Julie Matulle, a truck driver for H.O. Wolding of Amherst, Wis., has been named the winner of the fourth annual Mike O’Connell Memorial Trucking’s Top Rookie Award.
Matulle, who was chosen from a field of 10 finalists, received the award in ceremonies on Aug. 22 at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
In an interview with Eric Harley of Red Eye Radio after receiving the award, Matulle said she could not believe it when she learned she was nominated and that hearing that she was actually the winner “took her breath away.”
“I really, really love my job and the chance to make myself happy and others happy as well,” she said in reflecting on her first year as a professional driver.
Matulle adds that she still has a hard time believing she won the award. “The other finalists were such amazing individuals and for me to win this award is just incredible. It is just a great honor.”
The award contest, which includes $10,000 and a variety of prizes, was launched by Randall-Reilly Recruiting Media three years ago to increase pride and professionalism among new drivers and to promote truck driving as a career choice during a severe driver shortage.
The 10 finalists were selected by an expert panel of judges representing motor carriers, training schools (public and private), suppliers and trade associations. There were 55 rookie drivers who were submitted by their employers for this year’s contest.
The criteria used to determine the winner were availability for loads, on-time delivery, highway safety performance, customer relations, work record and non-job related activities.
Under the contest’s selection criteria, any commercial driver’s license holder who has graduated from a Professional Truck Driving Institute-certified school, National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving school or Commercial Vehicle Training Association school within the past year and has been employed by a trucking company for less than one year is eligible for the award.
The Mike O’Connell Memorial Trucking’s Top Rookie contest operates as a partnership among Randall-Reilly, Truckload Carriers Association, Commercial Vehicle Training Association, Rand McNally, Shell ROTELLA, Pilot Flying J, Progressive Commercial Insurance, National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools, American Trucking Associations and the Red Eye Radio Network.
Matulle is the third H.O. Wolding driver in the last two years to be chosen as a finalist. Last year, Nathan Reardon and Sandra Sherill were among the 10 finalists.
Truck driving is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Matulle, who previously managed the fuel desk for several years at the Planeview Travel Plaza in Oshkosh, Wis., and then worked for 19 years in the shipping department at the Quad Graphics plant in Lomira, Wis.
After raising her two children as a single parent, she decided to pursue her goal of driving for a living. She completed the trucking driving program at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis., in 2013 and soon afterward was hired at H.O. Wolding, a short, regional and long haul trucking firm.
Matulle says that trucking has affected every part of her life since she was a child. “My father started driving milk trucks at the age of 13 for his father and eventually purchased the business. I grew up on a farm with three trucks. I was the youngest so I was responsible for the farm end, but I was always the silly little girl who wanted to drive a truck.”
According to Marc Wolding, director of operations for H.O. Wolding, Matulle has quickly became known around the company as a hard worker and for always having a positive attitude, even when faced with adverse situations.
“Two of Julie’s strengths are her positive attitude and her ability to make the best of challenges,” says Wolding. “She understands the industry and knows that if she puts her best foot forward that she will be successful. Her dedication to doing her job as well as possible made us proud to nominate her for this award.”
Wolding notes that Matulle is consistently available for loads and is often running ahead of schedule. Since joining the company, Matulle has averaged 2,550 miles per week and has accumulated more than 100,000 miles.
Rob Behnke, who was Matulle’s instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, says she quickly grew into a leader while she was a student at FVTC. “Julie was not intimidated by the industry, and she was one of the most energetic and respected students we have had in quite some time.”
In looking forward to building a career in trucking, Matulle’s energy and enthusiasm are evident and she readily admits to “truly living a dream and loving my life.” Her career goals include becoming an on-road trainer for Wolding’s female drivers.
In addition to being a proud driving professional and trucking advocate, Matulle has served as a volunteer on numerous occasions. She has contributed many hours to projects for the U.S. military including Wounded Warrior and has prepared and sent care packages to the deployed. She has also served as a district manager for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge for Kwik-Trip employees for 10 years.
About H.O. Wolding
H.O. Wolding has been in business for more than 75 years and employs more than 400 workers. The company serves customers over the 48 contiguous states and maintains a growing fleet of more than 350 tractors and 1100 trailers.
Director of Operations
H.O. Wolding, Inc.
9642 Western Way
Amherst, WI 54406