Trucker heroes in the classroom

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One of the best reasons to encourage drivers to participate in a program like Trucker Buddy can be found in a quote from a trucker describing what it feels like to stand in front of a classroom full of kids and tell them about the life of a truck driver. Keith Beavers, with Transport America, said his experience in the program changed his perspective about his job. “I felt like a rock star,” he says in a letter to Ellen Voie, Trucker Buddy’s executive director.

Voie says she gets letters like that all the time. “Truckers get a tremendous boost to their self-esteem when they get the opportunity to give back to their community through this program.” She says that truckers tell her that their involvement with the schoolchildren instills in them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their profession. That sentiment translates into a greater sense of personal responsibility and safety awareness – along with appreciation for their carrier’s support of the program.

In fact, it’s truckers who nominate their carrier for the Trucker Buddy Carrier of the Month award, sponsored by Delphi and promoted in Commercial Carrier Journal. The nearly 4,000 professional drivers in the Trucker Buddy program represent hundreds of carriers that support their drivers’ efforts to educate schoolchildren about all aspects of trucking.

Kelly and Kelley Calder are the married drivers who nominated this month’s recipients of the Trucker Buddy Carrier of the Month award. They are matched with Mrs. Kruse’s third-grade class at Vista Grande Elementary School in Rio Ranch, N.M. This is their fourth year in the program, and they have added a website so the school kids can plot their travels throughout the country. They send postcards, e-mails, letters, videos and pictures, and their teacher incorporates their progress into her lesson plans. They credit their carrier – Interstate Distributor Inc. in Tacoma, Wash. – with the moral and financial support needed to keep the program rolling. “We take lots of treats and gifts to the students from our company.”

They summed up their feelings about the program in the nomination form. “Sometimes I think we get more out of it than the children. They make us feel like heroes.” With the job market as tight as it has been, supporting a program like Trucker Buddy can mean the difference between having a burned-out driver and one who is fired up about his profession.