Stone Mountain driver inducted into Truck Driver Hall of Fame

When the New Jersey company he was working for went out of business, Charles Windham moved to Georgia where he had relatives. “I had never thought about working in the trucking industry. In fact, I hadn’t thought about living in Georgia before, but I needed a job, and a position was available as a helper with a trucking company.” A helper, Windam explained, rides with the driver and assists in loading and unloading the truck.

After a year as a helper, Windam was offered training as a driver. The company even told him he would be allowed to continue earning as he trained for his commercial driver’s license. “It was a great offer. I didn’t know whether I could do it, but I accepted the challenge,” he recalled.

More than 30 years later, Windam, now a Stone Mountain resident, received one of his industry’s most prestigious honors: he was inducted into the International Foodservice Distributors Association’s (IFDA) Truck Driver Hall of Fame.

“I was thrilled when I learned that I had been nominated,” Windam recalled. “I never imagined I would actually be inducted. When I found out I had been chosen, I was absolutely blown away.”

The Hall of Fame program, according to IFDA, “casts a spotlight on the industry’s top drivers for their outstanding records of service and safety. Over 130,000 foodservice distribution drivers are currently on the road, but only those with the best safety records and longevity of service qualify for the Truck Driver Hall of Fame.” To be eligible, IFDA states, the driver must have at least 25 years of employment with an IFDA member company with no chargeable accidents during that timeframe and may not have any moving violations within the last five years.

Explaining what he believes makes for excellence in a driver, Windam cited safety as the biggest consideration. “My company puts a lot of emphasis on safety, and I agree that every time we go out on the road our top goal is to avoid harm to yourself and others. They always say that when you’re driving, you’re actually driving for four people: the driver in front of you, the driver to your right, the driver to your left, and yourself.”

Windam said he also tries to give the best customer service possible. “I want to help the customer any way I can. It might be my job to deliver the food to its location, but if the customer needs help putting it on the shelves, I’ll stay and help him do that. We have a normal procedure for unloading a truck—frozen items first, refrigerated items next, then dry goods. However, if the customer is out of something such as sodas and needs that item immediately, I unload it first, then go back to standard procedure.”

One of the frustrations of driving is delays because of accidents or road construction. “There seem to be more accidents than there were years ago,” he said. “People get impatient to get where they’re going and do things they shouldn’t. Although traffic can be frustrating, you just have to relax and stay focused.”

IFDA reported that its 2023 class is the largest in its history. It includes 87 professional truck drivers from 13 companies, 10 of whom have been driving for more than 40 years. “These drivers have dedicated their careers to ensure the safe delivery of food and products to the kitchens, shelves, and pantries of our nation’s restaurants, schools, hotels, hospitals, entertainment venues, military bases, and other public service institutions,” IFDA stated in its announcement of 2023 inductees.

Windam said although his career as a truck driver started almost accidentally, he has thoroughly enjoyed his 30 years in the industry. “From the time I started as a helper, I liked that we were moving around—no day is exactly like another day. You get to meet some great people, including the customers and the other drivers. I like the independence of being able to work with no one looking over my shoulder; but I guess they were watching after all, or I would not have been picked for this award.”

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