Trucker 'Angels' Promote Positive Image

Yet another trucking industry campaign utilizes the good deeds of the nation's commercial drivers to promote a better image of drivers and the industry as a whole among the motoring public.

The Truckload Carriers Assn.'s (TCA) "Highway Angel" program recognizes drivers' "good deeds," ranging from simple acts of kindness, such as fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, such as pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR. The Highway Angel program is sponsored by Internet Truckstop. Since the program's inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job. TCA rewards Highway Angels by sending them a lapel pin, clothing patch and personalized certificate of appreciation. The drivers' companies also receive a personalized certificate of recognition that they can hang in their terminals or offices for everyone to see. In addition to special recognition by TCA and the driver's company, the Highway Angel program seeks to promote greater public recognition of Angels through the placement of articles in industry trade press and general media. The program gains national recognition each year as the Highway Angel of the Year is recognized at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

On Dec. 13, 2012, Kenny Cass, a driver for FedEx Freight was honored as 2012 Highway Angel of the Year at the bowl game in Boise, ID. Cass was chosen from all the Highway Angel recipients for 2012 as the one individual who best embodies the spirit of TCA's Highway Angel program. The incident that earned Cass the Highway Angel designation began when he was driving home from work along Martin Luther King Blvd., in Portland, and witnessed a pick-up truck rear-end a 53-foot tractor-trailer. The pick-up became wedged up to its windshield under the truck, causing damage and injuries to both vehicles and drivers. Cass was the only person to stop and help at the scene of the accident. Over a 20-minute period before authorities arrived, Cass maintained his composure and handled a continuous series of problems, including traffic hurtling toward the wreck at 55 mph in the dark, flames billowing out from under one vehicle, and a disoriented victim who suddenly endangered himself by running toward oncoming traffic. Tom Kretsinger, Jr., TCA's first vice chairman and the president/COO of American Central Transport, Inc., of Liberty, MO, presented the trophy to Cass. "It is hard to believe that Kenny was the only person who stopped to help at the scene of this nasty accident, especially since it was still early only eight o'clock in the evening and plenty of people were passing by on the well-traveled road," said Kretsinger. "Kenny truly embodies what the Highway Angel program is all about. He is an outstanding representative of the trucking industry, and someone I have been looking forward to meeting and publicly recognizing." Other recent Highway Angel honorees include: Ronnie Milner, a professional truck driver for ABF Freight System, Inc., of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was recognized for helping an elderly couple in trouble on the highway. On September 13, 2012, around 1:45 p.m., Milner was driving southbound along I-57 near Gilman, Illinois, when he saw a white Buick turned sideways across both lanes. He stopped, put on his flashers, and went to investigate. Inside the car, he found an elderly couple. Apparently, the husband had run into the cables in the median, which pushed the car back into the middle of the road. It was now severely damaged and blocking traffic. Milner determined that the motorists were shook up, but not injured, so he helped them out of their car and escorted them to the shoulder. He then called 911 and used his truck to protect the vehicle from further damage as motorists tried to squeeze past the wreck. Milner stayed at the scene until authorities arrived and took over. Milner, who has been a truck driver since 1989, says he has "seen some good, and seen some bad" during his years on the road. "I did no more than anyone else would do," he said modestly. "I don't know how you could just drive by." Mark Randall of Mesquite, Nevada, a professional driver trainer for Werner Enterprises of Omaha, Nebraska, was recognized for taking preventive measures that ultimately saved a life. On Oct. 24, 2012, around 1:30 p.m., Randall and a student were headed westbound on I-80/680 in Omaha, Nebraska. With only two miles to go before dropping off a load, Randall was at the wheel. He stayed within the speed limit of 60 mph and made a mental note of the considerable traffic all around him. To his right and up ahead, Randall noticed a motorcyclist who appeared to be following much too close to the car in front of him. He was also traveling about 60 mph. Randall's safety instincts kicked in, and he began to slow down. "I always make a big point of being aware of my surroundings when I'm operating these vehicles," said Randall, who was also recognized by his company for a million miles of accident-free driving and received Werner's Humanitarian Award for his actions that day. "I pay good attention. In fact, I was just about to make my student aware of the possible hazard ahead when the motorcyclist suddenly accelerated and attempted to pass the car. But he was just too close and hit the rear of that vehicle." Randall immediately began scanning the lanes for a way to get out of the path of the doomed motorcyclist. Surrounded by traffic, he knew that he could not suddenly switch lanes without putting other vehicles in danger. His only viable option was to stay put and maintain control of the tractor-trailer, which was fully loaded with thousands of pounds of tires. As if in slow motion, Randall saw the motorcyclist hit the pavement hard and slide directly into his path. He immediately put on his flashers and continued to brake, finally coming to a controlled stop within 10 feet of the man on the pavement. The student got out to render aid, while Randall called 911. The motorcyclist had survived and was miraculously okay. Not only had Randall managed to avoid hitting the man, but he is also credited for using his truck to protect the motorcyclist from being run over by the oncoming traffic hurtling toward him at 60 mph. Robert Woolf of Leland, North Carolina, was named a Highway Angel after watching a motorist lose control of his car and crash. Woolf was driving along I-90 about 100 miles east of Syracuse, New York, when a small passenger car passed him. Suddenly, the road curved, and the car went off the road, rubbing against the guardrail. It maintained its speed and continued to rub against the guardrail for about 1/4 mile. With rubber and car parts flying everywhere, Woolf recognized that something was seriously wrong and called 911.

When the guardrail ended, the car traveled across the median, crossed into the opposite side of the highway, hit that guardrail, spun back over in the median and came to a stop. Woolf hung up with 911, pulled over, put his flashers on, grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the vehicle.

Through the window, he could see that the driver was still confined by his seatbelt and the airbag, which had deployed. He was bloody and unconscious. The door on the driver's side was jammed shut, so Woolf went over to the passenger side and was able to crawl into the car. He remembered an incident from his days in truck driver training school, when he and some fellow trainees had witnessed a similar type of accident. One of those trainees a man with medical training had told everyone how important it is to keep accident victims perfectly still to avoid spinal injuries. With this advice in his head, Woolf used his shoulder to prop the man up. He then cupped his hand against the man's neck to serve as a makeshift brace. He held the man immobilized this way to keep him from further spinal injury until the paramedics arrived and took over. "It makes me shake just thinking about it," said Woolf, who found himself covered in the man's blood after he relinquished medical care to the authorities. "I couldn't sleep for a week afterward. But you can't see something like that happen right in front of you and not try to do something your conscience tells you that you have to [help]." The Highway Angel Program got a special boost when country singer Lindsay Lawler wrote a special song honoring America's truckers.

Here are some of the lyrics: I remember that the road was wet, the bright lights from the cars ahead I remember every word from the prayer I said And I remember how time stood still It seemed like forever until the world came crashing Down, around me, and I closed my eyes And I wondered if it was my time Or was there a Highway Angel, a beautiful stranger Who would be the light, on my darkest night And save me from this hell Highway Angel I remember how you reached your hands through the broken glass And how it all just seemed to go so fast I never even got your name, but how could I forget the face Of a hero sent my way by God's amazing grace

"As the program continues to focus on improving the public's image of truck driving as a profession, and providing a program that recognizes drivers and helps individual drivers feel better about themselves and their professions, companies use this program as a source of increasing morale and self image among their driving force," notes TCA Vice President of Development, Debbie Sparks. "The Angel program has become part of their recruitment and retention programs." "When you know of, witness, or experience an exceptional act of kindness or courtesy by a truck driver, please take the time to fill out and submit a Highway Angel nomination form," Sparks adds. To nominate a Highway Angel, go to http://www.truckload.org/highway-angel

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