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Meet the 2021 Citizen Driver Honorees: Don Talley

2021 Citizen Driver Don Talley

An Indiana native, Don Talley is a retired U.S. Army veteran with over 20 years of driving experience, accumulating over 2 million accident free miles. With his life spent dedicated to serving this country both in combat and hauling freight over the road, Don Talley’s actions and accomplishments represent what it means to be a Citizen Driver honoree. 

In 2013, TravelCenters of America launched the Citizen Driver program to honor the unsung heroes of our nation’s highways who exhibit strong citizenship, leadership, health and wellness, safety and service to their communities. To date, 35 Citizen Drivers have been honored as the best of the best.

Growing up in Muncie, Indiana, Don’s father owned and operated three local gas stations, so Don’s childhood consisted of pumping gas and changing tires. From a young age until he left for the military, Don was learning mechanics and the true definition of hard work.

Coming from a military family, Don wanted to carry on the tradition. Throughout his time in the Army, he was stationed in Korea, Germany, Hawaii and served on missions in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. His arsenal of driving skills included military vehicles, such as armored personal carriers, tanks and 2.5 and 5-ton trucks.

Don has received several medals and certificates of achievement for his exemplary leadership, professionalism and safety-first mentality. Don was also issued a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he sustained injuries while saving soldiers’ lives who were trapped inside an Army truck full of ammunition that had caught fire due to a mechanical failure.

After returning from the military and obtaining his CDL, Don entered the training program at Carter Express, Inc. and became a full-time driver in 2004. Today, he serves as one of their driver trainers, advocating for and educating the young men and women entering the industry.

“Don is a driving force in preparing the next generation of professional truck drivers,” said Shonda Claborn, Driver Relations Manager at Carter Express and friend of Don who nominated him for this award. “He is the one that will keep you laughing through any struggle or growing pain, as well as hold you accountable and provide the best information and route planning for the drivers.”

In his nearly 20 years at the company, Don’s contributions and accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Don received the 1 Million Mile Safe Driver Award from Carter Express in 2013 and will reach 2 million miles this year. Don was also recognized as Carter Express Driver of the Month in June of 2018.

The leadership skills Don showed in the Army have been essential to building a positive workplace at Carter Express. After receiving 20 U.S challenge coins as an acknowledgment of his superior service in the Army, Don brought this idea to Carter’s Senior VP of Operations, Jim Stetnish. It made such an impact that Carter created a companywide program to “challenge” their employees to recognize coworkers who were going above and beyond to deliver excellence in the workplace.

Although a seemingly simple gesture, the commemorative token signifies perseverance and extends encouragement, fostering a rewarding and supportive work environment.

“As a retired military man, Don brought his discipline and commitment to Carter Express and immediately began to demonstrate the same levels of quality that earned him numerous military awards and commendations,” said Jim Stetnish, Senior VP of Operations, Carter Express, Inc.

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