As finalists for the 26th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award, a team of two professional truck drivers from Illinois reacted to a collision with an out-of-control van by pulling the unconscious driver to safety after the crash; a California truck driver noticed a glow off the freeway and followed it to find a car in flames and a driver trapped inside; a Tennessee truck driver made a quick decision to pull a man from a disabled car seconds before it was fully engulfed in flames; and a Colorado driver hauling grain was shocked when his truck was hit head-on in a fiery collision, but then had the presence of mind to save two young lives.
The finalists for trucking’s most prestigious award for heroism are Nikolay Zashev, of Franklin Park, Ill., and Tihomir Tanev, of Schiller Park, Ill., both contract drivers for FedEx Ground and based in the Chicago area; Willie Wilson, of Santa Clara, Calif., a driver for UPS; Roy Hackett, of Nashville, Tenn., a truck driver for UPS; and Jorge Orozco Sanchez, of Firestone, Colo., an owner-operator.
“These five individuals represent the thousands of professional truck drivers that work every day across North America,” says Joseph Copeland, vice president for commercial tire systems for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., based in Akron, Ohio. “Each year, this program offers an opportunity for recognition of those who put their lives on the line to help others. This year, our honored truck drivers all risked their lives to rescue strangers who were in peril due to fiery accidents. Time after time, truck drivers have emerged as bona-fide heroes. When motorists have needed help, they’ve stopped and put themselves in harm’s way.”
Journalists from the trucking industry now are voting on the finalists, who will be featured Thursday, March 19, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. One driver will be named the 2008 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America Annual Banquet and receive a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a plaque and a specially designed ring; the other finalists will receive a $5,000 U.S. savings bond and plaque.
Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often-unnoticed life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America.