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Knights of the highway roll still …

March 29, 2011
“We’re not the ‘knights of the highway’ in the minds of people anymore, are we? Yet everything we’ve done as an industry over the last four decades should make our claim to that title even stronger.” –Chris Burruss, president, Truckload Carriers ...

We’re not the ‘knights of the highway’ in the minds of people anymore, are we? Yet everything we’ve done as an industry over the last four decades should make our claim to that title even stronger.” –Chris Burruss, president, Truckload Carriers Association

It’s been said by more than a few folks inside and outside the industry that the “knights of the highway” title once bequeathed to truck drivers in the now-dim-reaches of the past doesn’t apply anymore.

Many old timers might rue the disappearance of this hallowed moniker, but certainly not the next generation preparing to pilot big rigs for a living – at least according to the naysayers’ view of things.

Anyhow, others rightly note that the motoring public sure doesn’t view truckers through the prism of “knighthood” at all. Besides, the average “four wheeler” out there is more liable to curse or cut off an 18-wheeler more than anything. It’s just a rough and ramshackle world out there on the blacktop, with little time for concepts such as “honor” or “compassion.”

So it would seem, at the end of the day, the title “knights of the highway” just doesn’t fit the truck driving profession anymore.

Just don’t tell Brendon Finn that … or the recipients of Goodyear’s “Highway Hero" award … or, frankly, the thousands of others like them out there on the asphalt lending a helping hand before going on to deliver their loads of freight with a rarely a word of thanks extended or expected.

While certainly not every truck driver out there is a Good Samaritan to other motorists, stepping in to help when he or she can, more than a minority still do so – despite the greater risks posed to their well being in society today.

Let me start with Brendon – a soon-to-be 22 year old driver with U.S. Xpress Enterprises, who’s been piloting a big rig for barely nine months now. Here’s a young man who’s trying to make ends meet for his family, taking on a job that’s given him – by his own admission – some of the best and worst sights this country has to offer.

One of the things Brendon learned quickly is that in some places – especially the urban concrete jungles where many warehouses are located – you need to grow eyes in the back of your head and develop a super-sensitive sixth sense for spotting trouble. For a truck driver is often alone in some not-so-nice spots, many a time overnight as well, which gives the job an underside of danger few appreciate.

[Truck driver T.J. Lyon knows all about that “sixth sense” as it helped him and police capture a murder suspect last year.]

Yet it just so happens that those very skills may have saved a woman’s life – and put a dangerous criminal behind bars.

You see, Brendon had just made a delivery to a Dollar General store near South bend, IN – an account he serves on a dedicated run – when he heard a woman scream.

Now, most folks out and about on a busy day might have ignored that cry for help – heck, we ignore the blare of car alarms routinely – but Brendon didn’t. He went towards the sound and saw a woman struggling to free herself from an assailant that had hidden in her very own car in order to ambush her.

As Brendon told me by phone, he didn’t really think so much as act on instinct: “I didn’t have time to think, really,” he explained. He just ran towards the scene and gave chase when the woman’s would-be abductor fled the scene.

Brendon kept the would-be kidnapper in view, using his cell phone to direct the police to his (and thus the criminal’s) location – thus helping get a menace to society off the streets. [You can watch a TV report of the incident by clicking here.]

Yet this isn’t the first time Brendon has lent a helping hand – nor will it be the last time, I think.

“As a truck driver, you see a whole lot of things out here,” he told me. “You see drivers like myself pull people from burning cars all the time. In fact, just a few weeks back, I witnessed a car flip over on the road, and the only people who stopped to help were me and two other truckers. All the other cars kept going by.”

Greg Thompson, U.S. Xpress’ public relations manager, added that the company is not only proud of Brendon’s actions but hopes it exemplifies to the general public the code of conduct most truck drivers follow out on the roadways.

“He saw something going on that wasn’t right and stepped in to stop it,” Thompson told me. “We’re very proud of that. I mean, here he is, not even 22 yet, working hard in a relatively new career for himself and his family, and he still stepped in to help someone in need. We need to find more people like Brendon to bring into this industry.”

Amen to that.

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