Josh Roddenberry spent eight years in the military before taking his career on the road
By Hilary Reeves
Last month, Josh Roddenberry was tasked with an important mission.
One of two drivers selected by Interstate Distributor to represent the company’s Wreaths Across America efforts, Roddenberry drove cross-country twice – first to Maine to load thousands of evergreen wreaths crowned with cheery red bows into his specially wrapped trailer; then back to the company’s headquarters in Tacoma, Washington, where throngs of volunteers waited to accompany the wreaths to their final resting places on the headstones of Puget Sound veterans.
Roddenberry’s long hours on the road since have given him ample time to reflect on the trip, and on his burgeoning second career as a truck driver.
“(Participating in Wreaths Across America) was something that when I first came to Interstate I wanted to do,” he said. “Only two drivers per year are selected, and I was honored to hold that flag for (Interstate) and the other veterans who are a part of this family.”
Roddenberry served in the U.S. Army as an Infantry Paratrooper for eight years, including two deployments to Afghanistan. He attained the rank of Sergeant while on his first deployment, and led a handful of soldiers on his second.
“I want to be the best at anything I do, and I felt being a paratrooper was a cut above being a regular infantryman,” he said. “I remember one training jump we did over Australia: when we got over the drop zone people were tired and groggy. We hooked up our static lines and were getting ready to jump when I noticed the trooper three guys ahead wasn’t hooked up. So I unhooked, walked over to him, and hooked him up. I tapped him on his helmet and said, ‘just saved your life, bud.’ He laughed and said back ‘thank you, sergeant.’”
Roddenberry’s father was in the Navy, and his uncle retired from the Air Force.
“My family is a very military-oriented family,” he said. “The military required great sacrifice, but it’s also a very honorable way to grow and gain the life skills necessary to become successful. I’ll never regret my time spent in that role.”
After his military service was completed, Roddenberry had been working security for only six months when he saw an ad for a trucking school and decided to get his Commercial Driver’s License. He completed school, and went to work for Interstate via the company’s military training program.
“John Harper was my trainer,” he said. “He taught me a lot during the four weeks I spent with him, and really drilled safety into my head. I professionally emulate ‘safety first and service always’ everyday, from the time I wake up until I lay my head down…‘safe’ is the key word. If you’re not going to take the time to be safe, then you shouldn’t be driving a vehicle, especially a truck.”
Roddenberry’s been driving solo for almost a year. He currently drives Heavy Haul Dedicated out of the Georgia-Pacific Paper Mill in Toledo, Oregon.
“I started out as an (over the road) driver,” he said. “My grandpa was a truck driver, and I’ve always looked up to him, so that kind of pushed me in this direction. I really enjoy the scenery, the new people I meet, and the camaraderie that truck drivers have with each other. It reminds me a lot of the infantry.”
On a typical day, Roddenberry wakes up, checks the road and weather conditions for that day’s route, checks in with his fleet manager, and starts what he jokingly calls his “pre-flight checklist.”
“I check everything on the truck, in the truck, around the truck, and ensure it’s safe to drive on down the road,” he said. “Nobody does anything around my truck – on the road or off – without me knowing about it. I watch everyone. Then, at the end of the day, I complete a ‘post-trip’ and make sure I’m ready for the next day.”
Roddenberry said that his greatest career challenge came with the Wreaths Across America run.
“There were a lot of different things that happened on that run that I hadn’t experienced before, that I had to push through,” he said. “For instance, I’d never driven a semi on snowy and icy roads before. It made it interesting and memorable, that’s for sure.”
Roddenberry said he applied for the Wreaths Across America honors in part to gain more experience.
“At the end of the day, I want to be a well-rounded driver who has done things and achieved things,” said Roddenberry, who is a husband to his wife Elizabeth and the father of two boys, Trevor and Brandon. “I want to stand out amongst my peers. I don’t want to be just another driver. I enjoy being depended on, and I enjoy learning everything I can about what I do. On top of that, I got the honor of representing what Interstate stands for, and representing the veterans of the company.”
Roddenberry’s goal is to learn as much as possible about the transportation industry moving forward.
“As much as I enjoy driving, for me it’s a starting point,” he said. I’d like to move up in the corporate and executive areas of the industry. I set the bar high for myself, and see it as a long-term goal and commitment. My advice to others coming out of the military would be to never give up. It’s hard getting out and moving on. Everyday, I say to myself, ‘things will always get better, just never give up.’”