Trucking conglomerate Schneider is highlighting its latest “Ride of Pride” highway tractor additions this week ahead of the U.S. Independence Day celebration – one for its U.S. operations, put into service over the memorial Day weekend back in May, and one for its Canadian TL division, activated for duty on June 2.
These are special units Freightliner Trucks – a division of Daimler Trucks North America – began building 13 years ago after Ed Keeter, Freightliner’s shift manager and a Vietnam War veteran, proposed constructing them as a way to honor current and prior members of the U.S. military.
The latest ‘Ride of Pride’ tractor joining Schneider’s U.S. operations is decorated with historical images representing all U.S. conflicts since World War II.
It will spend a year touring the country in a variety of military-themed functions before joining the other eight ‘Ride of Pride’ tractors in the Big Orange fleet in regular freight service, the company noted.
Jay Hull (seen at right) of Green Bay, WI, will be piloting the carrier’s 2015 ‘Ride of Pride’ tractor. Hull served in the U.S. Army for 24 years as a driver, completing tours in Iraq hauling fuel tankers before Schneider in 2012 as an intermodal driver based out of Chicago.
Within months of joining Big Orange, the company noted that Hull got promoted to become a “training engineer,” a role that assists with the growth and development of new drivers.
“The opportunity to represent Schneider as a ‘Ride of Pride’ driver is an honor. I completed tours in Iraq and Kuwait and I was fortunate enough to come home,” he noted. “This experience allows me to give back and join others in saying thank you to those who have served. At the same time, I get to talk about how transportation jobs are a great fit for former members of the military. My two favorite worlds really do intersect each and every day.”
This isn’t Hull’s first time behind the wheel of a “Ride of Pride” tractor either. In 2014, nearly a year after becoming a trainer, he got to take over Schneider’s 2008 ‘Ride of Pride’ truck, by then in regular freight service.
“I get goose bumps talking about it,” said Hull. “This truck is a rolling tribute to those who currently serve and to the families of soldiers, sailors and marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. It’s an emotional experience to have them share their stories with me.”
Schneider’s Canadian truck features imagery from the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario, as well as 10 gravestones from Flanders Fields in France, representing the Canadian military’s first battle independent of the British Commonwealth.
The Canadian flag and red poppies, internationally recognized symbols for remembrance of those lost in war, frame each side of the truck, along with the sayings “Lest We Forget,” and “Appuyons nos troupes” (French for “support our troops.”)
Darrell Esson (seen at left), who lives in Milton, Ontario, originally got tapped back in in 2011 to drive the first-ever unit produced by Freightliner to honor Canadian military members and will continue to serve as the Canadian driver for Schneider’s second Canadian-focused Ride of Pride tractor.
Esson began his military career as an infantryman in the Canadian Army in 1984, serving for 21 years and completing tours overseas, including Cypress, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He joined Schneider as an over-the-road driver in 2006.
“Driving the ‘Ride for Pride’ means a lot to me,” Esson said. “People often slow down or come up to me at truck stops because they want to thank me or share their stories, and that’s because they feel a connection to the truck.”
Like its U.S. counterpart, Schneider’s Canadian “Ride for Pride” truck will haul freight and represent Big Orange at military-themed events in Canada throughout the coming year.
“This year’s ‘Ride of Pride’ trucks are very special additions to our military-themed fleet,” said Rob Reich, VP at Schneider. “They represent our longstanding commitment to honoring those who have served and hiring them into our ranks.”
Amen to that. Amen indeed.