The Truckload Carrier Conference also honored the top member-company truck drivers and owner-operators for 2008 during the annual convention. These awards are based on excellent safety records, unblemished work histories, and involvement in the community and industry.

Recognized as the grand prize winner in the Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest was James Loveland of Willis Shaw Express, Elm Springs, Arkansas. A truck driver for the company since 1998, he has logged more than 1.6 million accident-free truckload miles.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked Willis Shaw Express to provide drivers and equipment to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Loveland was the first driver to volunteer. He spent six months as part of a FEMA task force assigned to Region IV.

He was the last Willis Shaw Express driver to be released from his duties because FEMA found his flexibility and willingness to help to be extremely useful to the operation.

Later, in 2008, Loveland volunteered in a similar capacity when Hurricane Ike bore down on Louisiana.

In the contest application presented to TCA on Loveland's behalf, Chris Kozak, president of Willis Shaw Express, called him “an ambassador of the roadways,” and noted that “his technical expertise, performance of his duties, and sense of citizenship are without equal in the rich 70-year history of our company.”

Among the prizes Loveland received as TCA's top company driver: a Cummins engine-powered Dodge Ram pickup truck, $3950 in truck stop gift cards, $2750 cash, a TagHeuer Swiss Avant-Gard men's watch valued at $1500, and two roundtrip airplane tickets to anywhere in the Continental US.

Second-place winner was Robert Harmeyer of Batesville Casket Company, Batesville, Indiana. He has worked since 1988 hauling caskets outbound and miscellaneous freight on the backhaul. Over the course of his career, Harmeyer has logged more than 2.4 million accident-free truckload miles.

When not out on the road, Harmeyer brings his truck to the local high school's driver education classes and speaks about safety around tractor-trailers. He allows students to sit in the driver's seat to get a sense of what truck drivers can and cannot see around their vehicles.

Harmeyer is a Trucker Buddy to a second-grade classroom, exchanging letters and postcards with the class and allowing them to tour his truck.

His prize package was $2000 in truck stop gift cards, $1500 cash, and a $250 Best Buy gift card.

Ralph Boles, a truck driver with Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, since 1974, took third place in the Company Equipment Driver of the Year contest. During his career, he has logged more than 4.5 million accident-free truckload miles.

Boles sits on his Bison Transport's Driver Advisory Board and Accident Appeal Board. Through these boards he is able to advise, review, and discuss policies that need to be changed, accidents and how they should be handled, and concerns of company drivers and/or the general public.

Recently, he began serving as an in-cab instructor, sharing his extensive experience in mountain driving to help Bison Transport's new drivers.

His received $1200 in truck stop gift cards, $750 cash, and a $250 Best Buy gift card.

Owner-operators

The Grand Prize Winner in the Owner-Operator of the Year competition was Wayne Lowe with FFE Transportation Services, Dallas, Texas. He has been with the company since 1967. He has logged more than 4.5 million accident-free truckload miles throughout his career.

“Lowe is one of the industry's most dedicated and processional drivers,” said David Hedgpeth, FFE's vice president of corporate compliance and safety, “but he is also compassionate. Two years ago, he aided a family involved in a winter accident about 100 miles outside of Denver — going above and beyond what would normally be expected. He is what I call ‘salt of the earth.’ ”

As the Owner-Operator of the Year, Lowe was given a SmartWay-compliant LoneStar tractor donated by Navistar International. The tractor is outfitted with a 550-horsepower Cummins ISX diesel engine, 18-speed manual Fuller Eaton Roadranger transmission, and Goodyear G305 Fuel Max radial truck tires — all donated by the equipment manufacturers.

He also got $3950 in truck stop gift cards, $1250 cash, and a TagHeuer Swiss Avant-Gard men's watch valued at $1500.

Taking second-place honors was Clark Lett, with Dart Transit Company of Eagan, Minnesota. A truck driver for 55 years, he has been affiliated with Dart Transit since 1991. He drove for North American Van Lines for 17 years before that.

Over the course of his career, he has driven over three million accident-free truckload miles.

When not on the road, Lett is actively involved in youth baseball and basketball teams; serves as a Deacon, choir member, and trustee of his church; and is a Master Mason Pilgrim.

His prize package was $2000 in truck stop gift cards, $750 cash, and a $250 gift card for Best Buy.

Third place went to Gerald Clouse, also with Dart Transit of Eagan. He has driven 3.4 million accident-free truckload miles and has been leased to Dart Transit for the past 22 years.

Clouse's prize package was $1200 in truck stop gift cards, $500 cash, and a $250 gift card for Best Buy.

In addition to their many miles of safe driving, all six top truckers have each accumulated numerous awards and honors over the course of their driving careers.

To be eligible for either the company driver or owner-operator of the year honors, applicants have to meet certain minimum criteria, including having driven one million consecutive accident-free miles, and must have driven for a TCA-member trucking company for at least the past three years.

After passing the initial phase of the competition, applicants need to submit a final application form, from which the top three winners are selected.