Mendez Places Nationally In Competition For America’s Best Commercial Trucker
(Northwest Georgia) – Hard at work since the age of 17, Dalton, Georgia’s Antonio Mendez has been leading by example. And now, after 20 years of what his boss calls, “consistency,” Mendez made 2016 a year he would showcase his talents on the national stage. This long-time Shaw Industries staffer, and graduate of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, became one of the top commercial truck drivers in the nation after competing in the 2016 National Truck Driving Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In May, at the state competition held in Lake Lanier, Georgia, Mendez became the first State of Georgia Truck Driving Champion from Shaw Industries, as well as Georgia Northwestern. Mendez bested 40 drivers in the Commercial Truck Driving Five-Axle competition to earn the spot in the national competition in Indiana last month.
Shaw Industries Driver Training Lead, George Gazaway, said he knew he was good enough to go far in the competition. “Antonio competed for the first time last year and really walked away learning a lot,” said Gazaway. “Just one year later, not only did he set the bar for our drivers with his performance nationally, he really made us proud.”
In his second crack at showing off his skills in the Commercial Truck Driving industry, Mendez not only took home top honors in the state, be he would finish 29th in the nation after completing the four-day long competition in the Hoosier state last month. “There were six different road tests, a pre-trip test, and written tests they put everyone through,” said Mendez. “I felt really prepared and ready for the competition. It went pretty well, I think.”
After spending the first 10 years of his employment with Shaw Industries as a forklift operator, Mendez made a decision in 2008. He wanted to learn more and move into a new career with the flooring giant. “My uncle suggested that I should try to get outdoors and look into becoming a truck driver,” said Mendez of his uncle, Joel Quintero. “So, I made the decision to take the Commercial Truck Driving program at Georgia Northwestern. My instructor (Robert Browder) was very easy to learn from. He helped me learn everything I needed to in order to be successful.”
Mendez would complete his program with Browder and Georgia Northwestern by attending a weekend program the college offered. He would then earn his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) later in 2008. Mendez would first spend a little over a year after earning his CDL transporting trailers from one bay to another at his plant. “I was a yard dog, at first,” cheerfully added Mendez. “Then, I got a third shift slot as a local driver with Shaw. And, now, I’m on first shift. Two daily runs to Chattanooga and back. It’s a great job that I’m proud of.”
His success has led to more success for others in his family. “I got my cousin to attend after I completed my program,” said Mendez. “He finished the program, too. He then came back and enrolled in the Air Conditioning Technology (HVAC) program. My brother then enrolled and did the same program, too. It has really worked out pretty well for all of us.”
It will officially be 20 years of Shaw Industries employment for Mendez in June 2017. He and his wife, Yolanda, have been married for 14 years. As of today, none of their children, Celina, 12, Antonio, Jr., 10, Angel, 6, nor Samuel, 4, wish to be a truck driver in the future. “They like those hot wheel trucks, though,” said Mendez. “But, they aren’t thinking about a job on the road anytime soon.”
Making a change in his career after a decade of experience was tough says Mendez. “Just thankful for my wife, mom, and brothers for supporting me in this,” added the 35-year-old North Georgian. “Family at work also made it possible, though. If it wasn’t for my boss, George Gazaway, Danny Trammell, and Misty Hayes, not sure how it all would’ve turned out.”
You can contact the college’s toll-free number at 866.983.4682 (GNTC). For information online, visit them at GNTC.edu, as well as on their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and an equal opportunity institute.
Since 1962, Georgia Northwestern Technical College has provided degrees, diplomas, and certificates in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 13,734 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,876 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,858 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.