Schneider Ride of Pride driver Jay Hull knew as a child that he wanted to be two things when he grew up: a soldier and truck driver. To Jay, soldiers were like heroes. The trucking piece came in to play when he was four years old and a local truck company owner would let Jay come into the shop and play on the big trucks. A pig in mud, Jay was hooked. He didn’t know then that his childhood dreams would not only go hand-in-hand; they would also be nearly inseparable.
Jay grew up in the small town of Fairmont, West Virginia, where finding opportunity meant moving away from home. As high school graduation approached, he wasn’t sure what life had in store for him. However, when an Army recruiter called Jay to discuss his options with the military, he saw the chance to fulfill his childhood dream. Jay’s father had been drafted and wasn’t keen on his son serving in the Armed Forces. After some convincing, the recruiter was allowed to come over and meet with them.
Proclaiming it one of the best decisions he ever made, a 17-year-old Jay joined the Army following graduation and proclaims it one of the best decisions he has ever made. He had a long military career serving in many roles, including recruiter, career counselor and chemical, nuclear and biological warfare specialist. Yet the best part, according to Jay, is that the military taught him how to drive a truck: Jay completed multiple tours in Iraq hauling fuel tankers in a transportation unit.
As military retirement drew near, Jay had one – and only one – civilian career in mind.
“It was always in me to drive a truck,” Jay emphasized. “After driving in combat for several years, I thought, ‘I can come home and drive and not get shot at.’”
After 24 years of military service, Jay retired in 2005 and contacted the same man who let him play on the trucks all those years ago in his home state of West Virginia to ask about working for him. Jay drove for the small company for several years. There he met his wife, Robin, who was a dispatcher at the time. After the two were married, they moved on to different companies – Jay transitioned to a large carrier hauling dedicated and Robin moved into logistics with a food service company.
A series of life events brought Robin to Schneider. She transferred to the Chicago operating center, and the two moved their family to the Midwest. It wasn’t long after when Robin convinced Jay to join her at the Big Orange, and Jay began hauling intermodal out of Chicago to stay close to home.
“I received a really nice sign-on bonus and Robin got a referral bonus,” Jay exclaimed. “It was a great move that benefited us both.”
Within months, Jay was promoted to training engineer, a role that assists with the growth and development of new drivers.
In 2013, his military past and truck driving present crossed paths again. He was asked to take over the helm of the 2008 Ride of Pride, a military-themed truck that serves as a rolling tribute to members of the military, past and present.
During his first months at Schneider in Chicago, he worked with the truck’s driver, Willy. As they became friends and talked more about the truck, Willy would kid that he was going to retire and get Jay behind the wheel of that truck. Sure enough, Jay’s name came up when Willy’s driving days were over. Jay hung up his training engineer hat and hopped back in the truck to haul intermodal out of Chicago and participate in military events.
Recently Jay, now based in Green Bay, was honored again when he was selected as the driver of the 2015 Ride of Pride truck. Truck manufacturer Freightliner has now presented nine of the military-themed tractors to Schneider, the most of any truckload carrier. The truck made its traditional debut Memorial Day weekend at Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C., which honors our nation’s veterans, POWs and MIAs.
Between June 2015 and June 2016, Jay and the Ride of Pride will travel around the country attending military-related parades and festivals.
“The 2015 truck showcases a lot of past conflicts that evoke a lot of memories, which makes it especially sensitive to many people. They will come up to the truck and touch it with tears welling up in their eyes,” Jay recounted.
As a military veteran himself who served multiple tours of duty and lived to tell the tale, Jay is honored to give something back by showing awareness and appreciation for the military.
Hooah, Jay. The Big Orange is happy to have you on board.
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