Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Highway Hero Gerald Andy Wright

Pre-trip inspections help prepare driver to save family

March 7, 2022
Goodyear awards Illinois truck driver with Highway Hero Award after he stopped to rescue four people from a burning SUV on the side of the road. A reminder of the importance of pre-trip inspections.

ORLANDO, Florida—For 30 years, truck driver Gerald “Andy” Wright never needed to use the fire extinguisher he keeps in his cab. But before every trip, the Illinois trucker still checked the extinguisher’s pressure gauge. This pre-trip inspection saved a family’s life.

Last July, the Wausau Supply Co. driver came upon a smoking SUV on its side along Route 3 in southern Illinois. Wright didn’t hesitate to pull his truck over to help. Thanks to his quick thinking, the family trapped inside the burning vehicle is alive today. 

He was honored by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. with the 2020-21 Highway Hero Award, which celebrates professional truck drivers who act selflessly for the good of others on North American highways.

“It’s very humbling,” Wright told FleetOwner after the ceremony held during the start of  American Trucking AssociationsTechnology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting at the Orange County Convention Center. “I was not expecting this whatsoever. I’ve been a first responder for 25 years, and it’s just something we do. I was glad to help these people out more than anything.” 

In his more than 2 million miles of truck driving, he’s never come upon an accident like the one he did that day. In front of the crashed SUV, two other motorists had already stopped. Wright asked them if there were people inside the car. “They said they didn’t know,” he said. “I walked over, saw people in there, and knew they had to get out.”

At first, Wright couldn’t tell if it was smoke or steam billowing out of the car. He quickly realized it was on fire. So he grabbed his load bar and extinguisher from his truck. “I squirted my little fire extinguisher as best as I could to knock the fire down,” he said. “And I busted the big panoramic sunroof out of the car, a little Ford Explorer Sport, and I got all four of them out.”

Among the family members in the crash was a grandmother with two broken ankles. “She couldn’t walk,” Wright said, "so I got her to where she can crawl over to me, and I picked her up and took her up on the road.”

Shortly after all four family members were out of the Explorer, it was engulfed in flames. 

Wright is the 37th Goodyear Highway Hero since the program began in 1983. Along with a check for $1,000, Goodyear is giving him other “custom prizes,” the company said.

“There is no question that Andy’s actions directly saved the lives of those who were in severe danger,” said Gary Schroeder, executive director of Cooper Commercial at Goodyear. “Andy fully embodies what it means to be a hero, and today we are proud to add him to our list of courageous Goodyear Highway Hero Award winners.”

Pre-check

Wright is a regional driver for Wausau Supply Co., a building materials distributor that serves the northern U.S. He said he does close to 95,000 miles per year on routes within a 200-mile radius of Jacksonville, Illinois. He praised the fleet’s exemplary safety record.

The fire extinguisher sits next to Wright’s driver’s seat. “Every time I get in and out, I look at the load gauge on there and see that it’s still green,” he said. 

Wright said this is a good reminder of how important it is to conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections as part of a good preventative maintenance program for trucks and good preparation for drivers. 

“You gotta do your pre-trip/post-trip [inspections] every day,” Wright said. “I mean, you got to have all your safety equipment with you. That’s the first time I think I’ve ever used a fire extinguisher in 30 years of trucking. But it was there.”

Wright’s wife, Joyce, was with him at the Goodyear presentation on the first day of one of the larger trucking industry gatherings of the year. “Many may not fully appreciate just how essential truck drivers are to our economy in our day-to-day lives,” Goodyear’s Schroeder said during the presentation. They are hard-working individuals, who transport goods across North America, and surely can help keep our country moving and our economy thriving.”

He thanked Wright and other truck drivers for making North American roads safer. 

What would Wright tell his fellow drivers? “If you see somebody needs help, help them out the best you can. That day, I didn’t think nothing about me. I just wanted to get those people out of there. I would hope that anybody else would do the same as I did.”

Other inspiring drivers

Goodyear received dozens of inspiring story submissions from across the continent. An independent panel of judges, made up of trucking industry members, voted on the grand prize winner and two other finalists:

  • Jami Meyers: Meyers was driving on an interstate when she noticed a car in front of her swerved lanes and hit a barrier. Meyers quickly exited her truck to investigate when she noticed the vehicle was slowly moving, and the car’s driver was on the ground in front of the car. Meyers immediately entered the vehicle and put the car in reverse to ensure the man could be safely removed from the car’s path. Meyers then placed a coat on the man to keep him warm and stayed with him until emergency personnel arrived.

  • Phillip Hurte: Hurte was driving through Lubbock, Texas, when he witnessed an SUV rollover. Acting quickly, Hurte immediately pressed on his brakes and pulled over to see if he could help. When Hurte approached the damaged vehicle, he noticed two adults and a young child inside. Hurte proceeded to help each family member exit safely and waited with them as first responders rushed to the scene.

Read about past Goodyear Highway Heroes here.

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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