Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Serving others is the key to success for ATA Driver of the Year Lloyd Howell.

Truckers drive for a lot of reasons. Mainly they do it to provide for their families and their customers. Truth be told, day in and day out, covering countless miles, they lead the industry, ensuring the delivery of essential items we rely on to take care of our families.

The more time one spends in the trucking industry, the clearer it becomes that truck drivers are wonderful people with big hearts for serving others.

But what truly defines success? Is it the accumulation of wealth, the wielding of power, or the attainment of prestige? Is it the collection of awards, the garnering of accolades, or the recognition from peers? For TCW, Inc. driver Lloyd Howell, the essence of success is earned through a commitment to those who rely on him. With millions of safe miles under his belt, Howell has carved out an illustrious career in the often-overlooked trucking industry, embodying the principles of exceptional leadership. More importantly, he’s given most of his career to the service of others.

“One thing that’s served me well since I started driving is that I truly care about what I’m doing,” he says. “I care about my job, my employer, my coworkers, and, most importantly, my family. I want to be as safe as possible when I’m driving. I think of myself as a driver in a bubble, meaning regardless of what is going on around me, I’m going to make sure I’m doing all I can to make sure those around me are safe. It doesn’t matter to me if someone is driving too fast or aggressively, I’m going to do what I need to do to make sure that person gets home to their family in one piece. That’s all I want.”

Howell resides in Sterrett, Ala. on the family compound with his wife, Erica, daughter, Meghan McDonald, Son-in-law Kaleb McDonald, and three grandchildren. He’s driven for TCW for more than 15 years working his way up the ranks to become one of the company’s most trusted employees.

But he’s also a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a fervent advocate for the trucking world. His tireless dedication has not only earned him the Alabama Trucking Association’s 2023 Professional Driver of the Year award but also set a benchmark for excellence and mentorship, and community service within the industry. His story is a testament to the profound impact of leading by example, proving that true greatness lies in the ability to serve and inspire others.

For these reasons and more the Alabama Trucking Association Safety & Maintenance Management Council tapped him as its Driver of the Year, sponsored by Southland Transportation Group, at the SMMC’s Fleet Safety Awards banquet in March.

Fueled by Passion

From the first time Howell sat behind the wheel of a truck, he knew driving for a living was what he wanted to do. He loves the freedom of the open road, the machinery, and the opportunity to meet new people. The 56-year-old driver for TCW’s Birmingham terminal has worked in trucking for 27 years, starting with Birmingham Budweiser as a driver helper making local deliveries and eventually moving into the driver’s seat after teaching himself how to drive a truck in the company yard.

“I just kept hinting around to my supervisor that I wanted to drive,” Howell says. “One day, he pointed to an empty truck and told me to start learning how. The trouble was it was an old 10-speed with a splitter, so it took me a little while. I spent a lot of time just driving circles until I got the hang of it.”

After a few weeks of training, practice and study, he told his supervisor he was ready to sit for his CDL exam. “As soon as I came back with my new CDL,” he says, “they put me in a truck, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

He eventually moved on from Budweiser to food distributor Sysco where he would earn Company Driver of the Year in 1999, and the Sysco Supervisor of the Year in 2001, 2003, and 2007.

In 2009, he signed on with his current employer, TCW, as a full-time driver. Supervisors soon recognized his leadership qualities and commitment to the rules of the road and workplace safety. Company managers asked him to serve as a “Master Coach” for the fleet. Drivers call him with questions and suggestions – or they may just need an outlet to vent their concerns. He’s always available to help his co-workers and friends.

TCW’s Director of Safety Ronnie Holland nominated Howell for the award and has worked with him for more than 14 years. In that time, he observed Howell’s impressive progression and significant contributions to the company and industry.

“Lloyd’s dedication is unparalleled, having safely driven nearly 2 million miles, a testament to his exceptional character and commitment,” he said. Not just a skilled driver, Lloyd stands out as a mentor and Master Coach, passionately guiding newcomers and shaping our Student Mentoring program.

“His work ethic, reliability, and unwavering commitment to safety and customer service make him an exemplary figure, not only within TCW but in the industry. As an honored Alabama and America’s Road Team Captain, Lloyd truly embodies the spirit of excellence and service. He is more than deserving of the ATA’s Driver of the Year award.”

Driving Success in Others

He logged endless hours and effort into becoming a top-notch driver, always on the lookout for ways to improve — not just for himself but to set an example for everyone around him.

“Around the time my daughter started to learn to drive, I made it my mission to get involved with teaching the young people I was around about safe driving techniques and the rules of the road,” he says. “It started kind of organically with Meghan and her close friends, but then it led to her schoolmates and teammates on her softball team.”

Being a mentor is important to Lloyd. Spotting the potential for success in others fuels his passion for the job and the people he cares deeply for. It was the reason he accepted the training and mentoring roles at TCW.

“TCW’s mentor program now targets new employees with less than a year of driving experience or those who have come right out of driving school,” he said. “Working aa a mentor is totally voluntary. I am not paid more to do it. I do it because of how I came up in the industry, being self-taught and learning on the job, so to speak. I have experience and knowledge that I learned that can be passed down to the next generation of drivers. If I can help a new driver succeed more quickly in their careers without hitting some of the snags and pitfalls I experience, it is worth every bit of my time and effort.”

In 2015, ATA Vice President of Safety & Compliance Tim Frazier asked Howell if he’d be interested in joining the Road Team. “It was obvious to me from the movement I met Lloyd that cares deeply about the work he does and the people around him,” Frazier said. “His company managers have placed so much trust in him through the years and he always delivers. When a spot on our Road Team opened up, he was the first person I called. He’s been an outstanding leader for us and a credit to this Association.”

Howell says whether it’s young drivers in the classroom or a batch of new truck drivers gathered in the company training room, the importance of educating someone about safely operating a vehicle large or small is not lost on him.

Last fall, Howell was selected to join the America’s Road Team, as announced by the American Trucking Associations. The America’s Road Team, founded in 1986, serves as an ambassadorial group for the trucking industry, advocating for safe driving practices and educating the public about the sector’s importance and career opportunities. Howell and his fellow team members, representing 14 states and boasting a collective 61.6 million accident-free driving miles, will travel the country in the ATA’s Interstate One Image Truck, a Volvo VNL 760, to promote a positive image of the trucking industry and share vital safety messages.

He is the third Alabama-based driver selected for America’s Road Team in the past decade, joining the ranks of elite drivers who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to safety and the trucking industry.

Lloyd’s remarkable journey and steadfast dedication to excellence, community, and mentorship not only redefines leadership in the trucking industry but also makes him a deserving recipient of the ATA’s highest honor for a truck driver.

Receiving the Driver of the Year award was a moment of immense pride and joy for Howell. It was a recognition not just of his achievements but of his commitment to safety, mentorship, and excellence in the trucking industry. This accolade served as a testament to the countless hours he dedicated to educating young and new drivers, advocating for safe driving practices, and representing the trucking community with honor. As Howell reflects on this milestone, it underscores the significant impact of his efforts and further fuels his passion for making the roads safer for everyone.

“This award is not about one person – it is about family, as well,” he said. “My family is the rock on which I stand every day. I have a reason and a purpose to be safe out there on the road. I want to come home safely to my family, and I want everyone else on the road to return home safely to their loved ones.”