Captains of the highway

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I‘m sure you‘ve seen or at least heard about the “Share the Road” campaign organized by the American Trucking Association (ATA) and funded by industry suppliers such as tire maker Michelin, Mack Trucks, Volvo Trucks North America (sure, Volvo owns Mack - but let‘s give out the props equally, I say). It essentially takes a group of seasoned truck driving veterans with spotless safety records and puts them on the road to criss-cross the country, speaking at elementary schools, public events, and driver safety meetings, to emphasize the importance of safe driving - especially around big rigs.


These drivers are nominated by their peers in the industry to serve as “captains” of what the ATA calls “America‘s Road Team” for one year - and the ATA‘s been doing this for over two decades.


“The public face of the trucking industry is our drivers,” said Scott Kress, Volvo‘s senior vice president - sales & marketing. “Given the challenges our industry sees today, it is critically important that the U.S. trucking industry once again come forward with its best people.”


I got to talk with three such captains this week by lucky chance at the Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting here in Orlando, Florida: Clarence Jenkins Jr., a driver for UPS freight; Rich Scholl, a driver with Roadway; and Wayne Crowder, a driver for FedEx Freight. Gregarious, funny, and plainspoken, they each jumped at the chance to represent their chosen profession and their peers before the public - even if they weren‘t exactly thrilled with the idea of speaking before large crowds, which they are called upon to do.


Captains

(Left to right: Clarence Jenkins, Rich Scholl, Wayne Crowder)


“It‘s a little daunting, to say the least,” Jenkins told me. He should know - a few weeks back he took part in safety event held on the steps of the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia with the Governor, no less. It might not compare to the pressures faced on the highway every day, but Jenkins said that came awful close.


“But this is important - we need to be before our fellow drivers and the general public to talk about safety,” he told me. “It can be dangerous out on the road, especially if you don‘t know the basics, like where a truck‘s blind spots are.”


“It also helps dispel the stigma about driving trucks for a living,” added Scholl. “It‘s good career - my wife and I have seven kids and this job allows me to put food on the table and take care of them. It‘s also important to take pride in what we do.”


Many drivers might dispute their experiences - lord knows, there are lots of truckers living on the edge of financial ruin these days, faced with high fuel prices and little freight - but I still think taking pride in doing a dangerous job well, in being a professional and not just a seat warmer, is a very good thing.


Tell you something else: we need more drivers like these guys.

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