A distinguished veteran with nearly 16 years in the U.S. Army received the annual “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” award during a ceremony held recently at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. 

 Professional truck driver Ashley Leiva of Noemi Trucking in Corpus Christi, Texas, received the keys to a Kenworth T680 Next Generation, the top award in the recognition program. The T680 Next Gen is equipped with a comfortable, spacious 76-inch sleeper and PACCAR Powertrain featuring a PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission, and PACCAR DX-40 tandem rear axles.

For the seventh consecutive year, Kenworth teamed with FASTPORT and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes to find America’s top rookie military veteran who made the successful transition from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet.

Ashley Leiva and her daughter Olivia MirandaAshley Leiva and her daughter Olivia MirandaIn 2021, Leiva retired from the U.S. Army and returned to her hometown in Corpus Christi, Texas. After graduating from the transportation training program at Del Mar College, she and brother Johnny Leiva began running the trucking business of their late mother Noemi – and renamed it Noemi Trucking in her honor. Their company hauls crude oil for Draco Energy in South Texas.

Leiva is the first winner to be nominated by a National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving School. 

“This is certainly a very special moment for me. My mother inspired me to go into truck driving. She said driving a truck made her feel like she was on top of the world,” said Leiva. “It is an honor to receive the Transition Trucking award of the T680 Next Generation from among all the outstanding nominated veterans and fellow truck drivers. Thank you to FASTPORT, Hiring Our Heroes and Kenworth for what you do to help veterans transition into the trucking industry.”

“It was an honor to present the Kenworth T680 Next Generation keys to Ashley Leiva. On behalf of Kenworth and all our employees, thank you for your long military service to our country, and we wish you a successful and long trucking career,” said Genevieve Bekkerus, Kenworth director of marketing.

Other featured speakers were Eric Eversole, Hiring Our Heroes president and U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president; Brad Bentley, FASTPORT president; and Jesus Di Vila, American Trucking Associations, Road Team Captain and Workforce Heroes Program.

“We are honored to recognize Ashley Leiva for her service to our nation and commitment to excellence in the transportation industry. Kenworth’s tremendous contribution of a T680 Next Generation will ensure her continued success as an owner-operator,” said Eversole.

“Ashley has a great support network in her civilian career, and I know she will be a great ambassador for our industry moving forward. All 11 of these military service members who transitioned into careers as professional drivers are hard-working, dependable, motivated, ethical and disciplined team players – an asset to the trucking industry and their companies,” said Bentley. 

Under the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence program, the two runners-up Sean Adams/U.S. Navy/McElroy Truck Lines and Dave Marihugh/U.S. Navy/Roehl Transport; were each awarded with a check for $10,000.

Ashley Leiva in her new Kenworth T680 Next GenAshley Leiva in her new Kenworth T680 Next GenOther professional truck drivers who achieved the prestigious semifinalist status, listed with their military branch of service and current truck fleet, are Cale Jensen/U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army/G. Dubbels Farms Trucking; Paul Gouker/U.S. Army and National Guard/Stevens Transport; Chris McDowell/U.S. Army and National Guard/EPES Transport; Joe Nyenatee/U.S. Army/Melton Truck Lines; Talon Rogers/U.S. Army/CRST; Justin Silk/U.S. Army/Paschall Truck Lines; Michael D. Thomas/U.S. Marines/PRIME Inc., and Jason Van Boxtel/U.S. Marines/Veriha Trucking.

For the first time, all 11 semifinalists received a trip to Washington, D.C. to be honored for their military service and participate in the awards ceremony. Under the program, driver nominations can be made by any for-hire carrier or private fleet employers, training organizations, general public and other interested parties only by completing a nomination form on the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” website (www.transitiontrucking.org).

To qualify for “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence,” drivers had to meet three eligibility requirements:

  • Must have been active military or member of the National Guard or Reserve.
  • Graduated from PTDI-certified, NAPFTDS or CVTA member driver training school, with a valid CDL.
  • First hired in a trucking position between January 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022.

The public participated by casting their online vote on the Transition Trucking website. That vote was an important determiner for the Selection Committee members as they made the ultimate choice for this year’s Transition Trucking award winner.