Thursday, July 14, 2016

Heroic truckers epitomize good in industry

As a society, we often tend to focus on the negative. Instead of celebrating all the great things being done in our community, we spend much of our time complaining about the handful of problems. Instead of lauding all of the great police officers who put in long hours to make our communities safer, the headlines are stolen by the few bad apples who should never have become officers in the first place.

The trucking industry is not immune to this trend.

Instead of hearing about all of the professional truck drivers out there who have logged millions of accident-free miles, donated to charities and who have worked to make America a better place, the mainstream media’s focus is often on the accidents and the wrongdoings of the few bad apples who should never have become truckers in the first place.

But what I’ve learned since joining Land Line in November 2015 is that there are way too many good truck drivers out there to ignore.

It seems like every other week I’m writing about another heroic deed performed by a truck driver.

The latest involves an anonymous Wal-Mart trucker who spotted a wrecked vehicle submerged in water on Highway 190 near Robert, La., and called for help. The truck driver’s keen vision and quick thinking allowed local firefighters to rescue a woman from the vehicle after she had been trapped in the vehicle for about nine hours.

Not surprisingly, the truck driver didn’t hang around for pats on the back. Before the dust settled, the trucker was back on the road and ready to bring the load he was carrying to its destination.

This driver’s act is not uncommon. Truck drivers often serve as the public’s eyes and ears of the highway and, as I’ve learned, many are quick to act even if it could put them in danger.

In April, OOIDA Member Daniel Sieczkarski jumped into raging floodwaters in Texas in order to save a fellow truck driver who couldn’t swim. Several other truckers helped pull Sieczkarski and truck driver Ronald Bumpus to safety.

Truck drivers Julian Kaczor, Mark Cavanagh and Dorian Cole were recognized for their good deeds during the 33rd annual Goodyear Highway Hero Awards in March at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Kaczor, who won $5,000 in cash, a ring and a trophy, pulled an injured driver out of a vehicle that was engulfed in flames and dragged him to safety.

OOIDA Member Joshua Grimaldi received the 2015 Highway Angel of the Year award after helping a pregnant woman escape her crushed car after a rollover accident along Interstate 80 in Nevada. In April 2015, Grimaldi also assisted a man who suffered serious injuries after an accident on Interstate 45 in Texas.

In February, OOIDA Member Edward Wilcher saved a fellow trucker from a reefer fire at Love’s Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Mo.

In January, truck drivers and drivers of passenger vehicles combined efforts and formed a human chain to rescue a truck driver after his tractor-trailer lost control and nearly fell off the turnpike during a winter storm in Pennsylvania.

During my first week on the job in November, a truck driver prevented a potential tragedy  in Vermont by turning off the valve from a 10,000-gallon propane tank that had inadvertently been left open. The trucker, John Matala, was badly burned in the process. The fire chief called Matala’s actions “heroic” and said that he prevented what could have been a “catastrophic” explosion.

All this, and I haven’t even been here a year. It’s amazing to learn about all these great stories and the truckers who made them happen.

It goes to show you that there’s still a lot of good out there on the highways these days.

And I can’t wait to keep reporting about it.