Thursday, June 2, 2016

From ‘Flood City’ to the top of the world

Persistence has paid off in a lot of ways for OOIDA Life Member Michael Zanella. It was persistence that got him through a seven-year stint in the United States Marine Corps, and it’s what’s kept him in trucking for 25 years.

OOIDA Life Member Michael Zanella reacts to seeing
his name displayed above the doors of the newly
rechristened Michael Eugene Zanella TA in
Hebron, Ohio.
It also took persistence on the part of those closest to him to continue nominating him for TA/Petro’s Citizen Driver Award, honoring him for his exemplary service in his professional life and to his community. After finishing as a finalist the past two years, the third time was definitely the charm.

“Growing up in a family of seven kids, we were taught to never quit,” he said in a phone interview with Land Line. “I think if you stay persistent at anything, you can succeed if it’s in your power. If you work hard enough at it, you can achieve your goals.”

Originally from Johnstown, Pa., better known as Flood City for a series of catastrophic floods that have plagued the town since the 1880s, Zanella now makes his home in Columbus, Ohio.

As a driver for Pizza Hut, he’s logged more than 2.67 million accident-free miles, and has an impressive set of safety awards, including honors from OOIDA, Road Safe America, and his company. He’s also been Pro Driver’s Driver of the Year 2005, Mid-State Systems’ Top Driver of 2003, and Midnight Trucking Radio Network’s 2003 National Award for 1 Million Miles. He serves as a spiritual advisor to two prison inmates, and volunteers for various Masonic and military veteran functions that support charitable causes.

On May 7, the TA in Hebron, Ohio, was rechristened The Michael Eugene Zanella Travel Center, a ceremony Zanella described as “unbelievable.”

Like all Citizen Driver honorees, Zanella will have a sign
just like this one on display at his truck stop, recounting
his service legacy.
“Nothing will ever top it. It’s as high as you can go,” he said. “It will always be my fondest memory and the best day of my life.”

Attendees dined on T-bone steaks, and 2014 Citizen Driver Honoree and fellow OOIDA Life Member Norman Knight drove from his home in Watkins Glen, N.Y., to attend the event.

Zanella said his message for other drivers would be to “do something to motivate and help other people.”

“A politician can get something named after him because he’s powerful, a rich person donates a lot of money, a veteran who dies in service of his country, they can get something named after them,” he said. “But how many normal working people get something named after them? It was so cool.”

He also thanked TA/Petro for developing the Citizen Driver award, and for the way they treated him and his fellow honorees.

“I don’t think there’s anything you could ever do in this lifetime that would top that,” he said. “They treated you like a rockstar. It puts you on top of the world.”