Part of the solution

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we're now knee-deep in the blame game among politicians as to who failed whom, alongside the ugly accusations of racism dictating disaster relief (or the lack thereof), and vivid images of the looting and violence that got more than their air share of media coverage. Not enough attention has been paid to the outpourings of aid from private citizens and businesses,

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we're now knee-deep in the blame game among politicians as to who failed whom, alongside the ugly accusations of racism dictating disaster relief (or the lack thereof), and vivid images of the looting and violence that got more than their air share of media coverage. Not enough attention has been paid to the outpourings of aid from private citizens and businesses, including those in trucking.

Volunteer utility crews from Texas, Ohio, and New York, for example, poured into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with nothing but long weeks, if not months or years, of repair work ahead of them.

Financial assistance came quickly, too. Paccar Corp., parent company of Peterbilt and Kenworth, gave $1 million to Katrina relief efforts, while International Truck & Engine Corp. quickly offered use of a 7,750-sq.-ft. facility in Shreveport, LA, as a logistics staging area for distribution of relief supplies, along with equipment to deliver supplies and remove debris.

United Parcel Service donated a total of $1.25 million to the American Red Cross, America's Second Harvest and other relief organizations that assist with long-term rebuilding activities.

Even Detroit-based tow-truck owner Gasper Fiore got into the act, putting two vehicles from Boulevard & Trumbull Towing to work hauling refrigerated trailers filled with food donated by Detroit residents. Fiore joined a 15-vehicle caravan headed up by Wayne County, MI, Sheriff Warren Evans to help recovery efforts in Alabama and Mississippi.

None of this comes as a surprise to me or anyone else who's covered the trucking industry. I run into countless fleets and suppliers that make good works part of their everyday business plan, not just a one-time effort to help out after a disaster.

Todd Bates, president off TL carrier J&B Services is a good example. While visiting driver Terry Tartt, who was in the hospital being treated for lung cancer, Bates noticed a number of get-well cards from elementary school students. Turns out Tartt had been part of the Trucker Buddy program. Bates felt that a commitment like that shouldn't be abandoned, so he helped establish the Terry Tartt Humanitarian Trucker of the Year award in conjunction with Trucker Buddy International. “I didn't realize how strong Terry felt about this until he got sick, so it was important for me to get involved and do something not only for him, but for all those kids he helped over the years,” Bates told me. He may have only 50 trucks, but that didn't stop him from doing good where he could.

“We believe that we exist as a company not only to serve our customers, but to serve the communities we hire in,” Mitch Bookbinder, manager of recruiting and retention for L.J. Kennedy Trucking, told me. Bookbinder's company formed the first ever public-private partnership with the Kinship Family & Youth Services, a New York foster-care agency, to raise funds for and increase awareness of the difficult issues faced by these kids. “If all trucking companies partnered with a worthy charity, the industry would reap tremendous rewards and the organizations would prosper,” says Bookbinder.

It's all part of what Bruce Weinstein, PhD, author of Life Principles: Feeling Good by Doing Good, says is the second most important ethical principle: “Make things better.” (The first is “Do no harm.”) “The good physician does more than avoid harming patients; he makes them better,” says Weinstein. “But the idea of benefiting others shouldn't be limited to healthcare professionals. All of us would do well to try and make things better.”

In trucking, they've taken that mantra to heart.

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