At a young age, in the deserts of California, local J.B. Hunt driver Eric became captivated with truck driving. He would eventually be the only one of three sons to become a truck driver like his father. “When I was 10 years old, I went on a trip with my Dad. It was night time in California and dad let me sit in his lap and drive the truck across the desert. That was cool. I was hooked,” he said.
Eric went on to operate a truck in the Army for seven years, transitioned out and earned his CDL A. He drove commercially for over 30 years and for 10 of those years, he managed a multi-unit operation. “I worked for a man who owned a multi-unit operation; he was an owner operator. I was an operations manager and managed three warehouses and 18 drivers,” he said.
When Eric’s son Lance left the Air Force and earned his CDL A, he came to work for Eric at the multi-unit operation as a regional truck driver. After years of hard labor, long hours and time away from home, it took a toll on Lance and his family. With his father’s blessing, Lance moved on to a local truck driving job with J.B. Hunt. “It was a local position and I knew I could make pretty close, if not equal to my pay. I wouldn’t have to load and unload my trailer. The account has 90% drop and hook and the other deliveries, someone else was loading or unloading,” Lance explained.
A few years later, Eric was burned out from his long hours managing the multi-unit operation and was eager for a local truck driving job too. “I worked 100 hours a week, making $1,200 a week,” he groaned.
His son Lance was enjoying his driving job at J.B. Hunt and connected Eric with management to learn more about driving with the company. Eric was convinced that J.B. Hunt was worth the move. “I could work less hours, make the same, if not more money… I quit my job and came to J.B. Hunt. I was very happy from that day on,” he said.
Father and son were now company drivers for the same dedicated account. “For a while, it was competitive and then it wasn’t competitive,” Eric explained. “The competitiveness fell off real quick. He’s quicker, younger and does great work… We were both just drivers on the same account.”
“It was easier to work with my dad than for him as my boss,” Lance said with a laugh. “I learned a lot that I know from my dad and over the years, I learned a lot on my own…” The advice continued to be shared years later, even after Lance moved to another dedicated account.
Throughout his 13 years at J.B. Hunt, Eric has been an asset to the dedicated account. He’s known to go above and beyond to coach drivers on how to properly perform pre-trip inspections and search for hard-to-find maintenance issues. He also became a Smith System trainer and enjoys teaching drivers safety standards and practices. “My goal with training is that all drivers are safe drivers,” he said.
Eric’s managers have noticed his strong work ethic and recently awarded him the Southwest Regional Driver of the Month. And with such an accomplishment, he joined a pool of drivers in the running for J.B. Hunt’s DCS Southwest Driver of The Year award. The winner was to be announced at the DCS southwest region’s annual kickoff event in Dallas, Texas.
With his wife and daughter beside him, Eric was among hundreds of excited attendees at the annual kickoff learning what was in store for the DCS division in 2018. Throughout the event, the Driver of the Month recipients were recognized for their hard work and dedication to their jobs and the company. But only one driver could be awarded the Driver of the Year.
“I didn’t know if I’d get it. I was hoping I’d get it. There could be only one winner and I’m sure glad it was me,” Eric explained with amazement still ringing in his voice.
Eric’s name was announced as the crowd roared and confetti fell from the sky. His son Lance presented him with the award and a $5,000 bonus check. “I can’t put one word to it. It was very emotional. To look at my wife, to see her smile and hear her say, ‘Finally’,” Eric said. “This is what a truck driver works for in his career – to be noticed for the work they’ve done by a company like J.B. Hunt. You are the best of the best.”
The opportunity to present this prestigious award to his father was a privilege Lance will never forget. “It was a really good feeling. The Driver of the Year award is a lot different type of award than winning one million miles. With something like this, other people see your job performance and nominate you. That’s something more special,” he said.
Eric has plans for his future at J.B. Hunt – to put his $5,000 bonus towards retirement and continue to go above and beyond for the company. “It’s been a fantastic career…Thank you to everyone who’s been involved in the past 13 years of it,” he said. “It feels great to work for a company that looks at drivers and gives them a chance for something like this, I thank you for that.”