HARTFORD, CT— Today, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) and the American Automobile Assn. (AAA) together with Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut Dept. of Motor Vehicles assembled to discuss the safety of commuters and large trucks. The gathering was just one stop in ATA’s national tour of its “Share the Road” program.

Today’s activities offered media the opportunity to ride in a tractor-trailer provided by FedEx along I-84 to observe safe merging and stopping distances.

Besides inviting local media in hopes they will pass along safety tips for commuters, ATA also considers the program a means to improve the public’s perception of truckers, explained Ellen Serrano, ATA national field director.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that many truck drivers are real professionals,” Serrano told Fleet Owner here at the event. “In this program, we put professional drivers in front of reporters. ATA is saying that the vast majority of these drivers are driving with the public’s safety in mind in everything they do— even before they get into the truck.”

Michael Nordone, driver for FedEx Ground, piloted the company’s 2004 Kenworth T600 to give the press ride-along experience. He has been driving trucks for 27 years and has accumulated 2.9 million accident-free miles.

Nordone says carriers are becoming increasingly aware of the need for drivers to stay well-rested and accident-free. “The great thing about FedEx and a lot of other carriers is that if I get tired, I just pull over and go to sleep. There’s nothing that I could haul that would possibly give me a reason to get into an accident.”

He attributes the industry’s strengthening awareness of safety on two things: carriers understanding the dire economic repercussions of a single accident and drivers being more knowledgeable about their rights. “If a carrier was going to fire me for being too tired to drive, then fire me,” Nordone said, pointing out that today drivers are more likely to fight such a move in court.

Nordone believes the public’s generally negative perception of truck drivers is partly due to media coverage on accidents. However, he admits trucking is too often a “behind-the-scenes” industry. “When people go shopping and take stuff from the shelves, they don’t realize that a truck brought it over here— they think the store keeps it stocked,” he explained.

Share the Road is slated to do another demonstration in Burlington VT, at Overnite Transportation’s terminal on October 12, followed by a stop in Grand Rapids MI, on October 21. The program has been offered annually for 16 years.

For more information go to www.truckline.com