Brandon Meredith, an FTCC CDL program graduate, is a finalist for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award. [contributed photo]
The idea of driving a truck for a living had been kicking around in Brandon Meredith’s mind for years before he transitioned to civilian life from a 20-year military career.
After all, the Illinois native’s father and grandfather were both career drivers, and Meredith liked the idea of working independently out on the road.
“They give me a mission, and I go complete it,” Meredith said. “You just have to be a dependable, competent person.”
Three years out from retirement, Meredith was already building his plan to become a truck driver.
Now, as a rookie driver for Slay Transportation, the FTCC graduate is one of five finalists in the running for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award.
The award, presented by Fastport Transport, recognizes the industry’s best military veterans-turned-drivers in the first year of their careers.
“It’s been pretty wild,” Meredith said. “I haven’t been sleeping much because of the excitement.”
Any nerves Meredith might be feeling in anticipation of the award announcement are surely nothing compared to what he faced during his time in the Army.
Spurred by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Meredith enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. He finished off his career serving 13 years with Special Operations Forces, working as a Civil Affairs Soldier, a combat medic and a candidate assessor.
“In March of 2003, we invaded Iraq, and I think by that point I was invested and knew this was going to be a career for me because of the patriotism I felt,” Meredith said.
He spent the final months of his service preparing for his civilian career through FTCC Transition Tech’s CDL training program.
Meredith had other options but enrolled at FTCC because the program’s coursework offered better preparation for any driving scenario.
“FTCC’s program is longer than some of the other schools, but they train on all manual transmissions,” he said. “If I break down, and they give me a loaner and they only have manuals nearby, I want to be prepared for that.”
“The Army paid for it and gave me time off for it, so I didn’t have to work. I just went to CDL school.”
Meredith officially retired from the Army on March 31, 2023, but he had a job the very next day after he went on terminal leave from the military.
Meredith’s recognition for the Transition Trucking award is the latest in a strong start to his driving career.
He drives a tanker truck — a rarity for drivers so early in their career — and he garnered Driver of the Month awards in his second and third months with Slay.
That early success prompted FTCC CDL instructor Eric Smith to nominate Meredith for the Driving for Excellence Award.
The contest winner will be selected through online voting, which opens Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
Meredith and his family will be in Washington, D.C., in December for the Veteran Ready Summit, during which Fastport will announce the award winner.
The award winner will receive a new truck, a prize that would put Meredith well on his way to his eventual goal of becoming an owner-operator in the trucking industry.
“This contest could help me become an independent contractor,” Meredith said. “That’s where I see myself going — becoming an owner-operator, and then reluctantly maybe, eventually settling into a desk job.”