CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — At age 20, Ivan Hernandez, enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, where he served his country for 20 years. Over the course of his military career, Hernandez deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times. In 2006, while serving in Iraq, Hernandez was wounded in action. For his heroism, Hernandez received two Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart.
Today, Hernandez is a truck driver for Werner Enterprises. He is also one of four finalists named for the 2020 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award. The award program is dedicated to finding America’s top rookie military veteran driver and recognizes top drivers who have made the successful transition from active military 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, and will provide 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, a PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission and PACCAR 40K tandem axles. In addition, the T680 includes a 76-inch sleeper equipped with the Kenworth Driver’s Studio package of options.
When Hernandez retired honorably from the U.S. Army in 2018, he explored new career opportunities and found the trucking industry to best align with his values and the type of work he wanted to do moving forward.
“When I was with the Army, I was fascinated by the logistics of how goods moved from the U.S. to where we were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hernandez said. “It sparked enough interest for me to look at a career that involved being a part of the supply chain following my retirement from the Army.”
According to Hernandez, the opportunity to explore the country he helped protect for 20 years was another appealing aspect of the trucking industry. Hernandez received his CDL through the Roadmaster Drivers School and hired on with Werner Enterprises in 2019.
“With air travel so common and easy, there aren’t many people out there that have the time or opportunity to travel across the country and see all that the country has to offer,” he said. “For me, it’s incredibly rewarding to continue to serve the country by transporting goods all across this great nation. Driving gives me plenty of time to reflect on my time in the military and I’ve met some incredible people, including many veterans out on the road.”
Hernandez believes professional driving is an excellent career choice for service members transitioning from the military to civilian life.
“The sense of camaraderie you build with other drivers is similar to what you experience in the military,” he said. “A lot of the skills you develop in the military, such as leadership and quick decision-making, are all applicable on the road. There are plenty of opportunities for veterans seeking a career as a professional driver. I appreciate programs such as Transition Trucking: Hiring our Heroes for providing opportunities for us veterans to advance our careers in the industry. A big thanks to Hiring Our Heroes, FASTPORT and Kenworth for putting this program together.”
Quinton Ward, who is leased on with Werner Enterprises and was the 2018 “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award winner of a Kenworth T680, is an inspiration to Hernandez.
“Quinton’s been heavily involved in Werner’s Operation Freedom fleet, which features a number of trucks driven by military veterans who operate military themed-wrapped trucks and go out and attend recruiting events to encourage fellow veterans to join the industry,” Hernandez said. “If I’m fortunate enough to win the Kenworth T680, my eventual goal would be to follow in the footsteps of Quinton and join the Operation Freedom fleet. I’d love to help educate veterans of the opportunities this industry has to offer and help place them in meaningful jobs.”
The Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award winner will be announced in December. For more information on the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence award program, click here.