Special to the EagleHerald
Wade Bumgarner, a student in Veriha Trucking’s apprenticeship program, stands with company president Karen Smerchek outside the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. Bumgarner has made the Top 3 for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award. The winner will be determined by online voting Oct. 1-31. Veriha Trucking is located on Cleveland Avenue in Marinette.
Special to the EagleHerald

Wade Bumgarner, a student in Veriha Trucking’s apprenticeship program, stands with company president Karen Smerchek outside the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. Bumgarner has made the Top 3 for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award. The winner will be determined by online voting Oct. 1-31. Veriha Trucking is located on Cleveland Avenue in Marinette.

DALLAS — Standing on the main stage in Dallas last month at The Great American Trucking Show, the largest trucking show of the year, Veriha Trucking’s Apprenticeship Program student Wade Bumgarner anxiously waited to find out if he made the Top 3 for the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award.

Bumgarner already had the honor of making the Top 10 of this award that was created to honor veterans who transitioned into trucking. Submissions came from all across the nation and looked at the candidate as a whole, from their service record, safety record, and letters of recommendation. Bumgarner was surrounded on stage by extraordinary men as his name was called out that he made Top 3, which earned him, at a minimum $10,000, and the possibility of a brand new Kenworth tractor valued at more than $100,000.

The winner is decided by online voting, which takes place Oct. 1 through Oct. 31. Veriha Trucking, located on Cleveland Avenue in Marinette, is the smallest carrier being recognized, so company president Karen Smerchek said community support will be important during this voting period. Links to the voting will be available on Veriha’s Facebook page and website www.driveforveriha.com.

Bumgarner, from Appleton, Wisconsin, joined Veriha’s Apprenticeship program in August 2018 and his introduction into trucking hasn’t been without growing pains, but it has been successful, according to his trainer.

“Wade always finds a way to make it happen and somehow still has time to help others along the way,” said Kyle McDonald, Veriha’s apprenticeship program leader. “Anyone who has been behind the wheel knows the time and energy it takes to learn the profession and Wade has made that look easy with his ability to smile through adversity and pick up the spirits of those around him.”

Veriha opened its Apprenticeship Program in May 2018 in its recently renovated Veriha Training Center on Cleveland Avenue. With more than two years running its state certified Veriha Academy, Veriha realized that there was even more they could do.

Veriha’s Apprentice Program is fast paced. After week one of classroom and range work students are paired with trainers and are on the road learning all aspects of driving, Smerchek said. The program is not only certified by the state of Wisconsin but is VA approved for veterans to utilize their GI Bill. This helps support veterans transition into a new career and utilize the funds that are available to them.

“Supporting veterans is a significant focus for all of us personally and as a company,” Smerchek said.  “Several associates throughout the organization are military veterans. These are individuals who can speak to the sacrifices that it takes to serve our country, and the importance of moving freight and keep America moving.”

One doesn’t have to be a veteran to attend this program. Veriha also offers students training pay starting on day one to ensure that students can make the transition into trucking.

“We were running into potential students concerned about how they could afford schooling, how they could not receive a paycheck for eight weeks and choosing to not enter into trucking,” Smerchek explained. “It was critical for us to support students who were coming to Veriha and ensure they could make this transition. As long as they fulfill their 18-month contract this is all at no cost to them.”

“Trucking is a great career opportunity with wages that can not only support a family, but also allows them to be able to take family vacations or buy that hunting camp they’ve always wanted.”

Veriha Trucking’s apprenticeship program is based out of Marinette; the company has terminals in Marinette and Neenah, Wisconsin. Bumgarner is now based out of the Neenah terminal.