“Just remember: every mile needs to be a safe mile.” – Jimmy Shaw, Tyson Foods Driver
September 10 – 16 is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, and Tyson Foods is going the extra mile this week to celebrate our drivers and thank them for the millions of safe miles they drive every year for our customers, consumers and company.
Driver Appreciation Week arrives as Tyson Food wraps up its 2023 fiscal year (FY23) at the end of September. By that date, we anticipate our drivers will have completed over 124,693,000 miles this year alone — the equivalent of 522 trips to the moon! Taking that a step further for just FY23, our drivers will have delivered a projected 10.5 million pounds of product on more than 271,000 loads to over 5,900 locations. That’s a lot of deliveries deserving of celebration.
To spotlight our amazing drivers, we spoke with four of them — and even rode along with one — so we can share their stories and learn what it’s like being a driver for Tyson Foods. From long-hauls across the nation to shuttle routes between towns, Javier Ulloa, Shanreka Horton, Fameeda Nelson and Jimmy Shaw gave us a glimpse into their lives as drivers who are raising the world’s expectations for how much good food can do.
Having a family-first mindset is common among Tyson Foods drivers, and shuttle driver Javier Ulloa is no exception. Kindly agreeing to let one of our Corporate Communications team members ride along one of his local routes, Javier shared, “I drive for my family; it’s as simple as that.” Javier chose to become a driver after considering the best jobs for supporting his family, and he chose Tyson Foods specifically because, “it’s a big company that has a lot of good benefits as far as health insurance and 401k, and pay is always competitive. Tyson is a good company to work for.”
Javier joined Tyson Foods in 2011 as a long-haul driver. Being a long-haul driver meant he would drive across the country for 14 days, come back home for two days and then hit the road again for another 14. It’s critical work for our business, and he was up to the task. After four years of long-haul driving, Javier switched to his current role as a shuttle driver based in Springdale, Arkansas. Now Javier delivers multiple local loads each day and is home every evening with his family.
“Tyson’s a good company and cares about its drivers,” Javier said. “I feel proud to work for Tyson. I wear my Tyson shirt with pride.” By the end of FY23, Javier expects to have completed 1 million safe miles — a major milestone as a driver, and we’re proud to watch him achieve it.
“I always prepare for the next day by making sure everything is put away the night before. I write down all my information and put my stuff into my GPS,” Shanreka Horton, another driver for Tyson Foods, told us. “Then I wake up in the morning, have a devotion, write in my prayer journal … I listen to my gospel music as I prepare myself. Then I take a moment — and enjoy the moment — before I start my pre-trip.”
Shanreka was a nurse for 22 years before joining Tyson Foods in 2022. Working through the COVID-19 pandemic in her area of nursing was difficult, so she began looking for career shift. “There is something else I’ve got to do,” Shanreka told her son. He suggested she get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to become a truck driver. “I told him if he got his license, I would get mine,” Shanreka said. Now they are both truck drivers — Shanreka is with Tyson Foods and her son is with another company. Outside of work, Shanreka says she’s a mother, grandmother, friend and aunt “in that order.”
As a long-haul driver with more than 20 years of experience and 8 of those with Tyson Foods, Fameeda Nelson has seen her fair share of the road. Based in Georgia and dispatched in Springdale, Arkansas, Fameeda truly enjoys driving. “It’s a good job, and I love it. I have a passion for what I do, and I like learning more every day.”
When asked what advice she would give a new driver on their first day behind the wheel, she said, “As a new driver coming to Tyson, pay attention in your training classes because everything they teach you will be used out on the road. Most certainly, I can promise you that.” Fameeda continued, “Represent the company with professionalism and pride. Let them see that Tyson hires professional people.”
Safety is always the top priority for Tyson Foods drivers, and Fameeda hit home how important safety is, saying, “Safety first. Always keep yourself safe. Keep everyone around you safe. Maintain your equipment and do the right thing. Do it right the first time; do it right every time.”
“Who is Jimmy Shaw?” That’s one of the many questions we asked Jimmy during our conversation. As a career driver with over 44 years of experience and 14 of them with Tyson Foods, Jimmy knows just as much about trucks and driving as a person can learn. Answering the question, Jimmy laughed and said, “I’m just Jimmy Shaw. A normal guy.” He continued, “Really, and truthfully, as old as I am and the way I was brought up around trucks — working and being in and out of the truck — Jimmy Shaw is a truck driver through and through. I’m always thinking about the next load and the next mile. That is who Jimmy Shaw really is.”
When asked about his favorite memory as a driver, Jimmy took us back to his childhood, saying, “Going on trips with my father when he was a driver — it is what brought me into being a truck driver. Riding with him and listening to old country classics, it was really a great experience.”
With a lifetime of experience around trucks, Jimmy shared why he still drives for Tyson Foods. “If you have a family emergency, they are behind you 100 percent. Knowing you never have to worry about your paycheck being there every week. You have a good support group behind you. You’re able to take your wife or your children with you from time to time. Good vacation and benefits — I just enjoy being a part of the team.”
Jimmy closed our conversation with this: “I don’t have a slogan, but just remember, every mile needs to be a safe mile.”
We are grateful for the work that Javier, Shanreka, Fameeda, Jimmy and each driver at Tyson Foods do every day for our customers, consumers and company. We love celebrating our drivers all 52 weeks of the year, but we’re taking it a step further for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Help us celebrate all our country’s drivers this week by thanking them, recognizing them for their dedication and showing them a little extra courtesy when you’re on the road.