These days, a lot of people see truck drivers as a necessary evil (some would even question the "necessary" part). There's talk of the days when truckers would willingly stop to help stranded motorists, and how sad it is that it doesn't happen any more.
Well, that's just not so. Consider the following.
Doug Crawford, driver, Saia Motor Freight: Headed north on I-85 near Newman, Ga., last August, he saw a tractor-trailer ahead cross the median into the oncoming lanes and smash head-on into another big rig.
He bounded from his cab, fire extinguisher in hand. The tractor that had crossed the median was crushed and in flames; no chance for its driver. Crawford ran to the other wreck as it began to burn. The driver was in the cab, injured but alive.
Crawford fought the fire back from the fuel tanks, then climbed through an opening where the sleeper's back wall had been torn off. He muscled the driver – Herman Langford of Leesburg, Ga. – to safety just before the tanks exploded.
Langford survived, and Crawford won the 23rd annual Goodyear North American Highway Hero award for saving him. But Crawford wasn't the only driver hero; three others also were honored as finalists for the prize.
Michael Knott, driver, FedEx Ground: When he saw an empty child seat in a car sitting on the Florida Turnpike, Knott sensed trouble. The car had stalled, and the motorist and her baby had been struck by a pickup truck when they got out of the car. Knott found the mother lying on the grass median as the stunned pickup driver stood by, but the baby was missing. Knott's quick search found the child, barely breathing. He administered first aid to mother and child, then secured the area to control traffic.
Bob Starr, owner, Starr's Transportation: As he drove one of his trucks on Route 40 in Quebec, the road suddenly collapsed into a massive crevice. A car ahead spun out, and the young woman driver was trapped inside, injured. Starr's tractor, hit by flying chunks of roadway, broke apart and came to rest near the car. Spilled diesel ignited around them as Starr ran to the car, pried the door open and pulled the woman out.
Danny Wallen, driver, ABF Freight Systems: A car stalled on I-65 near Nashville was struck by an SUV and burst into flames. Wallen and two motorists were able to pull a couple from the front seat as the fire worsened. But they couldn't save the couple's teen-age daughter trapped in the back; the fire was too intense. Wallen had to be pulled away by a police officer moments before the gas tank exploded.
Try telling the people they saved that these guys are a necessary evil.
The Highway Hero program, founded by this magazine in 1980 and turned over to Goodyear in 1983, recognizes professional drivers for acts of heroism. The winner receives a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a specially designed ring.
But it's not like these guys put their lives on the line for the money or the glory. And in these days of bizarre litigation, it's not like they stopped to think about possible liabilities.
They saw fellow human beings in trouble. They did what they knew was right. And they proved that the Knights of the Road are still on the road.
E-mail Doug Condra at email@example.com, or write PO Box W, Newport Beach, CA 92658.