OTTAWA — Jerry Joyner has spent much of his adult life behind the wheel.
As a semi-truck driver for Walmart, Joyner knows the solitude that comes with being out on the open road, transporting freight from the Ottawa Distribution Center to one of the retailer’s many stores.
For nearly 29 years, the Ottawa resident has driven exclusively for Wal-mart, logging an impressive 3.5 million accident-free miles. And in August, he competed at the American Trucking Association national championships in Pittsburg, Pa. This was his fourth year returning to the national competition.
While Nascar racing caught his eye at a young age, it was truck driving that became his life's passion when he started in his late teens. Early on, he spent more than 17 years driving out of Loveland, Colo., hauling freight from Colorado and being away from home for days at a time. Today, as a driver for Walmart, Joyner bids his runs, which usually take him anywhere from Ottawa to the Kansas City metro and Omaha, Neb., on a given day, depending on his schedule.
“It’s physical, but it’s easy compared to other companies,” Joyner said. “Walmart gives us safe, well-maintained trucks. The company’s proud to have us out there, and we’re proud to be working for the company.”
And with his safety record, Joyner also enjoys the perks of traveling so many miles without an accident. Once drivers achieve the 3 million mark, the company allows drivers to customize their truck.
“In general, no one drives it but you,” said Pete Brennan, general transportation manager for the Ottawa facility. “Once you reach that point, that’s huge.”
Unlike the many Walmart trucks that feature white tractors, Joyner’s is blue. It also has his name and mileage posted on the side of the cab.
“The company stands behind us 100 percent,” Jerry said. “They take care of us very well.”
Besides racking up so many miles, Joyner is ranked among the best drivers in the nation.
In June, he was one of three drivers who won the state championships in Topeka, punching his ticket to compete in the 2019 national championships. At the state level, Joyner won the Field Test Top Score Award, which recognizes drivers who score the highest number of points while driving a multi-problem course. Joyner also won first place in the straight truck class, which involves taking a written test, conducting a pre-trip inspection and driving a timed obstacle course.
“The company is so supportive,” he said. “They give us 100 percent support at nationals.”