by Vitaliy Dadalyan
Tags: American Freight Trucking
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The senator experiences a pre-trip inspection. Photo courtesy Women in Trucking.
When it comes to changing perceptions about trucking, nothing beats a hands-on show-and-tell experience.
The Women in Trucking Association is well aware of this and has made a mission of arranging ride-alongs with its truck driver members for elected officials, regulatory agents, even anti-truck safety advocates.
The senator experiences a pre-trip inspection. Photo courtesy Women in Trucking.">
In the most recent such ride-along, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson experienced a glimpse of life on the road from the perspective of a female driver. WIT's Image Team Member Julie Matulle gave the Wisconsin senator a short ride, where attendees at an event sponsored by the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association welcomed them upon arrival.
Matulle, a professional driver for H.O. Wolding, Amherst, Wis., had the opportunity to share her thoughts and concerns with the legislator during the ride from Menasha to DePere, Wis.. Johnson observed a pre-trip inspection and learned the proper way to enter and exit a tractor-trailer.
Matulle has been a professional driver for almost four years, working for H.O. Wolding since she entered the industry. In 2014, she was honored as the Mike O'Connell Memorial Trucking's Top Rookie award. She drives more than 2,600 miles each week hauling paper products between Wisconsin and southern states.
In Johnson's case, he already had an appreciation for trucking in general.
“We need to drive economic growth to create good Wisconsin jobs, and to do that we need to make sure we're doing all we can to fuel our trucking industry,” Johnson said. “As an Oshkosh manufacturer, I know how much of an impact trucking has on Wisconsin. 90% of manufactured goods and 70% of all goods and services in Wisconsin are moved by truck. Together, we can ensure that Wisconsin trucking continues to have a positive impact on the state.”
A tougher case was tackled by the organization last fall. Eleven years after Ron Wood lost five family members in a fiery crash, the advocate for CRASH, often seen as an anti-truck safety advocacy group, took a ride in a tractor-trailer.
“Enemy” was how Wood viewed tractor-trailers after his mother, sister and three nephews were killed near Sherman, Texas in 2004. The accident was caused by a fatigued truck driver who crossed the median and struck his family's SUV head on, killing all five of his loved ones.
Ron became active in the Truck Safety Coalition and C.R.A.S.H. Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, a safety advocacy group formed in 1990 and led by Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Coalition. “To this day, when I see a semi-trailer truck, I am instantly reminded of the deaths and devastation they have caused (both to my family and to so many others) and of which they are constantly capable.” Wood stated in a Facebook post.
He served on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's entry level driver training advisory committee, where he met Ellen Voie, president and CEO of WIT.
“Ellen suggested that it might be therapeutic for me to take a ride in an actual eighteen-wheeler.” Wood said. “I thought about it. My first internal reaction was, 'No way. Trucks [are] bad.' But, then after I thought more…well, I figured it might be a helpful part of my healing process."
Carol Nixon, a 25-year professional driver for Walmart's Private Fleet and a member of the WIT Image Team, was the driver. Wood's two-hour journey started and ended at the Walmart store in Woodbridge, Virginia.
He called the ride-along "highly informative, and "an unexpected, important step in my healing process. The safety features, practices and professionalism in the Walmart trucking fleet are amazing, and way beyond what I expected," said Ron. “I only wish these safety measures were standard across all the trucking companies in the U.S."
Rides like these are a part of the answer to the question of "What can I do?" to make a difference in how the public perceives the industry.
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