Good deeds done

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A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” –Henrick Ibsen

It’s often easy to forget that trucking isn’t just about chrome and steel, barking diesels, shifting gears, and miles of asphalt extending in every direction off over the horizon. For at its heart, trucking is really all about people – the human hands that make the trucks, drive the trucks, maintain the trucks, and countless others in between. And as with any human endeavor, trucking of course reflects our flaws as well as our genius; our mistakes as well as our successes.

Most importantly, though, a lot of good deeds get done every day within this industry – and not just on the heroic level, with everyday truck drivers risking their lives on the highway to save others. A lot of simple yet abiding good works flow from the hands and hearts of countless people in this business, much of it done just for the sake of doing a good thing, despite the hard times we’re all facing; not in the hopes of glory or future remuneration.

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One such deed occurred out in a place usually referred to as “Sin City” recently, when Peterbilt PacLease of Las Vegas made an unusual donation to the local chapter of Goodwill Industries: a brand new 2010 model tractor, worth $100,000, on a six-year “free and clear” lease – meaning all Goodwill must do is fuel the truck and provide a driver, as even the maintenance is all taken care of gratis.

[For a video report on this story, click here. The local TV station's report is in the upper right hand corner.]

“This actually came about because of these tough times – we weren’t trying to thump our own chest,” Dan Moss, the company’s general manager, told me. “We’ve always been involved with the local community, giving to different charities, but this year we realized we couldn’t write a big check to Goodwill like we’ve always done. So I started hunting around for another way to help out.”

Moss realized that trucks were essential to Goodwill’s operations – hauling donations to and from its thrift stores and providing other services to the community. He figured if he could get some equipment discounts and a group of companies (including his) to cover the monthly lease payments on a truck, Goodwill could essentially get a free truck.

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Happily enough, he found no resistance to the idea – quickly getting discounts from Peterbilt on the truck and PacLease on the financing. Within two weeks, he had enough volunteers lined up to cover the monthly truck payments and Goodwill soon had its truck.

“We were surprised at all the services Goodwill offers and how they use trucks to do it – and shame on us for not knowing all that to start with,” Moss told me. “We really feel, though, that anything we can do to help the community is important because – in the end – we’re really helping ourselves.”

He also pointed out that his local Goodwill chapter placed 300 people in jobs so far this year, in this poor economy, so by not having to shell out $100,000 for a new truck, they may be able to work more such wonders as 2009 progresses. “This has really been one of the best things I’ve worked on all year,” Moss said.

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), Daimler Financial Services and Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies joined forces to do something similar as well this year – donating a hybrid-powered Class 7 Freightliner truck with a 20-foot fiberglass refrigerated body to Forgotten Harvest to serve its Detroit facility, giving the food bank the capacity to rescue 850,000 additional pounds of fresh food on an annual basis.

"This generous donation … advances our mission of reducing hunger and waste," said Susan Goodell, executive director of Forgotten Harvest. “It will not only improve our operating efficiency by keeping fuel costs down since it’s a hybrid truck, it will also allow us to direct more donated dollars to distributing food in a way that protects the environment.”

The 31,000-pound Class 7 truck is the fifth truck donated by Daimler Financial Services and DTNA and aftermarket body builders in the past four years, bringing Forgotten Harvest's growing fleet to 21 vehicles – an effort that didn’t get shelved due to the tough economic climate, I might add.

And what a mission Forgotten Harvest performs using trucks! They currently believe they can rescue more than 12 million pounds of food this year by collecting surplus prepared and perishable food from a variety of sources, including grocery stores, fruit and vegetable markets, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, wholesale food distributors, and then deliver it free of charge to 150-plus emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area.

Sometimes the good deeds focus on helping just a single individual. Take the case of Mike Jakubowski, a young truck driver with cancer of the parotid gland working in Nebraska. He got to take center stage at scale-model race benefitting both the Super Truckers Relay for Life Team and himself at the high school track in O'Neill, Nebraska.

Local dealership Peterbilt of Norfolk challenged next door rival Sahling Kenworth of Kearney dealer to a toy truck race for charity during the Holt County Relay for Life on June 12 featuring a 1:32 scale-model diecast metal Peterbilt 379 remote-control truck with a dry van trailer against a similarly equipped Kenworth T-2000. Jakubowski “drove” the remote controlled toy Peterbilt (as he himself drives a Pete 379) while his brother-in-law Willie Drueke “drove” the T-2000 (as Willie operates a Kenworth for his family’s business, Drueke Trucking.)

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Though Jakubowski [he's on the left in this photo, being presented with a toy truck by Don Burns, sales representative at Peterbilt of Norfolk. Mike’s wife Cindy took this shot by the way] won the toy truck race and much fun was had (and family bragging rights established) the event also raised $5,000 for cancer research and probably gave Jakubowski a much needed break from the physical struggle he faces.

Then of course there’s Goodyear’s 2008 North America Highway Hero, Jorge-Orozco Sanchez – a man who pulled two young girls from a burning car moments before it exploded last year after a horrible accident. But he lost his truck in that crash and due a delay in his insurance settlement, he wasn’t able to return to driving. His family’s main source of income was gone, the bills continued to pile up, and Sanchez couldn’t resume his livelihood.

Then the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) stepped in, found him a 2005 Freightliner Columbia tractor in Missouri and a 2008 Timpte grain hopper in Illinois, and financed the purchase. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company donated 18 new Goodyear truck tires and Pilot Travel Centers donated a $250 fuel card to help Orozco-Sanchez pay for his trip to pick up the truck and trailer.

[You can read about Sanchez's long road back by clicking here.]

Friends loaned Orozco-Sanchez the money to pay for the truck and trailer’s registration and licensing. And then the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA) and its member organizations paid the $1,400 down payment due on his insurance.

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“I am so grateful to everyone who helped me get back on the road,” said Orozco-Sanchez, who made his first two deliveries of grain from The Scoular Company’s grain facility in Sterling, Colorado, to the Five Rivers Feed lot outside Gilcrest, Colorado, on June 3.

“This gives my family a chance to catch up with the bills,” he said. “God bless everyone, and I want them to know I will work hard and try not to let them down.”

No, Mr. Sanchez – you of all people don’t need to worry about letting anyone down, as two young children are alive today because of your courage. It’s just great to see an industry come together and return the favor by helping you out in your time of need.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the good deeds done in trucking – deeds that continue despite one of the worst economic downturns ever experienced by this industry. It’s nice to know that even when the chips are down and times are tough, folks in trucking don’t stop giving.

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