For Ray Miller, transitioning to career as a commercial truck driver was always top of mind following his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2018. Miller, who served 26 years as an infantryman in the Army, developed an interest in driving trucks at an early age after spending time on the road with his father, who was an over-the-road driver.
“I always looked forward to summer vacation growing up because that meant I could join my father on the road. I loved traveling and being able to see the country,” Miller recalled. “Some of my earliest memories are my father driving a Kenworth cabover in the 1980s. I was more than just a passenger when I was with him. My father taught me tips and tricks of the trade, and had me doing chores like cleaning the cab, or learning how to input hours in his logbook. I learned a lot from him.”
Today, Miller is an independent contractor for Stevens Transport and is one of four finalists recently named for the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” program. The program is dedicated to finding America’s top rookie military veteran driver. “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” recognizes top drivers who have made the successful transition from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet.
For the fifth consecutive year, Kenworth has teamed with the FASTPORT Trucking Track Mentoring Program and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program. Kenworth will provide The Driver’s Truck™ – a Kenworth T680 — as the program’s award to this year’s winner. The T680 features the complete PACCAR Powertrain with a PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission, and PACCAR 40K tandem axles, and includes a 76-inch sleeper equipped with the Kenworth Driver’s Studio package of options providing the ultimate premium living environment.
According to Miller, the advancements in technology in today’s trucks compared to the trucks he remembers from more than 25 years ago was more than he anticipated when he hired on with Stevens Transport.
“I was blown away by all the electronics, improvements in driver comforts and by the fact that I would be operating a truck with an automated transmission when I joined Stevens,” said Miller. “Prior to entering the industry, my last recollection of commercial trucks was when I was with my father. Back then, all trucks were spec’d with a manual transmission, and they didn’t have anywhere close to all the advanced technology in trucks today.”
Miller said that commercial driving is an excellent career path for fellow veterans transitioning from the military.
“It can be a stressful time for veterans transitioning out of the military. A question those retiring from the military often ask themselves is, ‘what’s next?’ A trucking industry career offers a lot of personal freedom, and certain skills you pick up in the military are applicable as a driver. I think there are great opportunities for veterans in this industry,” said Miller.
“I spent much of my time in the Army overseas. I saw and visited so many countries and foreign places most people will never have the opportunity to see,” said Miller. “Yet, I still have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Driving gives me the chance to visit all the places in the U.S. I’ve wanted to see.”
According to Miller, he is currently working towards his goal of owning his own truck, which he hopes to accomplish within six years. Looking further down the road, Miller hopes to own and operate his own fleet one day.
“Being nominated, and now a finalist for Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence has been such an incredible experience,” said Miller. “I can’t thank FASTPORT, Hiring our Heroes, and Kenworth enough for putting together a program like this. It means a lot to me and to all the other finalists. If I’m lucky enough to win the Kenworth T680, it will put me on a fast track for me to achieve my goals. I’m going to really run the mileage up on that T680 if I take ownership.”
The Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner will be announced in December. For further information on the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award program, visit www.transitiontrucking.org.