Ohio truck driver of the year credits his father

Ronald Hawkins Jr. of Perrysburg Township shows off the lettering on his rig that recognizes him as the Ohio Trucking Association's driver of the year. He has 24 years in the field.
Ronald Hawkins Jr. of Perrysburg Township shows off the lettering on his rig that recognizes him as the Ohio Trucking Association's driver of the year. He has 24 years in the field.

Ronald Hawkins, Jr., has a plaque dedicated to his father on the side of his truck.

The plaque is next to a small hawk. Little Hawk is Mr. Hawkins' "handle," a moniker truck drivers use when communicating with each other on the radio while on the road. Hawk was Mr. Hawkins' father's handle.

The tribute is appropriate: Mr. Hawkins says his father, who died in 2004, taught him everything he knows about trucking.

"He taught me how to drive the truck, how to avoid situations where I could get hurt or hurt someone else, how to identify weather conditions - freezing rain, snow, the things you need to watch out for while you're driving," said Mr. Hawkins.

This spring Mr. Hawkins, 49, traveled to Columbus to accept a driver-of-the-month award given to 12 drivers from across the state by the Ohio Trucking Association. At the ceremony, Mr. Hawkins learned he had been selected from those winners as driver of the year.

This is the 61st year that awards have been presented.

Mr. Hawkins received a plaque from the Ohio Senate.

"I was blown away. It's a tremendous honor just to be nominated. In my opinion, my company alone has 70 drivers who are qualified for this award," he said.

Mr. Hawkins, a native of northwest Ohio and graduate of Start High School, has been a truck driver for 24 years. His father was a truck driver 36 years.

"I wasn't sure I wanted to do it for my entire life," said the newly named driver of the year. "I wanted to give it a try."

He has been driving for K-Limited Carriers Ltd., a locally owned company, for 12 years. Named driver of the year by K-Limited Carriers in 2006, he has driven 1.7 million miles without an accident.

"I believe my employers are the reason I got this. They give me the equipment, the possibility to do that, they treat me very well," he said

In his award citation, he was praised for his reliability and professionalism, his solid work ethic, thorough evaluation of road conditions, knowledge of when to stay ahead or behind traffic, continual checking of his equipment, and respect for the cargo being hauled and handled.

During the award ceremony, drivers were asked what they believe got them to this point. Mr. Hawkins thanked God and his family.

His wife of nearly a dozen years, Yvonne, said, "I'm very proud of him. He's an awesome dad and an awesome husband." They live in Perrysburg Township.

Mr. Hawkins said he enjoys the freedom of the road. "I don't have someone looking over my back all the time, and I get to see different places every day," he said.

"There are a lot of great drivers in Ohio who could have won the award. "The other guys I was competing with, when I read their biographies, the 12 monthly winners had driven 23.5 million miles without an accident," he said.

Kim Kaplan, chief operating officer and president of K-Limited Carriers, said Mr. Hawkins stands out as a driver.

"He's just extremely customer-caring, he makes sure that he is on top of the game, he prepares himself properly for everything, he's got a personality, he can talk to anybody," she said.

"He really does concern himself with everything. He wants to make sure that the customer is taken care of," Ms. Kaplan said. Like his father trained him, Mr. Hawkins has trained more than 100 drivers during his career.

When not driving, Mr. Hawkins enjoys hunting, fishing, watching NASCAR, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also enjoys spending time with his son, Ronald III, and daughter, Shannon. He has three grandchildren.

Mr. Hawkins is active in Epiphany Lutheran Church and sells raffle tickets for the Susan D. Komen Race for the Cure.

"The whole picture with his family, the community, the profession, and he's 110% committed to all of that," Ms. Kaplan said.

Recently, Mr. Hawkins was nominated to be part of America's Road Team, a national public outreach program led by a small group of professional truck drivers from across the country chosen by the American Trucking Association. The team travels and speaks to companies and safety councils about truck safety. He will learn if he has been selected in the fall.

"I'm going to drive for quite a while longer," he said.

Mr. Hawkins' only regret was that his father won't be around to enjoy the award with him.

"The thing I regret the most; is that he wasn't there. He was the one that taught me all of this."

Contact Meredith Byers at:


or 419-724-6101.