Who drives the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile? How Hotdoggers live – USA TODAY

On a cloudless, humid July day in Northern Virginia, a pair of 22-year-olds dressed in matching retro tracksuits stood in a grocery store parking lot, hawking – of all things – hot dog puns.
“Hello there! It’s ‘bun’-derful to ‘meat’ you,” Keagan Schlosser told visitors. “Can I help you take your picture in front of the Wienermobile?”
Sweat glistening and with gleaming smiles, the drivers of an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, otherwise known as “Hotdoggers,” cheerfully greeted awestruck grocery store shoppers walking over to take pictures of their 27-foot-long, six-ton vehicle.
Schlosser and Chad Colgrove, whose Hotdogger nicknames are Chili Cheez Keags and Chadder Cheese, were one month into their yearlong stint driving the famous sausage automobile — “fresh off the grill,” as Schlosser described.
They are part of an elite cohort of drivers of novelty commercial cars: oversized, eye-catching vehicles that road trip around the U.S. advertising and appearing at events. Other notable rides include the L.L. Bean Bootmobile, Planters’ NUTmobile and the retired Hershey’s Kissmobile.
They make appearances at birthday parties, hand out free merchandise at festivals and even give rides to prom. Navigators wear their company-branded uniforms and a smile as they tackle the hazards of the role, like finding a parking spot for the huge vehicles, navigating weight restrictions on roads, and planning routes and hotel stays. 
Despite its challenges, drivers told USA TODAY the job is a post-college adventure and unique networking opportunity that allows them to visit cities all over the country.
“It’s a 27-foot-long hot dog. It makes everyone smile,” Colgrove told USA TODAY. “It’s almost impossible not to just get a grin when you see the Wienermobile.”
MORE: I rode ‘shot-bun’ in the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Then we got pulled over.
Drivers and representatives from Oscar Mayer, L.L. Bean and Planters said the application process is competitive. On average, 2,000 people apply for 12 driving spots each cycle for the Wienermobile, said Ed Roland, senior manager of brand communication for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
Colgrove, a marketing major from Boise, Idaho, has taken a picture with the Wienermobile every year since he was 6 and submitted the photos as part of his application to, in his words, “cut the mustard.”
Most drivers spend a year on the road, with some time off for the holidays and some days off on their trip between events. Wienermobile drivers begin in one section of the country before switching to a different area and co-driver six months later.
Both the Wienermobile and the NUTmobile conduct trainings for drivers before sending them on the road. For Oscar Mayer, “Hot Dog High” lasts two weeks and helps Hotdoggers practice driving the vehicle — as well as pun delivery. Hotdoggers do not need a commercial driver’s license to drive the Wienermobile, Roland said.
Drivers of the two kinds of vehicles tend to be recent college graduates, and they’re selected in part for their excitement to spend a year travelling. They are people-facing, “always on” roles, said NUTMobile Peanutter Kevin O’Donnell, otherwise known as “Crunchtime Kev.”
The L.L. Bean Bootmobile draws from a wider pool of applicants including people looking for a new career later in life, said Eddie Flaherty, a former Bootmobile driver who is now a senior email marketing analyst at L.L. Bean. The company looks for applicants based on their affinity toward the outdoor lifestyle, sometimes hiring former park rangers, for example, Flaherty said.
NUtmobile driver O’Donnell — whose favorite peanut pun is “you peanut butter believe!” — said the drivers meet up on occasion and have found a kinship over their shared experience navigating the giant rides.
“Whenever we’re in the same area, we’ll end up grabbing dinner with the Wienermobile drivers or doing trivia with them, or just stopping with the Bootmobile for an hour in the park,” O’Donnell said.
The drivers themselves plan their monthslong road trip, which means finding hotels and parking for the Wienermobile, which is about twice as long as the average car. Schlosser and Colgrove are known as the Cheesy East team, one of six in Oscar Mayer’s fleet, and they had just left a stop in Baltimore before stopping in Northern Virginia.
Schlosser said when she finds the Wienermobile needs a wash, they take it to a fire station and ask firefighters if they can borrow their hoses and scrubbing brushes to polish the 11-foot-tall hot dog.
“A lot of the times they are so overjoyed by it that they will just do it for you,” Schlosser said. 
There’s also the obstacle of knowing traffic laws — like where you can or can’t drive. The hotdoggers are often put to the test, like on a recent July afternoon on the National Mall. An officer with U.S. Park Police pulled over the Wienermobile (during USA TODAY’s interview). The violation? Driving a truck on a restricted roadway without a permit. 
The pullovers, which the Wienermobile drivers called “whistle stops,” happen to drivers of all three vehicles on occasion, but not frequently, they said.
The Wienermobile has had other public run-ins with law enforcement in its tenure. In 2020, a Wienermobile was pulled over in Wisconsin for failing to follow the state’s “Move Over Law” and was let go with a verbal warning.
Roland confirmed the Wienermobile undergoes routine stops from the Department of Transportation, where officers check the vehicles are working properly. Sometimes, “they’re just looking for some laughs and get their photo with the iconic wiener on wheels,” he said. 
“You never know what’s gonna happen,” Schlosser said. 
Schlosser and Colgrove said they spend a lot of time dispensing answers to the same questions: No, they don’t sleep in the car (“It’s not a weenie-bago!”); they can’t give tours inside the car in the summer (“Only in the winter, on “chili-dog” days”); and yes, they are very careful on the road (“We don’t forget to fasten our meat-belts!”). 
Schlosser, who has “buns of puns,” said the Hotdoggers are always looking for more.
“You have any new recommendations?” Schlosser said. “We don’t want to go stale.”
Drivers said they’ve been stopped in grocery stores, gas stations and even at dinner to talk about their cars. Peanutter Grace Tessitore said she’s struggled to drop the persona when she’s off the clock, telling checkout clerks to “have a nutty day!”
“The biggest challenge, which in turn can sometimes be the most rewarding part of the job, is the fact that you’re always on,” Flaherty from L.L Bean said. “… that can be challenging, just not being able to decompress at times.” 
But the six drivers who spoke to USA TODAY said the best part of the job was interacting with people who never fail to wave and smile when they see the vehicles.
Peannutter Alex Esparza, or “Shell-exa” as she’s known on the NUTmobile, said the experience of showing people the car is just as meaningful to her as it is to the people she meets.
“It really brings to life that we’re doing something really special, and to not forget that,” Esparza said.
There’s also plenty of “shoenanigans” between the vehicles: this summer, the Peanutters’ car was “booted” by Molly Swindall, a Bootmobile driver and former Wienermobile driver who put a mini L.L. Bean boot on their tire in a TikTok video.
And as to who would win in a race of the Wienermobile and the Bootmobile?
“They might have more power, but we have more ‘sole,'” Flaherty said.


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