Touching more than trucks

A straightforward-- and fun-- fundraising and public-awareness event conducted this autumn by an industry supplier was so successful out of the gate that it is hoped it will serve as a template for putting on similar happenings across the country.

“Operation: Big Wheels for Heroes” was hosted by Bestpass, Inc. on Sept. 27th, in New York’s capital city, Albany, in partnership with the New York State Motor Truck Assn. (NYSMTA).

The Touch-a-Truck event exceeded its goal of raising funds to help the Truckload Carriers Assn.’s “Truckload of Respect” program support Wreaths Across America’s (WAA) annual wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.

The event boasted a wide range of trucks, heavy equipment and emergency vehicles. Children—and adults— attending got to touch everything from a Walmart “Wreaths Across America” trailer and a Golub “No Zone” tractor-trailer to fire, police and other emergency vehicles. Also on hand were several pieces of construction equipment, including an excavator that was used in 9/11 recovery efforts.

The displays— staffed by the very men and women who operate the vehicles that were shown— were set up so attendees could walk around them or sit in them and feel free to honk a horn or turn on a siren.

“We had three goals when we set out to organize and sponsor Operation: Big Wheels for Heroes— honor truck drivers, emergency workers and veterans that serve our country; raise public awareness of our industry, and collect enough money to sponsor a truckload of wreaths through TCA’s Truckload of Respect program,” said Alison Knowlton, director of communications for Bestpass.

“The public response of more than 500 attendees was tremendous and all three of those goals were met with huge success,” she continued.

Knowlton also pointed out that Bestpass will be compiling a “lessons learned” document with the intention of producing an “event-in-a box program” that can be used to help other state trucking associations organize and hold similar events.

“As an industry, trucking is a vital part of our state’s economy,” said Kendra Hems, president of NYSMTA. “Events like this, that allow the public to get hands-on and learn about working trucks and drivers, help to dispel negative stereotypes and foster the positive public image our industry deserves.”

“In the 23 years I’ve served trucking technology vendors in a public relations capacity, I have never seen an event that did more for positive public awareness than this one,” noted Susan Fall, president of LaunchIt Public Relations.

“For every child that grabbed a steering wheel and every adult that looked in the side mirrors and couldn’t see the staged car next to the truck because it was in one of several blind spots, this event had a positive impact,” added Fall. “With the help of Bestpass and other state associations, I believe this event could grow into a very successful public outreach program. Not only for our industry, but for Wreaths Across America as well.”

Wreaths Across America is a nonprofit founded to continue and expand the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992.

The organization’s mission, “Remember, Honor, Teach,” is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at hundreds of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.  

Founded in 2003 by NYSMTA, Bestpass offers a streamlined, single-source toll management service. Its system is compatible with a number of toll and weigh station bypass networks and the firm has partnerships with state highway authorities throughout the U.S.

 

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