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Good deeds in times of need

May 24, 2011
It really doesn’t surprise me anymore that when disaster strikes or there’s a need for aid in combating terrible problems, like human trafficking, truckers and the industry that supports them always lend a helping hand. Take the recent outbreak of ...

It really doesn’t surprise me anymore that when disaster strikes or there’s a need for aid in combating terrible problems, like human trafficking, truckers and the industry that supports them always lend a helping hand.

Take the recent outbreak of tornadoes down south – the most recent batch cutting a wide swath of devastation across Missouri and parts of Tennessee. The hail, rain, and devastating winds had hardly died down when the appeal for help went out – alongside please for trucks to haul relief supplies to devastated areas.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises is one of many fleets that answered the call, working with one of its vendors to purchase and transport two truckloads of water – over 72,000 bottles in all – to two hard hit areas around Chattanooga, TN, which is the carrier’s home base.

“Additionally, we moved 5,000 gallons of bleach as donated transportation for an American Red Cross clean-up effort,” Greg Thompson, the company’s public relations manager, told me. “We’ve also collected over $3,500 donations for the Red Cross – and $1,000 from our drivers, after an appeal on our Facebook page.”

Counting the employee collections and donated transportation, Thompson estimates U.S. Xpress has provided some $25,000 in relief efforts following the big storm so far.

[The power of these storms is absolutely frightening. Below you can see some clips of the tornadoes that struck Mississippi and Alabama back in April. It will give you an idea of the kind of devastation they can wreak.]

Yet this industry doesn’t just help out when natural disasters strikes. Indeed, many companies are fighting much longer-term battles against odious problems such as human trafficking.

Chapter 61 Ministries and national truck stop chain TravelCenters of America (TA), for example, are making anti-human trafficking training materials available to the trucking industry through Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) – educating TA’s national workforce as well as the truckers that use the chain’s services to help raise awareness about this insidious crime and the ways to combat it.

Human trafficking, a term for modern-day slavery, is a $32-billion worldwide industry with more than 27 million people enslaved in the world today, according to TAT. In the U.S., it has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims is estimated in the hundreds of thousands, the group said.

Now, it’s common knowledge than most traffickers are forcing their victims to be prostitutes, often times at truck stops illicitly. But the industry – truck stops and truck drivers alike – is trying to put an end to this terrible practice.

“We're extremely encouraged by TA's participation to help get our message across,” said Kendis Paris, TAT national director. “Their decision to use TAT materials will disseminate the message to thousands of members of the trucking industry and better equip them to understand and help fight human trafficking, which is why TAT exists.”

But Barry Richards, TA’s executive vp, really summed it up best as to why his company – and the trucking industry as a whole – is participating in this effort.

“Truckers are among our country's most caring, upstanding individuals, and trucking-related initiatives like TAT work to address issues important to the trucking community,” he explained. “TA is proud to be part of that community and to play a small part in furthering TAT's mission among its many trucking community supporters.”

On a different note, truckers are also at the forefront of efforts to honor and help America’s military service men and women.

U.S. Xpress, for example, recently signed on a sponsor for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) with a $50,000 donation. Also, during April and May this year, the carrier is donating five dollars for every experienced qualified driver who applies on-line to U.S. Xpress. Additionally, the company will support WWP by sponsoring Soldier Ride Nashville, taking place on September 24 this year.

The mission of WWP is to honor and empower warriors and to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in U.S. history. U.S. Xpress sought to partner with WWP in large part because of the number of drivers and office staff at the company who have previously served in the military, said Max Fuller, co-founder, co-chairman and CEO of U.S. Xpress.

“Beyond our financial contribution to the organization, we believe this partnership will help to create more visibility for Wounded Warrior Project," added Patrick Quinn, U.S. Xpress’s fellow co-founder, co-chairman and president. “It is important for this nation to know about the great work of the organization and the resources that are available to our wounded warriors.”

Just goes to show you that it’s not always about freight in the trucking business – and for the very best of reasons.

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