Professional truck drivers are often called heroes throughout the industry. All too often, however, many of these men and women don’t receive the respect they deserve for the hard—and essential—work they do.
In this edition of Five Good Things, we are introduced to a driver who stops traffic to help a toddler playing too close to the highway, as well as another trucker who aids victims after a rush-hour crash. We also get to know a fleet—in business for 100 years—that makes it a priority to get their drivers home regularly while providing them with premium trucks and amenities while they are on the road.
During trying times—whether caused by natural disasters or economic hardships—it's important to focus on the good. Here are five good things that happened in trucking this week.
Driver ‘a legend and a model in every respect’
David Frazier has done something that no driver in the XPO Logistics freight network has ever done—achieved 4 million accident-free miles in his almost 35-year less-than-truckload career. Frazier has the highest safety record in the history of XPO Logistics, which tracks accident-free miles as part of its Road to Zero driver safety program.
“David is a legend in our network and a role model in every respect, particularly when it comes to safety procedures. Our drivers have watched him operate thousands of times and learned to always do things the right way,” said Mario Harik, president of XPO’s LTL business.
Frazier began driving LTL tractors in 1987 with Con-way, which was acquired by XPO in 2015. His groundbreaking 4 millionth accident-free mile was documented at XPO’s terminal in Kernersville, North Carolina, where he has been based for over 34 years. It can take a professional truck driver nine years on average to cover 1 million miles, making Frazier’s accomplishment even more remarkable, given his long tenure with two less-than-truckload companies.
The company honored Frazier Sept. 28 with a team celebration in Kernersville attended by district, region, and corporate officials after he was escorted by the Kernersville Police Department to the terminal. Frazier also received the keys to a brand new XPO tractor with a customized cab design that displays his name and record achievement.
For an average driver, it would take nearly 300 years to reach 4 million miles. Driving that far is equivalent to taking more than 160 trips around the Earth. There are 46,876 miles of interstate in the U.S., and to drive 4 million miles, you’d have to drive across every mile of U.S. interstate 85 times Driving 4 million miles also is the equivalent to taking 4.62 trips around the sun and is the same as 8.36 trips to the moon and back since a a round trip to the moon is 477,800 miles.
Driver stops to assure safety of unsupervised toddler
“I would hope that anybody would react just like that,” Steiger said, though he conceded that no other vehicles were stopping to help along the busy highway on Aug. 31.
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) named Steiger, who lives in Bay City, Michigan, as one of its Highway Angels for stopping to look after the toddler's safety.
Steiger was traveling northbound on U.S. 31 in Sherman Township, Michigan, when he spotted a small child on the southbound side of the road near oncoming southbound traffic. “His feet were almost on the side of the white line, and he had a little toy lawn mower with him,” Steiger said.
He moved his truck safely to the side of the road and then proceeded to slow/stop traffic as he moved carefully but swiftly across the highway to reach the child, according to a TCA release.
As the driver reached the child, he was able to move him away from the oncoming traffic and turn him to head back up the driveway from which he had emerged. Then Steiger reconnected him with his mother, who was very shaken when she realized where her child had been.
The child’s mother called Quick-Way and expressed her gratitude for Steiger’s actions in probably saving her son’s life.
Since the TCA program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for kindness, courtesy, and courage displayed while on the job. The program’s presenting sponsor is EpicVue and its supporting sponsor is DriverFacts.
Pilot teams with United Through Reading
Through Pilot’s exclusive transportation industry sponsorship and using United Through Reading’s app-based program, truck-driving veterans can record themselves reading stories and UTR sends the recording with a free hard copy of the book back to their families so they can follow along.
Pilot announced the partnership this month as a way to celebrate Driver Appreciation and National Literacy Month. Throughout September and October, Pilot also has an exclusive drink and bonus rewards deal through its app for all drivers. There are also discounts and special offers exclusively for military service members and their families.
Trucker aids victims after rush-hour crash
He’s been named a Truckload Carriers Association Highway Angel for his actions that day.
Ellis pulled his log truck to the side of the road and jumped out to check on two of the vehicles, one of which was over 100 feet off the road. The driver had lost control and plunged down the side of the interstate into the trees.
“I first checked on the car that was rear-ended and that driver was okay,” said the former 911 director for North Carolina’s Lincoln County. “I saw others exiting their cars and approaching the vehicle that overturned, so I headed off to the woods to check on the truck.”
Ellis initially thought the vehicle in the woods was a large truck, and he wanted to be there to help a fellow driver if the truck had turned over or if there was substantial damage to the vehicle, making it difficult to get out. He said the vehicle turned out to be a pickup pulling a tandem axle trailer, hauling pallets. The woman driving the vehicle was extremely upset but appeared to be alright, all things considered.
“She was frantically trying to call her husband to let him know what had happened and even handed me the phone to tell him where she was,” Ellis said. “I couldn’t get her out of the vehicle because she [had] a chain link fence against the passenger door and a clump of trees at the driver’s door—I stayed with her until EMS arrived and took over patient care.”
Ellis has been driving a log truck for his cousin’s family logging business in Lincolnton, North Carolina, for years and is also a former firefighter and EMT. “I was a volunteer fireman for 12 years and in the 911 field for 15—it is a rare occasion that I would be able to be at a scene quick enough to offer any help that wouldn’t already be there.”
Johnson Feed carries on trucking’s best traditions
When Carl Johnson founded City Dray Line (now named Johnson Feed Inc.) in 1920, the Prohibition era had just begun, Warren G. Harding was elected U.S. president, and car production was starting to ramp up. The trucking industry was in its infancy, with most major truck manufacturers not yet established.
In fact, when City Dray Line first opened for business, the company used a horse and wagon to deliver coal and other supplies to farmers located near the small town of Fairview in southeast South Dakota.
In the 1940s, the company expanded its operation to include mixing, grinding, and selling chicken feed and started a chicken hatchery to raise chicks. In the late 1970s, the permanent company name Johnson Feed was established.
Johnson Feed operates 200 Kenworth T680s and has contracts with 120 owner-operators. The majority of Johnson Feed’s company trucks are equipped with 76-inch sleepers, 450-horsepower engines, and 12-speed automated or 13-speed manual transmissions. In addition to providing trucking services, the company sells farm supplies, salt products, pet food, and other specialty products.
“The late '80s is when we really started to grow the trucking side of our business and we’ve been growing at a 10-15% clip every year since,” Todd Johnson said. “We haul everything from meat and ice cream to produce, grain, and furniture across Western, Southern, Southeast, and Midwestern states.”
In 2007, the company began the process of converting 100% of its fleet to Kenworth’s aerodynamic models, starting with the Kenworth T660 and later the T680 after its 2012 introduction. Last year, Johnson Feed added Kenworth’s latest aerodynamic model to the mix—the Kenworth T680 Next Generation.
“We make sure we get our drivers home every week so they can spend time with their families, provide them with premium trucks and spec them with driver amenities such as APUs and inverters to power refrigerator units and other electronic devices they have,” Todd Johnson added. “The functionality of the sleeper units, with the folding upper bunks, allows drivers to optimize space, and there is plenty of storage space for drivers to pack personal belongings when they’re out on the road. The premium heated and ventilated seats also make for a more comfortable ride when our drivers are behind the wheel.”