With National Truck Driver Appreciation Week 2014 upon us, we at Roadmaster Drivers School want to shine a spotlight on all the hardworking men and women who are out on the road, keeping America and its economy going.
Unfortunately, we can’t put together a three-and-a-half-million-part interview series titled, “Get To Know Literally Every Trucker In America.” Well, we could try, sure, but we’d probably have a nervous breakdown by the time we got to Abraham A. Aardvarkerson.
So, we selected one great driver to interview: Immanuel Odongkara. Mr. Odongkara is an over-the-road truck driver for Werner Enterprises, in addition to being a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran, who currently is working on an important project.
Before we get to the interview, though, Roadmaster wishes to thank with sincerity each and every one of our country’s truck drivers for their continued hard work, day after day, and their dedication to making America great!
Now, here’s the conversation we had with one such hardworking truck driver, Immanuel Odongkara:
Roadmaster Drivers School: It’s an honor to speak with you, sir. We certainly thank you for your service to our country, both in the armed forces and as a driver. Can you please tell us a little bit about your background in the military?
Immanuel Odongkara: I served 20 years in the United States Navy. Retired at E-6, First Class Petty Officer, and my job was helicopter mechanic. We call it Aviation Machinist’s Mate, or AD for short… I worked on helicopters, fighter planes… my primary job was working on engines and fuel systems on the aircraft.
RDS: And what made you gravitate toward truck driving following your military career?
IO: When I got out of the military, I actually worked on base as a contractor but that job wasn’t letting me progress as far as I wanted to go. I heard about trucking through friends of mine… I had a good attitude about any job while looking into trucking and just gave it my all and said “Hey, this is what I’m going to do.” So I went to Roadmaster in Jacksonville. I went over the weekends. It was a two-day, Saturday and Sunday course for eight weeks.
RDS: We understand you were recently selected to drive for a very special mission, the Operation Freedom Tour. Can you tell us about it and how you got involved?
IO: Well, the way I got involved in Operation Freedom is last year myself and two other veterans from Werner were nominated for Rookie of the Year out of all of Trucking. I applied to Jim Morbach, who is my boss now, and he asked me what I thought about Operation Freedom… he asked if I wanted to drive the truck and I said “Yeah!” but I knew I’m new to Trucking so I thought I wouldn’t get an opportunity to get on the [Operation Freedom] truck until maybe four, five, six years down the line… until I got a phone call from Jim. He said, “I’d like you to drive the truck if you’d be interested,” and I said, “I’m definitely interested!”
Operation Freedom is a tribute to the military. It’s to show the military that Werner supports them. You have to be a veteran to qualify to drive an Operation Freedom Truck.
RDS: What do you suppose it is about veterans that makes them such a natural fit for trucking?
IO: It’s the dedication to the job. In trucking, you are, per se, your own boss because you… plan out your day. And with a veteran or someone who has structure from the military — not saying that only those who are in the military have structure — but those who have the mindset say, “Hey, I have a job to do. I have to get from point A to point B as fast as possible and as safe as possible and drop off the delivery…” From the military it makes it easy because we’re so used to picking up from one point and going to another point. I’ve gotten so used to doing that in the Navy for 20 years… It makes it easy for someone from the military because they’re used to that… making a plan and a strategy to get out there as safe as possible and get there on time and then vice versa turn around and do the same process over and over.
RDS: So what’s your take on the future of the trucking industry?
IO: Trucking’s going to grow. I don’t see Trucking not growing because everything you buy in a grocery store or department store, it all comes from Trucking. Without Trucking, you cannot get a product from point A to point B. There’s no way it’s not going to grow. If Trucking stops, that means that a lot of things in the United States will stop. Export, import… moving things from the east coast to the west coast, from the north to the south.
RDS: Any advice for someone considering trucking as a possible career? Either specific to military veterans looking for their next career move or just in general?
IO: Trucking is a career that, as with any career, you need to have an open mind. You can’t go into it with a narrow mind or a closed mind. In trucking, you need to have the diversity to be able to change in an instant. You could go from good weather to terrible weather in an instant. It’s all about the person’s mindset. If they put their mind to it and say “This is what I’m going to do. This is my career,” then the sky’s the limit. There’s no limit to what they can do in Trucking.
RDS: Great advice! And we at Roadmaster want to thank you for your time and, again, for your service. We look forward to seeing you in Tampa at Roadmaster Drivers School for Operation Freedom Tour’s Wednesday, September 24 visit.