At the TCA's recent Refrigerated Division Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, carrier owners and upper-level management, as well as industry suppliers, were issued an unusual challenge: Randomly provide some employees with $100 each and ask them to use the money at their discretion for charitable purposes.
The challenge stemmed from long-time TCA member John Christner, president and CEO of John Christner Trucking in Sapulpa, Okla., who has already been implementing a "Pay It Forward" program within his own company for the past two years.
The idea of "Pay It Forward" centers on doing a favor for another person, without any expectation of being paid back. The hope is that the recipient will, in turn, help someone else in need.
"The results [of this program] have been amazing, even phenomenal," Christner told the division. "This is about giving someone in your workforce the power to do something for mankind."
Christner recounted numerous stories about how the $100 "seed money" has helped others. His employees have given warm clothes to the homeless, purchased groceries and gasoline for low-income families, and even contacted vendors for matching grants to make their hundred dollars stretch much further.
He told one particularly heartwarming story in which someone used the seed money to set up a dental appointment for a man who had very bad teeth. During the visit, the dentist discovered that the man had oral cancer.
"Because of this one random act of kindness, the cancer was discovered early enough to save his life, and that's a priceless achievement," Christner said.
Immediately after the session ended, 55 people approached Christner to sign up for the program. Christner gave each one the first $100 to get them started. He also provided basic instructions, asking each person to begin by selecting a variety of employees (such as mechanics, accountants, dispatchers, drivers, etc.).
He suggested that each company present its chosen employees with the money about three weeks prior to the December holidays. Then in January, companies should conduct a meeting during which each participant discloses how the money was spent and how it influenced lives.
TCA Chairman Gary Salisbury, who is focusing on industry image as his primary theme this year, believes Christner's challenge will not only help the needy, but will do wonders to boost the reputation of the trucking industry with the general public.
"The power of an image campaign doesn't lie solely in multi-million dollar ad campaigns. It's also at the grass-roots level," Salisbury said.
When the Refrigerated Division meets again next July, participants will share stories of how the money was spent.
"Expect a lot of tears and a lot of laughter," said Christner. "As one of my mechanics once told me, 'It's not easy giving away $100.' But we in the trucking industry have never been deterred by hard work. And the results are certain to be worth every dime."