1, 2016
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Meet the 2016 Citizen Driver Honorees

Eight new 2016 Citizen Driver honorees bring the three-year total to 21. Similar to those who walked the walk before them, members of the 2016 class take great pride in reaching out to others. While rolling up some impressive career statistics, they’ve distinguished themselves by consistently going above and beyond, both professionally and personally:

• 279 years of service

• 836,000 annual miles

• 26,870,000 accident-free miles

• Countless good deeds and awards

More importantly, you’ll learn why the 2016 Citizen Drivers are so very deserving of these high honors when you meet them individually below.


Photographs of Bill Ater, recipient of Citized Driver Award, for High Velocity Communications.

BILL ATER, ARLINGTON, TX | ATER TRUCKING, INC. (LANDSTAR)

Bill Ater, Jr. grew up in trucking. He learned from his dad, Bill, Sr., and is currently teaching his youngest son, Joshua, about what it takes to be a professional driver. “When I was little, my dad was hauling mail from several small post offices. I loved riding along with him and was thrilled when he let me shift gears. Many a night I would fall asleep with my head on his lap, looking up at the dash lights.

“I learned everything from my dad, God rest his soul. Just before he passed away at age 85 in February 2012, he was still able to run a load when one of his drivers failed to show up. He taught me much more than driving. I learned how to maintain and repair trucks, everything from lubrication to tires, brakes, even masking for the custom paint designs that differentiated his trucks.

“Every year when I take my truck to school, I see it as an opportunity to teach the kids and even their teachers about driving safely in a truck and around the four-wheelers. Kids are thrilled to sit in the truck and check everything out. They’re able to see the visibility limitations every driver must handle. I know my message is being received when parents come back to me with stories about their kids telling them what they’re doing wrong around trucks.

“I hope this Citizen Driver program inspires people to reach out to others. Whether I’m home or on the road, I try to do something nice for somebody at least once a day. If others would try that, they would find it quickly becomes a habit. I wish more drivers would embrace trucking as a career, not just a job. We need to bring young adults into the program sooner and train them better. It’s ridiculous that a driver under 21 can travel almost 900 miles across Texas from Texarkana to El Paso, but can’t drive 800 miles to Chicago.

“If drivers are planning to provide for their families by making trucking a career, they’ll have to be at the top of their games every day. It takes hard work and dedication to be successful, but the rewards make it worthwhile. Whatever the future brings, I’ve had a good ride, no regrets.”

LOCATION: PETRO CARL’S CORNER BILL ATER, JR. STOPPING CENTER

CITIZENSHIP: NAMED A 2016 LANDSTAR ROADSTAR, EARNED SIX LANDSTAR STARS OF QUALITY, ACTIVE CHURCH MEMBER, CO-FOUNDED BLENDED BLESSINGS; CLASS SAFETY: 2.5 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, LANDSTAR NO ZONE TRAILER INSTRUCTOR AND CERTIFIED BRAKE INSPECTOR COMMUNITY: 12X HURRICANE RELIEF VOLUNTEER, 18 WHEELS OF HOPE
& OTHER CHARITY EVENTS, MISSION ARLINGTON HOMELESS SHELTER


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MARY “CANDY” BASS, TEMPLE, TX | TRANSPORT DESIGN, INC.

Mary “Candy” Bass has certainly made the most of her 41 years as a professional driver by creating a model for others to follow. From her countless volunteer activities to her willingness to help others no matter the time or cost, she’s an inspiration to all who meet her. Whether you’re a close friend or a complete stranger, Candy is never too busy to lend a hand or an ear.

Candy’s entry into the profession was a bit unusual. When her husband decided he wanted to go back to trucking, she wasn’t about to be left behind. Having learned to drive on a 5-speed, she needed to take her driving test on a 5-speed. One was rented from U-Haul. After driving five blocks to the test site, she was ready to go. The 10-question written test was a snap.

After completing the on-road-test, Candy was told she passed, but there was one little problem. The examiner said he could tell by the way she shifted that Candy was accustomed to a 13-speed. To which she replied, “You are so right!” Of course she had no idea what he was talking about. “I simply agreed, because he was going to give me my license.”

Of all her many pursuits, Candy is most proud of her 10-year involvement with Special Olympics and Trucker Buddy International. Candy’s buddies are Special Olympic athletes. Swimming is the Diggin’ Dolphins’ specialty. Based on her close association with the industry, she asked if she could bring the Dolphins into Trucker Buddies. Permission granted. While other Special Olympians are members, the Diggin’ Dolphins are the only ones not of school age. Some are 50 years old.

“Overwhelmed and shocked were my reactions when I was notified about being named a 2016 Citizen Driver Honoree,” said Candy. I’m just a normal everyday driver. I’m so blessed being a part of this industry. I get to do what I want to do, going where I go, and getting paid to do it. I have enough money to do what I want. I enjoy being a giving person, and I like putting smiles on people’s faces. When I leave this earth, I want people to remember that I cared about them.”

About that, there is no doubt.

LOCATION: TA NASHVILLE CANDY BASS TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 4.0 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, RECOGNITION FROM WOMEN IN TRUCKING AND MARTEN TRANSPORT; COMMUNITY: LIFETIME OOIDA MEMBER, TRUCKERS UNITED FOR CHARITIES, NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR TRUCKERS, SPECIAL OLYMPICS, AND TRUCKER BUDDY INTERNATIONAL; LEADERSHIP: HATS FOR HEROES FOUNDER


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DENIS LITALIEN, BIDDEFORD, ME | CLIFFORD W. PERHAM / SHAW’S SUPERMARKETS

If you’ve been professionally driving trucks for 44 years, chances are you’d have as many good things to say about your career choice as Denis Litalien, and other people would be saying many good things about you. However, that wouldn’t even be half of his story. Denis’ resume as an after-hours industry super advocate is much too long to be recapped here.

“While much of my industry involvement is focused on the Maine Professional Drivers Association, I’m also engaged in related service and charitable activities across this beautiful state and beyond. I’ve learned something that everyone who wishes to make professional driving a true career choice needs to consider. Give of yourself in service to others. For any time and effort devoted to helping others, you’ll always receive something back in multiples.”

Friend Robert “Truckin’ Bob” Cyr had this to say, “I’ve known Denis for a long time in several capacities. Examples of his ability to get folks involved with so many good causes and civic campaigns over the years are too numerous to mention. He is one of the most unselfish and humble individuals I’ve ever known. Denis has a contagious, lovable presence, and it is fitting that he would be recognized for all his humble acts of kindness, charity, patriotism and civic involvement.”

“I wish every truck was equipped with glass sides,” said Denis. ”People would be amazed if they could see what’s inside. They’re just not aware of everything this industry hauls that they rely on to sustain their everyday lives and make them more comfortable and enjoyable.

“I’m so pleased to see the Citizen Driver program gaining recognition throughout the industry. It needs all of the positive PR we can generate, individually and collectively. TA-Petro has approached this from an angle that no one else even considered. The fact that you can put a driver’s name on a building that is not attributable to a politician, a wealthy donor, or a historical figure, is beyond belief. This honor has really blown me away. It’s the pinnacle of my career!”

LOCATION: TA GREENLAND DENIS LITALIEN TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 3.0 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, ATA RECOGNITION, MAINE AND NATIONAL DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS, TCA HIGHWAY ANGEL COMMUNITY: TRUCKING FOR KIDS CONVOY, ST. JUDE’S  TRUCK DRIVERS CHARITY CHALLENGE, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION, UNITED WAY, Knights of Columbus, NPTC HUMANITARIAN AWARD LEADERSHIP: CO-FOUNDED THE MAINE PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS ASSOCIATION AND TRUCKERS/TROOPERS PROGRAM, EMPLOYER VOLUNTEER SERVICE


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JON OSBURN, BOISE, ID | OOIDA – THE SPIRIT TRUCK

Though he didn’t always want to be a truck driver, Jon “Doc” Osburn knew at an early age that he wanted to help people. He did during 20 years of military service, first as an Army National Guard Combat Medic and then as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, including three Vietnam tours. After a very successful stint with Mayflower, he organized and operated the M.E.R.V. (Medical Education and Resource Vehicle) for truckers. When funding dried up, he landed his current position with OOIDA as the driver and spokesperson for the “Spirit of the American Trucker” tour truck.

“I’m very proud to represent an organization that serves 155,000 active members, and I do mean active,” said Jon. “We have about 50,000 more in Canada. That’s not counting those who are retired or semiretired. It’s really neat to be the truck driver out talking with truck drivers. People ask me all the time, ‘How did you get this job?’ I tell them that I was the lucky person who was in the wrong place at the right time.”

In her letter of recommendation for this honor, Nikki Johnson of OOIDA Marketing offered some kind words. “I’ve had the privilege of working with Jon for the last four years. We speak to one another daily. We call Jon the ‘Skipper’ of our tour truck and display trailer. He is perfect for his position. Many OOIDA members stop in just to visit with Jon. I’m continually amazed at how many fellow truckers call upon him for advice or assistance. Whether expressing an idea, seeking health information, or just asking how to do something, they call Jon.”

“Just to be nominated for the Citizen Driver Honor is very humbling,” said Jon. “All my life, I did what I felt good about, usually just helping less-fortunate people in need. I firmly believe I’m in a rarified crowd based on those nominated and honored in the past. This honor ranks right up there with other precious moments in my life. Falling in love with my wife, being present when my children were born, watching them graduate from high school and college, and becoming a grandfather for the first time.”

LOCATION: TA BOISE J.D. “DOC” OSBURN TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 2.75 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, OOIDA RECOGNITION, 20 YEARS ACCIDENT-FREE, Paramedic – EMS Supervisor, MAYFLOWER DRIVER OF YEAR COMMUNITY: SPECIAL OLYMPICS, ST. CHRISTOPHER, ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, TRUCKSTOP MINISTRIES, MARY JOHNSTON SCHOLARSHIP FUND, NDPT CITIZENSHIP AWARD HEALTH & WELLNESS: INSTRUCTOR / TRAINER IN EMS, CPR, SEARCH & RESCUE, PARAMEDIC, EMT AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL DISPATCH


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BILL & ROBYN TAYLOR, ENFIELD, CT | LANDSTAR

When it comes to community service, Bill and Robyn Taylor have forged a strong connection with the students in their local school districts. The Taylors’ dedication to sharing their experiences from the road is a shining example of how they go above and beyond in everything they do.

“I got into trucking because my mom told me ‘If I didn’t study in school, I’d end up driving a truck,’” said Bill. “Truth is, I wanted to be a truck driver, a pilot or a train engineer. When I started driving 30 years ago, I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I would meet so many wonderful people, and see the unbelievable sights Robyn and I have during the 17 years we’ve been team driving. The mantra, if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life, is pretty darn close to being spot on. It’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle.”

“We work with three schools in our hometown and one in nearby Windsor,” said Robyn. “We’re up to 18 classes. Every year, we talk about scaling back; instead, we wind up connecting with another class or two. We’ve become their roaming geography teachers, with a bit of history, too. It’s very gratifying seeing the kids’ reactions when we visit their schools with our truck. Assisting teachers is a very rewarding experience. I encourage others who love kids and the trucking industry to volunteer.”

“When our truck was stolen in California, we had a dream catcher hanging in it,” said Bill. “The story spread. A school in Danbury sent a box filled with more than 30 dream catchers. The teacher invited us to visit with our truck after it was returned. While we talked with the principal inside for a few minutes, all of the students assembled around the truck. Much to our surprise, the kids presented us with posters and an envelope containing $425 raised by selling 25¢ bags of popcorn to help pay for the airfare to retrieve our truck.”

“We’re firm believers in giving back to the industry and to our town and state, said Robyn. “ The famous John F. Kennedy ‘Ask not’ quote rings true with us. The only way we (all drivers) can elevate the image of our industry is by interacting with people, sharing our stories, showing them what we do.”

LOCATION: TA SOUTHINGTON BILL & ROBYN TAYLOR TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 4.0 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, LANDSTAR SAFETY AWARDS COMMUNITY: FRIENDS OF EDUCATION AWARDS, TRUCKER BUDDY, Women in trucking, CONGRESSIONAL RECOGNITION, AMERICAN LEGION, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA AND 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION LIFE MEMBER, OOIDA, TEAM RUN SMART, MAKE-A-WISH HEALTH & WELLNESS: EXERCISE AND NUTRITION ADVOCATES WHO RECENTLY COMBINED TO LOSE 50 POUNDS


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BILL UNDERWOOD, ALTA VISTA, KS | UNDERWOOD FARMS TRUCKING, LLC

During his 53 years behind the wheel, including 18 pulling weekend duty to make ends meet while in the Army, Bill Underwood demonstrated his affinity for working hard and lending a helping hand. Though well known to family and friends for a generous heart and selfless caring for anyone in need, Bill does not seek, nor want recognition. Though a somewhat reluctant nominee, Bill is very deserving of being recognized as a 2016 Citizen Driver Honoree.

What happened at 5:15 a.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015 is a prime example. Bill was updating his logbook at a Mississippi truck stop, when approached by a young woman asking for a ride to her home in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She said she was 19, her car was being towed, had no ID and no money, and just wanted a ride.

Deciding he couldn’t just leave her in the middle of a truckers’ parking lot, Bill said he was heading towards Louisiana on I-20 and could take her as far as TA Greenwood. He knew the staff very well, was confident she would be safe, and they would help her. During the 200-mile trip, she alternated between sleeping and telling Bill three different versions of her story. At TA Greenwood, he bought her a hot breakfast and asked GM Dean Barnett to contact local authorities. When they arrived and she was questioned, it turned out she was only 14 and had run away from a youth detention center to which she was returned.

Carrying the Underwood Farms banner, Bill, his brother and three other drivers run loads of kosher meat from Nebraska to Miami. “My drivers and I make it home every weekend,” said Bill. “I want them to have quality family time, the same as me. I really enjoy helping people, especially those who are down on their luck and unable to help themselves.

“I’m having a good life, still enjoying what I do. I’ve been blessed with a great wife and eight wonderful children. By setting a good example for the younger ones, I hope they will help others and be productive. While many professional drivers already share similar values, hopefully a few at least will be motivated to answer a higher calling.”

LOCATION: TA GREENWOOD BILL UNDERWOOD TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 7.95 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, OOIDA MEMBER COMMUNITY: NUMEROUS HELPING-HAND STORIES INCLUDING MANY STRANGERS LEADERSHIP: A 21-YEAR CAREER AS ARMY HELICOPTER PILOT – VIETNAM VET, 52 AIR MEDALS INCLUDING DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS, INSTRUCTOR, FLEW DIGNITARIES SUCH AS WALTER MONDALE, MARGARET THATCHER, GOLDA MEIR, NUMEROUS GENERALS


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MICHAEL ZANELLA, COLUMBUS, OH | PIZZA HUT

Two popular idioms pretty much tell the story of Michael Zanella and the Citizen Driver competition. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” and “The third time’s a charm.” Although a finalist in 2014 and again in 2015, Michael’s nominations ended short of the ultimate goal. Undaunted, Michael and his supporters tried again. Voilà, it’s now official, Michael Zanella is a 2016 Citizen Driver Honoree.

For those who’ve tried unsuccessfully, the simple lesson is learning from the 21 honorees to date and trying again. Michael realized more than a solid safety record is needed as the field of entries narrows. “The classes of the 2014 and 2015 had stupendous credentials,” said Michael. “All are great people and have outstanding records within the industry and in their communities. They’re clearly the best of the best.

“Winning has to be the very pinnacle of the trucking profession. It certainly is for me. I’m happy, proud and humbled that I’m being inducted into what many are beginning to recognize as the ‘truck driver hall of fame.’ I’m just a hard-working, blue-collar guy, and I’m going to have my hometown truck stop named after me. How awesome is that? It’s the ultimate ‘Wow!’ factor. So many people helped me during my 25-year career, and I owe each one a big debt of gratitude.

“When you consider that I’m the oldest of seven children, growing up in the coal fields of western Pennsylvania had its challenges for my parents and siblings. A solid work ethic was instilled in me from the time I started working at age 12. I learned quickly that you better be sure you’re doing your job right. I sincerely believe you don’t accomplish much in life without having goals and working to achieve them.

“During my career, I’ve had over-the-road jobs that took me to all 48 contiguous states and some Canadian provinces. There’s such a wide range of scenic beauty, natural attractions and historical sites to see. I encourage drivers to plan their stops, so they can take some of it in. There are so many sights that those who work at the same location every day will likely never see.”

LOCATION: TA HEBRON MICHAEL EUGENE ZANELLA TRAVEL CENTER

SAFETY: 2.67 MILLION ACCIDENT-FREE MILES, OOIDA 24 YEARS SAFE DRIVING AWARD, PIZZA HUT MONTHLY MVP, PRO DRIVERS DRIVER OF THE YEAR COMMUNITY: LIFE MEMBER OF OOIDA AND DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS, AMERICAN LEGION, VFW, MARINE CORP LEAGUE LEADERSHIP: KENTUCKY COLONEL, MASONIC EXCELLENCE AWARD AND CHAPTER LEADER & VOLUNTEER, 6-YEAR MARINE CORP ENLISTMENT (7 RECOGNITION AWARDS)

 

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