Changing Lanes: Associates Train to Be Drivers

Supply Chain

No stopping them now! These associates are on the road with the Walmart Private Fleet. 


“I never thought I’d be here!”

“It’s like a dream!”

These aren’t folks describing a vacation or even a 50-year milestone! These are the words that a few Associate-to-Driver Program graduates used to describe their first time behind the wheel of a Walmart rig.

During the 12-week program, associates earn their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and practice the skills and safety required to join the “best of the best”— the Walmart Private Fleet.

Most associate-turned-drivers have similar reactions to their first time at the wheel, but each applied to the program for different reasons. We got to hear from four associates about what drove them to life on the road. 

Serving with pride

“It's a good way to continue my career at Walmart and serve my community,” says Ronny Suggs (pictured above), an Iraq War veteran. After experiencing homelessness in the past, Ronny sees this program as a fresh start. “It’s an incredible opportunity that will change my life completely.”

He appreciates the supportive family atmosphere of the training. The students held tutoring sessions and studied together for their CDLs and pre-trip checks. “It’s a really good group,” Ronny says.

“The facilitators are very knowledgeable and personable,” he says. “As long as you listen, pay attention and do what they tell you, you can be very successful at this.”

Tackling a new challenge

Ashley Milacek (pictured above) has eagerly pursued new roles since joining Walmart in 2014. “This company has too many opportunities to stay in just one store or role,” Ashley says. “I wanted to kick down some of those doors and see what was behind them.”

So when she heard about the Associate-to-Driver Program? “I dove right in!”

At first, her family had safety concerns about Ashley being a woman in a male-dominated industry. But she set their minds at ease when she explained that our drivers enjoy perks that drivers at other companies don’t have: Walmart has the nation’s best road safety record and provides fueling, showers and sleeping quarters at distribution centers.

Ashley feels well-prepared to succeed as the first truck driver in her family. “The driver trainers give you all the tools and resources you need,” she explains. “And they individualize the training for every associate, whether it’s hands-on learning or different communication styles, or rotating trainers until that person kind of clicks with the information and the individual teaching it.”

Pursuing a can’t-miss opportunity

Dustin Thompson (pictured above) wasn’t sure if you needed prior driving experience to apply for the Associate-to-Driver Program. (You don’t! Walmart’s certified driver trainers will teach you everything you need to know.) “I didn’t know anything about how to get my CDL or drive a truck, but when I saw that opportunity, I definitely wanted to take a shot at it,” Dustin recalls.

Walmart pays for the training process plus the cost of getting a CDL. It’s an incredible opportunity for associates who are ready to move their careers into high gear. “I see Walmart truck drivers as pure ambassadors on the road,” Dustin says. “And to think that I'm going to have that opportunity given to me? Wow!”

Dustin, whose father is a Walmart GM in Sanger, Texas, explains that it took a lot of hard work to learn to drive safely and precisely. “At times it was very nerve-wracking,” he shares. “When you're behind the wheel of a truck, sitting taller than everybody else on the road, you start to realize that their lives are in your hands.” Every Walmart driver takes that fact very seriously. That’s why at Walmart, safety is always first.

Creating a brighter future

For Crystal Rodriguez-Santiago (pictured above), driving is a family affair. Her mother is a retired driver who works as a Walmart store team lead. Her brothers are all drivers, too.

“I joined the program to create a better future for me and my daughter,” says Crystal, the single mom of a 2-year-old. “It’s a big opportunity and a life-changing career move.”

She admits that the training program is challenging, but worth the effort. “If you’re looking for a better future for yourself and your family, and you like driving, it could be the right job for you.”

Joining the best of the best

Congratulations to the graduates who now join the 13,000-plus drivers of Walmart’s Private Fleet! As Ronny says, “Now we’re part of the best of the best!”