Walk through a trade show and see what big hearts are in the trucking industry.

Anyone who thinks the trucking industry has an image problem needs to step up to the challenge and help change it. In fact, at the recent Great American Trucking Show (GATS), there were many opportunities to see how much positive change professional drivers and those who support them initiate.

You might have heard about the ALS (amyotropic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) Ice Bucket Challenge. Cari Baylor of Baylor Trucking hosted the challenge during the three days of the truck show. The ice and water were quite a contrast to the one hundred plus temperatures in Dallas that week. Many drivers and company and vendor representatives took the challenge and were drenched under the bucket’s cold contents.

Women In Trucking (WIT) Association’s Linda Caffee, who serves on the WIT board of directors along with other members of the Trucking Solutions Group of which she is a member, accepted the challenge. Drivers are always the first to jump in when they see a need, and Linda and her peers are no exception.

I accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as well, but for very personal reasons. In 1979, I lost my mother to Lou Gehrig’s disease when it was a very rare, little known about it, and a very misunderstood affliction. She was 45 years old when she experienced the first symptoms, which she succumbed to a short eight months later.

You can watch the challenge on the Women In Trucking Association YouTube Channel here (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57gakh34jS2f0WBLEM8_eg).

ALS wasn’t the only disease being highlighted at GATS. At the Trucking Solutions Group booth, there was a blood drive as well as a booth to recruit bone marrow donors.  Again, I had a personal relationship with cancer of the blood (leukemia), as my maternal grandmother died of this disease when I was a young child. I decide to submit to the testing and become a registered bone marrow donor. It was a simple swab in the mouth and, if and when I become a match, the procedure is less invasive than you might imagine.

Since we’re on the topic of health, the Healthy Trucking Association in conjunction with OraSure Technologies was offering free tests for hepatitis C virus. A quick prick to the finger was all it took to learn if you carried the virus. Drivers have a five time higher incidence of hepatitis C and many were surprised to learn they carried this virus after being tested. Bob Perry of Rolling Strong was also at the Healthy Trucking Association booth to share exercise and fitness advice with drivers looking for a way to feel better through a more healthy lifestyle.

Despite the focus on fitness and health, there were other groups at GATS whose goal is to create positive change in the trucking industry. The Truckers Against Trafficking organization featured their new trailer named the Freedom Drivers Project. Inside the unit visitors can learn about the trafficking industry and how to identify victims through videos and hands-on exhibits.

If you’ve attended many truck shows, you’ve probably met Chaplain Joe Hunter and his wife Jan who founded Truckstop Ministries  more than three decades ago. Joe was a former over the road driver who felt led to share his faith with other drivers.

For those who ventured outside in the truck lot, you might have seen Bob Hataway’s TransAlive USA Coach. Bob is another former professional driver who saw a need to help his fellow drivers who suffered from an accident or illness while on the road. TransAlive USA is another nonprofit organization dedicated to the trucking industry and is dependent on the generosity of donors who support the mission.

There are many veterans who have become professional drivers as well, and the Wreaths Across America program joins the two. The trucking industry has been influential in ensuring the wreaths for fallen soldiers arrive in time to be placed on the graves so families can honor them during the Christmas season.

The trucking industry employs some of the most generous, community minded people in the world and this is evident at any trade show or conference. Every organization dedicated to improving the lives of the driver population and those who support them deserves a big thanks for their efforts.

The next time someone tells you the trucking industry has an image problem, tell them to walk through a trade show and see what a great group it really is.

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