KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Pilot Flying J revealed the winners of its annual Road Warrior contest, which recognizes the hard work, dedication, commitment and sacrifice of professional truck drivers who go above and beyond to keep America moving.
After reviewing thousands of nominations, this year’s $15,000 grand prize winner is David Sweetman of Wilmington, Delaware, and the $10,000 second-place winner is Jeffrey Thomas of Belews Creek, North Carolina. Inspired by the incredible stories received this year, Pilot Flying J for the first time in contest history determined it was a tie for third place, selecting Greg Hepner of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Ron Rigdon of Tignal, Georgia, to win $5,000 each.
“It is an honor to be able to give back to professional drivers and hear their incredible stories through our annual Road Warrior contest,” said Jason Nordin, chief operator for Pilot Flying J. “We appreciate all the professional drivers out there who, like our winners, represent the heart, determination and resiliency of trucking. Congratulations, David, Jeffrey, Greg and Ron on being this year’s winners. We thank you for the millions of safe miles, for being incredible stewards of our industry, and for your dedication to serving our country in many ways.”
Grand prize winner Sweetman is an Army veteran with over 50 years and five million miles behind the wheel. He leases out his truck to Bennett Truck Transport as a power-only hauler for concerts, stage events and equipment moves. He has also been a contributing writer and editor for various trucking publications for over 20 years. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Sweetman carried on, helping set up food banks, hauling generators for emergency hospitals and helping move generators, showers and water treatment units for FEMA after several natural disasters across the southern United States.
“David is a great person with a tremendous set of core values while always being safety conscious. It is rare to find drivers with not only his qualities but who have driven over a million miles safely while out on the road. We are very blessed at Bennett to have David,” said Tom Woodall, president of Bennett DriveAway.
Sweetman is also one of the original Trucker Buddy professional trucker volunteers, working with classrooms to help educate young students across America. Through reading, writing and mentorship, Sweetman and others help encourage future generations of professional drivers through tales of the road and showcasing how essential trucking is to the economy and Americans’ way of life.
“One of the great things about the project is that it gives us, the people traveling the country, a chance to share not only what we do but it teaches school children, who’ve maybe never left their hometown, where produce in the supermarket comes from, it comes from trucks,” said Sweetman.
To recognize his contributions and further the great work of Trucker Buddy, Pilot Company surprised Sweetman during his award ceremony at the Bennett Family of Companies with a $15,000 donation on his behalf to the organization.
“David, a founding driver of Trucker Buddy when Gary King started the program, has been showing students a positive image of the trucking industry for over 30 years,” said Randy Schwartzenburg, assistant treasurer and former executive director of Trucker Buddy. “We appreciate companies like Bennett and Pilot for working with us to encourage young students to excel in school and to bring education from the road to the classroom through the lens of a truck driver.”
Pilot Flying J’s second-place Road Warrior winner, Jeffrey Thomas, is the independent owner operator of Joly American Enterprises LLC, a Marine veteran and driver trainer with over 35 years of experience.
Third-place winner Greg Hepner has spent 30 years and more than three million incident-free miles behind the wheel covering 38 states, 17 foreign countries and three war zones and currently drives for Tidewater Transit Company.
The other third-place winner, Ron Rigdon, is an Army veteran, father and grandfather who currently operates a 53’ race-car hauler across the country for Parella Motorsports Holdings. Rigdon also started and operates Santa’s Toy Run, a toy drive and fundraiser dedicated to providing toys and funds to children in need.