The Log Book is a weekly rundown of human-interest stories related to the transportation industry. This week: Walmart showcases truck driver in its Every Day Heroes program, Wreaths Across America recognizes trucking company for volunteer efforts and Schneider driver’s daughter advances to Olympic diving semifinals on Saturday.

Walmart honors driver in Every Day Heroes program

Walmart recently honored a driver from Mint Hill, North Carolina, as part of its Every Day Heroes program, created in partnership with PepsiCo to celebrate team members who go above and beyond for customers and individuals in their communities.

April Coolidge’s dedication during a time of personal and COVID pandemic-related challenges placed her among 12 employees who will be recognized on the Walmart (NYSE:WMT) website for their goodwill and passion for making a difference, particularly during the challenges of the pandemic.

The associates will also be featured on various Frito-Lay products and marketing materials where consumers can use a QR code to learn more about the workers’ efforts.

While Coolidge has only been driving for Walmart for two and a half years, a passion for driving trucks runs in her blood.

“My dad was a truck driver and he provided a very good life for our family and I had a wonderful childhood because of it,” she said in an interview.

Coolidge’s first career was in real estate and when the market deflated in 2008, she started to consider truck driving. A few years later, the single mom enrolled in truck driving school and began driving for USA Truck (NASDAQ:USAK).

After becoming accustomed to the driving world, Coolidge had one dream.

“I knew I wanted to be a Walmart driver someday. Everything about them was just so inspiring to me,” she said. “I would see them in their nice white shirts at truck stops and, to me, they were just larger than life and had a glow about them.

“I knew that Walmart only hires the best of the best, so from the beginning I really focused on protecting my driving career because I knew someday it would pay off.”

Coolidge did just that and soon became a part of the Arkansas Road Team and the American Road Team, groups composed of American Trucking Associations members who are committed to promoting highway safety through various events.

This, along with more than a million miles of safe driving, opened up a spot for her to join the Walmart team.  

The position has been everything she hoped for.

“My overall experience with Walmart has been phenomenal,” she said. “I feel that I have a great level of respect from my company and from the public when they find out I drive for Walmart.”

She said the company is extremely accommodating in getting its drivers home every week.

Over the past year, Walmart has been even more adaptable, as her father’s dementia accelerated, keeping her home for long periods at a time.

“Anytime I have ever needed to stay and take care of my dad, they were there to support me,” Coolidge said. “He passed away in June and I just can’t tell you how appreciative I am that Walmart was by my side through the whole thing. It was a blessing.”

Coolidge’s ability to handle the pressures of her father’s illness and the tolls of COVID, while keeping a smile on her face, is why Walmart recognized her for her dedication.

“The past 18 months have been uniquely challenging to folks in the field,” said Matt Joyner, senior communications manager at Walmart. “Somebody who is bringing joy and enthusiasm into the workplace, somebody that is able to lift the dark cloud that a lot of folks experienced during that time deserves to be recognized. This was our effort to have an equally unique response to a uniquely challenging time.”

Coolidge believes the sacrifices she made through the pandemic prove how essential truck drivers are.

“There was a long period of time where I never really had a day off, and that was the sacrifice I made to give back to the community in the best way that I could,” she said. “I think truck drivers have to step back and realize that what we are doing with our careers is for the good of our communities. We have to give ourselves a pat on the back and know that we are the ones that make America move.”

Wreaths Across America honors Bennett Family of Companies with volunteer award

Last weekend at Wreaths Across America’s Stem and Stone event, the nonprofit organization recognized the Georgia-based Bennett Family of Companies with its annual James Prout Spirit of Giving Award. 

Wreaths Across America, which helps coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at thousands of veteran cemeteries, recognizes drivers or organizations for their outstanding volunteer efforts with the award. It memorializes the trucking company owner who was the first person to haul wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery during the first few years of the group’s efforts.

The Bennett Family of Companies, consisting of heavy-haul, flatbed, van, rigging and other services, has been a strong supporter of Wreaths Across America since 2018, holding fund-raising events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, motor clubs and law enforcement events. It has hauled more than 20,000 wreaths to support the group’s endeavors. 

Left to right: Lee Gentry, Bennett Family of Companies; Don Queeney, WAA Director of Trucking; Donna Padgett, Bennett Family of Companies; and Rob Worcester, WAA Transportation and Logistics. (Photo: Wreaths Across America)

Debbie Sparks, a board member of Wreaths Across America, was not surprised to see the Bennett Family of Companies receive the award.

“[Their] mission statement is that service will be their highest priority. They bring this philosophy to everything they do, including their involvement in Wreaths Across America,” she said. “After hauling wreaths their first year, they asked how they could become involved with their local cemetery, Andersonville National. Within 12 months they had become the location’s largest fund-raising group. The award was well earned.”

Schneider driver’s daughter advances to Olympic diving semifinals

Krysta Palmer, a daughter of Schneider National (NYSE:SNDR) professional driver Mitch Palmer, is advancing to the Olympic semifinals after her 15th-place showing in the preliminaries of the women’s 3-meter springboard diving.

Krysta Palmer, of Gardnerville, Nevada, will join the top 18 in Saturday’s event at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, with the medal round set for Sunday.

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