Edward A. Regener, a trucker for FedEx Freight, crawled out the passenger side of his cab last November after a pickup hit the driver’s side on Interstate 10 near Phoenix. The pickup had been hit by a speeding car, which caught fire -- as did Regener’s truck, which was carrying hazardous materials.
Regener forced open the car’s doors to reach and save the two men inside.
Such daring life-saving exploits along the highway, bringing orphaned pets to their owners and tutoring classrooms on geography are all in a day’s work for thousands of truckers who defy the negative industry images often proliferated in media and entertainment.
Regener was named Goodyear’s 2006 Highway Hero. He received a $10,000 US savings bond and a ring. The award, started in 1983, is meant to “promote a positive image of truck drivers, who are the unsung heroes of the highway,” says David Wilkins, Goodyear spokesman. “We receive about 50 nominations every year, but we would like more. We know we miss a lot of drivers who deserve recognition.”
Regener, who recently appeared at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, notes this is the third time he’s been involved in helping out at the scene of an accident. “Most of the truckers I know have done something similar,” he adds. “You don’t drive for 20 or 30 years and not see anything.”
As men like Regener show, trucking for many is about more than transporting goods. It’s also about doing good deeds on the highway and off.
“In the public eye, too many times we hear about the negative aspects of trucking, such as the driver shortage and high turnover,” says Wilkins. “The public also hears about the ‘bad apples’ who disrespect traffic laws and fellow motorists. Too little is written about drivers whose ability makes our highways safer and keeps our economy moving.”
Recognizing that fact, a number of companies and individuals have established philanthropic organizations that either recognize the heroic acts of truckers or provide the opportunity for truckers to help others.
Trucker Recognition Programs
Here are a few examples of programs that recognize truck drivers for going above and beyond:
• Highway Heroes: The Goodyear program requires nominees to be full-time truckers in the US or Canada, with at least 14 wheels on their trucks. The incident must have occurred in the US or Canada while the nominee was on the job. Judges will perform driving record and criminal background checks.
• America’s Road Team:
Sponsored by the American Trucking Associations, this program honors truckers who’ve driven 1 million or more accident-free miles. Those chosen appear at road shows and other public events to speak to the public about highway safety and the roles truckers play in promoting that safety.
• Highway Angels:
Established in 1997 by the Truckload Carriers Association, the program has recognized more than 900 drivers for good deeds -- ranging from simple acts of kindness, like helping change a tire, to life-saving efforts, says spokeswoman Nancy O’Liddy. Nominations are verified with the truckers’ employers. “Very rarely does a driver nominate himself; they are generally shy and do these kinds of acts as a daily part of their lives,” she notes. For more information, visit the Web site or call 703-838-1950.
And truckers don’t have to save lives in order to do good and project a respectable image for the industry. They can volunteer for organizations like these:
• Operation Roger:
Started by Sue Wiese, a trucker known as “Classy Lady,” this program features truckers who volunteer to transport rescued orphaned animals to new homes. They coordinate their planned routes with information on Petfinder.com so they can drop off newly adopted pets along the way. Daughter Honey Edwards says 100 volunteers have brought almost 200 pets to their new owners. Wiese began the program after hearing about abandoned animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “It has opened the eyes of animal rescues all over the US,” notes Edwards. “They had no idea there were truckers who had hearts of gold.”
• Trucker Buddy International: Started by a trucker 15 years ago for his own child’s classroom, this nonprofit group now has about 3,500 truckers matched with classrooms around the world, says Roxane Rose, executive director. “We ask truckers to send a postcard once a week, and the classrooms write back once a month,” she explains. Teachers can use the truckers’ stories to inform geography, math and even handwriting lessons. Truckers can apply online, by mail or fax, or by phone at 1-800-MYBUDDY. Background checks are required. “Children find out that truckers are people just like us,” says Rose. “Older kids begin to realize how vital trucking is to our economy.”
• Truckers can also call local chapters of well-known groups like the American Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity to inquire about helping to transport supplies for their campaigns.