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It's hot out there, what's a trucker to do? 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everyone wins 5/13/2019 Friday Short Haul - Driver awarded $80 million, ODFL driver wins, loading dock black hole 5/10/2019 Storm breaks out from Rockies, slams into Midwest, South 5/8/2019 Capacity issues have shippers looking at private fleets 5/6/2019 Friday Short Haul - HOS rules, dark skies, Falcon drivers 5/3/2019 'Bug' permits now required for four eastern states 5/1/2019 Simulator use is catching on for schools, carriers 4/29/2019 Friday Short Haul - Thinking electric, Penske opens charging station, border crossing crisis, railroads taking trucking business 4/26/2019 ELDs might not be the panacea that was hoped for 4/24/2019 Truck drivers may soon see "phantoms" driving yard trucks 4/22/2019 Friday Short Haul - Nikola big rigs, WIT welcomes Peterbilt, Oregon crashes, Border crossings 4/19/2019 Carriers claim financial benefit of putting up drivers in hotels 4/17/2019 Uber's IPO application reveals interesting data about its freight brokerage business 4/15/2019 Friday Short Haul - CDL examiner arrested, tolls proposed for trucks, marijuana use on the rise 4/12/2019 Smart Load Board will get carriers the loads they need 4/10/2019 Huge lines and long wait times greet carriers at Mexico border 4/8/2019 Friday Short Haul - Marijuana, ATA campaign, personal conveyance rules 4/5/2019 Over-the-air downloads revolutionize parameter updates 4/3/2019 Don't get scammed by skimmers 4/1/2019 Friday Short Haul -- New Cascadias honored, motorist survey, U.S, Xpress awarded, rest stop parking 3/29/2019 Legislators address underride collisions, propose more underguards for trucks, trailers 3/27/2019 Motorists soon may encounter a different kind of truck convoy 3/25/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Women in Trucking, irate motorist, FMCSA eases HOS, Safe-Cap 3/22/2019 Recent survey shows cost of roadside repairs is rising 3/20/2019 FMCSA announces drug and alcohol clearinghouse website 3/18/2019 Friday Short Haul - Swift settlement, driver shortage myth, TCA Best Fleet award 3/15/2019 The hidden danger of looking but not seeing 3/13/2019 Accident scammers target trucks for financial payout 3/11/2019 3/9/2019 3/9/2019 Friday Short Haul - Snow on the roof, bypassing toll road, Waze under fire 3/8/2019 Retailers blame driver shortage for price increases 3/6/2019 Drivers' smartphones may be clue to road roughness 3/4/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Freight rates, HOS changes, tonnage reports 3/1/2019 New tax changes hit drivers hard 2/27/2019 FMCSA to implement under-21 interstate driver program for former military 2/25/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Connecticut tolls proposed, hydrogen fuel-cell trucks, cell phone use 2/22/2019 Congress committee looks at state of America's highways 2/20/2019 Number of cargo thefts is down; but dollar value about the same 2/18/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Crossing the border, CA sues FMCSA, Lobbying against larger trucks 2/15/2019 Detention - A problem still in search of a solution 2/13/2019 February Highway Angels honorees named 2/11/2019 Friday Short Haul -- C.R. England announces pay raises, eCommerce impact on trucking, TCA announces best fleets 2/8/2019 Is a guaranteed minimum pay the solution to the driver shortage? 2/6/2019 Long CDL testing wait times cost economy billions of dollars; not helping driver shortage 2/4/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Walmart hiring, Uber Freight App, Speed-limiter Law, America's Road Team 2/1/2019 Cranking -- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 1/30/2019 California survives challenge to its low-carbon fuel standards 1/28/2019 Friday Short Haul - Highway robbery ... autonomous trucks ... new trailers 1/25/2019 LithiumHub enters jump-starter market with Jumpbooster JP30 1/23/2019 2019 Looks Good For The Transportation Industry 1/21/2019 Raymond Burt named TMC Trainer of the Month for February 2018 3/28/2018 TMC Transportation Announces Recipient of Prestigious Wheel Master Award 3/7/2018 TMC Transportation Named The Home Depot’s Flatbed Carrier of the Year For Fourth Straight Year 2/28/2018 Pay Raises & New Peterbilts for PAM Drivers 2/26/2018 New DOT Drug Testing Rules Effective Jan 1, 2018 1/11/2018 Amtrak Derailment: Trucks Haul 270,000 Pound Locomotive Engine During Cleanup 12/21/2017 Pepsi Places Largest Order Yet For Tesla Electric Trucks 12/12/2017 Kavin Hallett named Trainer of the Month for October 2017 12/8/2017 Over 100,000 Truck Drivers Likely Have Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea And More Testing Is On The Way 8/10/2017 Drivers Share Their Best Tips, Tricks, And Secrets For Life On The Road 7/18/2017 Drivers Are Losing Money By Taking The Wrong Approach 7/13/2017 Truckers and Guns: What Is and Is Not Legal 7/6/2017 Preparing To Go Solo For The First Time? Experienced Drivers Share Their Best Advice 6/29/2017 The Truck Stop Survival Guide: Advice From Experienced Drivers 6/15/2017 The Worst Cities For Traffic In The U.S. For 2017 6/8/2017 We Ask Drivers How They Would Make The Logbook Rules Better 5/30/2017 Self Driving Trucks Are Not Coming Anytime Soon 5/25/2017 11/30/-0001

Trucker Buddy program matches drivers with a classroom; everyone wins

Dave Wickenhauser on Mon, May 13, 2019

Last Updated: Sun, May 12, 2019


Pictured while visiting his Trucker Buddy class in Illinois is Bill McNamee, back row, right. (Trucker Buddy Newsletter)

Five of the professional commercial drivers who were announced earlier this year as American Trucking Associations' American Road Team for 2019-2020 have something unique in common.

They are all active members of the Trucking Buddy International organization.

America's Road Team is sponsored by Volvo Trucks and was created in 1986. "Captains" named to the team each year spend a few days each month as ambassadors to industry events, speaking at schools and meeting policymakers on behalf of the trucking industry.

Candidates earn this status because of their exemplary safety records and because of their ability to communicate their "commitment to safety and passion for the industry. Nominees should also portray a positive image of the professional truck driver in all that they do," according to the American Trucking Associations.

It's no surprise, then, that five of the current Road Team members have also committed time and energy toward interacting with school children as part of the Trucker Buddy program; which turns out to be a win-win for everyone.

"Drivers are helping the teachers and the teachers are helping these drivers,” Trucker Buddy Executive Director Alan Welborn told Transport Topics recently.

For example, Walmart driver Duane Donner of Litchfield Park, Arizona, is a Trucker Buddy for a class of learning disabled pupils at Douglas Middle School in Box Elder, South Dakota.

Teacher Angela Green told Transport Topics, “My kids talk about seeing Walmart trucks out in the community, and we have had conversations about what they think is on that truck and where do you think they are going. They look up to him so much.”

Donna and his wife send Walmart gift cards to the pupils, and the children made a class project of writing thank you cards.

Donner said he feels the value of the relationship with the students is worth more than the clothes and gift cards that he sends. “It’s been an incredible opportunity for me, I truly feel that those kids have given me by far, more than I have given them,” Donner told Transport Topics.

“What they have taught me and the things that they do and how they do them, especially when they are dealt a hand that doesn’t seem fair, I have gotten just as much if not more out of the program as these students," Donner said.

The five America's Road Team members who are also Trucker Buddies are:

  • William C. Bennett III, UPS Freight, Maytown, Pennsylvania
  • William Goins, Old Dominion Freight Lines, Cloverdale, Indiana
  • William McNamee, Carbon Express, Christopher, Illinois
  • Ronald Vandermark, UPS Freight, Delran, New Jersey
  • Todd Wilemon, ABF Freight, Fulton, Mississippi
  • Another Trucking Buddy earning kudos recently is Steen Gronlund, a veteran driver of 49 years currently driving for Mile-Hi Foods, Denver, Colorado. In April of this year he was awarded by TA/Petro as one of three Citizen Drivers during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

    He will have a TA/Petro center named after him.

    So, what is being a Trucker Buddy all about?

    Basically, the Trucker Buddy organization matches drivers with classrooms of pupils ranging from 1st grade through high school.

    Teachers notify Trucker Buddy of their desire to be in the program. Currently, there are 23 teachers in 11 states, Canada and Uganda awaiting drivers to be Trucker Buddies to their students.

    In total, there are about 2,000 drivers who are currently Trucker Buddies to about 60,000 students in the United States and other countries.

    Drivers commit to communicating with the classroom while on the road by sending post cards, emails, letters, pictures and even Skyping or FaceTiming from their smartphones. Teachers incorporate those communications into lesson plans, and students write letters back to the driver about what they have learned.

    Drivers will work closely with teachers in order to arrive at the best way to communicate. Many teachers prefer post cards, as they create a natural geography lesson. Trucker Buddy provides a smart phone app which allows drivers to send photos with map location information included.

    Some drivers let the class follow their progress in real time with the app. Other drivers collect regional samples from their travels, like rocks or cotton, for example, and send them to the class. Yet other drivers have a class "mascot" like a stuffed bear that rides with them that they incorporate into photos.

    Then, once or twice a year the driver can visit the school with his or her truck to meet the teacher and the class. Students are prohibited from riding in the trucks. Drop-ins are heavily discouraged, and Trucker Buddy recommends drivers shave and bathe before making scheduled visits.

    Trucker Buddy is very diligent about screening with background checks each new and renewing driver. All communications between the driver and class go through the teacher.

    According to Trucker Buddy Executive Director Randy Schwartzenburg:

    "Trucker Buddy's grass roots efforts benefit everyone in the trucking industry. Fleets, OEMs, suppliers and drivers benefit from the efforts of our volunteers by daily providing the public with what is good and great about our industry.

    "I had a parent call me and ask about Trucker Buddy and he said when he heard his child was part of a program with a truck driver he had reservations. He agreed those reservations are unfounded but the perception is that when you deal with truck drivers there is an automatic bias that comes up," he said.

    "Once he understood the program and the enhanced lessons that the teacher was using he became a fan.

    "No other program does this every day, every week, every month and every year like Trucker Buddy and everyone in the industry benefits from the program and the effort of professional drivers across the country."

    Trucker Buddy got its genesis in 1992 when one truck driver, Gary King, contacted a grade school in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and asked the principal if he could write to a class and become pen-pals.

    As other drivers noticed King writing his post cards and letters each week during truck stop stays, they asked about how to get their own pen-pals.

    The organization was created and incorporated shortly after.

    Sources: Akron Beacon Journal, Trucker Buddy, Transport Topics, Overdrive

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