Fellow Veterans Find Success and Friendship with Transport America
Mark Dennis and Todd Webber are building successful futures in the trucking industry. Mark, with 32 years of experience driving trucks professionally, has recently helped his fellow veteran and Transport America driver, Todd, fulfill his dream of becoming a driver instructor for Transport America.
Mark, 57, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years before becoming a truck driver in 1986. He has spent the last 12 years with Transport America and became a student driver instructor a year ago.
Todd, 34, became a chef in 1998 after graduating from high school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2006, and served in the First Air Division for four years. He was honorably discharged in 2010, and returned to his position as a chef until 2016 when the restaurant he worked for hit a rough patch. He decided it was time to try something new.
So, after obtaining his CDL, he found Transport America online. After training, he became a solo OTR truck driver with the intent of becoming a student driver instructor (SDI).
“Becoming an instructor seems like a natural fit,” Todd says. “I was a squad leader in the Army and managed a kitchen as a chef.”
“Mark has been guiding me through the instructor training process,” Todd says (at the time of this interview). “Right now, I’m driving a truck so I can understand the ins-and-outs of training firsthand.
(Note: Todd successfully completed the first step of becoming a driver instructor after completing his training with Mark. Todd is now instructing Pro Plus drivers for Transport America.)
Transport America requires instructors to go through a rigorous training process, with plenty of time behind the wheel.
“Transport America wants instructors to be teaching from experience,” Mark says. “Driving trucks can be dangerous work, so our instructors need to understand how to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
“Teaching someone how to drive a truck isn’t like training someone for a regular civilian job,” he explains. “Truck drivers need to be training constantly, because there’s always something new to learn.”
Mark and Todd agree that their shared experience in the military has made the training process easier and strengthened their budding friendship.
“Mark explains things to me using military terms,” Todd says. “That makes everything easier to understand.”
“Both being vets, Todd and I have a lot of common ground,” Mark says. “We clicked right away, which was a great thing in training a person for a new job.”
“The training was easier because we both approach situations from a military point of view,” Todd says. “Neither of us are ever willing to give up.”
“Veterans make some of the best drivers-in-training. They understand that each job requires different skill sets,” Mark explains.
“Veterans also are used to long workdays and intense training routines,” he adds. “The transition is a lot easier for them.”
“But whether the driver-in-training is a veteran or not, they are someone else’s son, brother, mother or sister,” Mark finishes. “Every driver needs to know how to get home safely, and I’m here to teach them.”
As a matter of fact, Mark has found that his favorite part of working in the trucking industry is teaching new drivers how to safely operate the vehicles and manage stressful situations.
“It took me 32 years to find the part of trucking I like best,” Mark says. “I get my rewards by teaching. I’m not just handing out textbooks, I’m sharing my own experiences and making an impact on others.”
“I love it when former students give me a call,” he adds. “That way, I know they’re driving safely and doing well.”
Mark and Todd have a few recommendations for anyone thinking of becoming a truck driver or a truck driving instructor – veteran or civilian.
“Don’t take this job with a grain of salt,” Todd says. “Treat it like a deployment. It’ll be challenging at times, but it will also be rewarding.”
“Go with Transport America,” Mark adds. “Todd and I have been treated very well. Their staff is top-notch, and the equipment is safe and high quality. In 12 years, I’ve never found a reason to want to go anywhere else.”
“Transport America treats us like family,” he explains. “They understand that things happen at home, and that you aren’t a robot.”
Transport America sets itself apart from other trucking companies by stressing the importance of respect.
“The staff uses our names when they speak to us, not our employee numbers,” Mark says. “Transport America drivers are also well-respected by customers.”
“Transport America has given us every tool and opportunity we need to thrive in the civilian workforce,” he says. “But, like any other job, you need to also get out there, work hard and learn for yourself.”