Everybody loves a parade, and that's what Swift execs provided for the lucky drivers in this unique driver appreciation program. Bleachers outside Swift headquarters were lined with boxed breakfasts for the hundreds of drivers, mechanics, executives and support personnel in attendance for the first million dollar give-away.
The 10 winners had been notified just days earlier that they were contenders for the million dollar prize. They and their spouses were flown to Phoenix the night before the gala event, picked up in stretch Hummer limos, transported to the prestigious Camelback Marriott Inn where they were wined and dined by Swift executives.
As onlookers enjoyed breakfast in bleachers in the yard outside Swift headquarters, the two Hummer limos pulled up behind a high school band which marched and played as winners were escorted to the stage where their fate awaited them. Fans in the stands cheered and waved Swift bonker sticks as the honored drivers arrived.
A big yellow Phoenix fire engine roared into the parking lot, lights flashing and sirens screaming. Out stepped two burley, black-suited men in dark glasses carrying a suitcase containing the winners' checks.
To avoid any speculation of preferential treatment, Swift hired an outside accounting firm to handle all driver eligibility vouchers and the choosing of the winners. Drivers who questioned the number of vouchers they received to be eligible in the drawing were given weeks to appeal the process and settle any disputes.
Bob Cunningham, Swift president and CEO, MC'd the big event and one by one called out the first eight $10,000 winners. Then it was down to two. One would walk away with $10,000 as well as keys to a brand new, spiffed up red Volvo VN 880, his to drive for a year. The last man standing would become a millionaire.
And the winner was Robert Goar, a two-year Swift employee and driver mentor(trainer) who drives out of the fleet's Fontana, Calif. terminal. In second place, earning him the opportunity to drive the new Volvo for a year, was Cosmas Lowate, a first year driver out of Denver, Colorado.
All the winners seemed genuinely thrilled for Goar as confetti flew and the crowd cheered as his name was announced.
The media was there in full-force including local television news crews, Arizona Republic newspaper representatives and members of the truck trade press.
Goar took up trucking eight years ago after being laid off in the aerospace industry. Long haul trucking can be a hard life, he explained, so hard he has given it up a couple times.
But he always comes back. "When I'm home for an extended period of time, I miss the road. It's nice to be out of an office."
Of course, the first thing reporters asked Goar was if he intended to keep trucking for a living. The answer? Yes. "A million dollars is a lot of money, but not enough to retire on," he said. But when the time comes for him to shut it down, "this is certainly going to make things a lot easier."
Swift even hooked Goar up with an investment counselor to help him figure out how best to manage his windfall.
Steve Attwood, Swift vice president in charge of driver recruiting and retention, said more than 400,000 vouchers were generated by drivers to participate in the event which is designed to show drivers appreciation for the job they do and to encourage them to drive safely and to stick with Swift.
The September 12 event was such a success, Swift is planning another million-dollar give-away January 3.
The program is open to all company drivers and owner-operators, and Swift stresses truckers don't have to do anything special to win, just drive a minimum number of miles, turn in all their logs and have no preventable accidents over a three-month period.
Hopefully, having the chance to win a million bucks just doing what you do every day will entice Swift drivers to stay with the company and lure in some new recruits as well.
E-mail Deb Whistler at firstname.lastname@example.org