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Only woman trucker finalist wins Top Rookie of the Year award

Julie Matulle, 48, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, drives for H.O. Wolding Inc. and graduated from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. She drives a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. (The Trucker: APRILLE HANSON)

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff


DALLAS — Julie Matulle, the only woman finalist out of 10 truckers in the fourth annual Mike O’Connell Memorial Trucking’s Top Rookie award at the Great American Trucking Show here Friday had one goal – “First is do not cry,” she said to herself and to the crowd that gathered after she was announced as this year’s Top Rookie winner.

Matulle, 48, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, drives for H.O. Wolding Inc. and graduated from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. She drives a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

The Top Rookie, sponsored by several trucking entities and organizations, including Truckload Carriers Association, receives several prizes including $10,000, a custom plaque, a Cobra package that includes a CB radio and cameras, another $1,000 and 100,000 MyRewards points from Pilot Flying J.

The other nine finalists receive $1,000, a plaque and a prize package. There were 55 drivers entered this year, up from 46 in 2013. Some of the criteria to be eligible for the award included on-time deliveries, safe driving, customer relations and availability for loads.

“Absolutely unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” Matulle told The Trucker after winning the award.  “It’s a lifelong goal [to be a trucker], win or lose. I kept saying, ‘I’m in it to win it’ but then I tell everybody ‘I already won — I’ve got a brand new truck waiting at home for me.’ I’m just really proud of everyone. We’re all over the age of 40 that are in it [the Top Rookie finalists]. It’s life changing to become a truck driver; the not being home, not being close to your family. It’s just life altering and I’m proud of everyone.”

Matulle’s parents, Donald and Joyce Buehring grew up in the trucking industry running Donald Buehring Trucking in Oshkosh.

“I’d like to thank my mom and dad,” Matulle said to the crowd, adding they taught her that “some things you have to work a little harder for and this [being a truck driver] is one of them.”

As a child, Matulle rode in the big rig with her father and has taken those experiences with her out on the road.

Part of Matulle’s essay submitted for the Top Rookie award was read at the presentation, which said in part: “My father started driving a milk truck when he was 13 and eventually purchased the business from his father. I grew up on a farm with three trucks as well. I was the youngest, so I was responsible for the farm end. But I was always the silly little girl that wanted to drive a truck.”

“This is a business my father, my grandfather did, I just never did” working instead in the shipping department at Quad Graphics for two decades, she told The Trucker. Matulle raised two children as a single parent, with help from her parents.  

Before she fulfilled her dream of being a trucker, Matulle said in her essay: “I chose to make sure my kids were raised and their feet firmly planted on the ground before I took a big chance. I quit my job and signed up for driver training school.”

Her children are now grown and Matulle is proud to say she has “the little star of my life” her granddaughter Holly, who will be two years old in December.

“I grew up with a very close family and my parents helped me a lot with my children so we stayed very tight. I just wanted to make my dad proud,” Matulle said of becoming a truck driver. “A single parent, as far as that is, I think it gives you the tough that you need. You don’t need to let your guard down” out on the road.

But just because she’s tough, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a sweet spot for the kids she sees along the way.

“I rode with my dad as a little bitty kid. So whenever I see kids in truck stops … I’d always buy them candy bars because that’s what people would do for me so I’m still the candy bar queen,” Matulle told The Trucker.

Matulle’s dispatcher with H.O. Wolding said, in part, in a statement that was shared at the award ceremony:  “In her first few months Julie quickly developed a reputation for being a hard runner and for always having a positive attitude, even when faced with adverse situations. I can personally say every time I’ve spoken with Julie she’s left a good impression.”

Before Matulle received her award, the American Trucking Association’s Phil Byrd said that driver image is important now as the industry struggles with negative public perception. The finalists are evidence that the trucking industry has a lot to be proud of, Byrd said.

“Every second of my adult life has been spent in this industry,” Byrd said to the crowd. “All of you are winners, all of you are champions and heroes and this industry will be better because of you participation in it.”

While many drivers might view their job as making a trip or delivering a load, Byrd emphasized “what you make ladies and gentlemen is a difference.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.
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