From left are Goodyear Marketing Director Gary Medalis, the 2018 Goodyear Highway Hero Award winner, Frank Vieira, and finalists Brian Bucenell and Ryan Moody. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brian Bucenell hails from Richmond, Virginia. Ryan Moody calls Tacoma, Washington, home. And Frank Vieira resides in Ancaster, Ontario, about 55 miles (or 89.5 kilometers, as he would say) southwest of Toronto.
You would imagine fate would have to put in some overtime to ever bring these three veteran drivers together for any reason, much less to share a spotlight in Louisville, Kentucky.
Yet there they were. On Thursday, immediately after the first day of the Mid-America Trucking Show, a crowd gathered at the nearby Crowne Plaza Louisville Airport Expo Center hotel to celebrate serendipity’s fait accompli, and three standup guys, as the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company marked the 35th anniversary of its Highway Hero Award.
Each year since 1983, Goodyear has honored professional truck drivers who perform extraordinary acts of heroism, often at risk to themselves. This year, Bucenall, Moody and Vieira were the three finalists for the award.
Gary Medalis, marketing director for Goodyear, said that over the years, the Highway Heroes award has honored drivers who have saved children’s lives, come to the aid of police officers and have performed numerous other feats of bravery. He added that the three drivers selected as finalists this year are all fine choices as the award — the oldest of its kind in trucking — marks this milestone year.
The incidents that led to these three drivers being nominated for the Highway Hero Award were about as far-flung from one another as their hometowns, with one thing in common: They all exhibited personal and professional cool under pressure.
For Bucenell, it all started just after he’d merged onto the Ohio Turnpike near Toledo. He heard chatter on the CB about a high-speed chase going on somewhere in the vicinity. Moments later, Bucenell saw several state troopers in his rearview mirror chasing a car and gaining on him fast.
Just then, he came upon a construction zone. “We lost the far left lane,” he said. “It went from three lanes to two lanes. They put up a concrete barrier, blocking it off.”
When the car reached Bucenell’s truck another truck was running alongside. Bucenell said the car tried to pass him on the left, saw the barrier, then cut back behind him.
From that point on, Bucenell said, the car kept trying to pass, to the left, to the right, between the two trucks. Every time he moved, Bucenell, who’s been driving professionally for 10 years, moved over just enough to cut him off.
“I know my truck pretty well,” Bucenell said. “It was a mixture of his lack of experience and my knowing my truck. I think that’s what let me be able to stop him.”
Finally, the driver tried to swerve on the shoulder again. “I just whipped it toward the guardrail and stopped,” Bucenell said. The car was trapped, and the chase, which Bucenell later found out had reached 100 mph at one point, was over.
“There were 20 cop cars on him in the blink of an eye. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bucenell said.
Moody’s incident happened when he was fighting traffic on a Chicago freeway. The only reason he was on that stretch of highway was because he’d missed the turnoff to the highway he had wanted to use.
As he was driving along, three motorcycles passed him. A biker himself, Moody remembered admiring the bikes and thinking, “Man, I wish I was riding right now.”
The motorcyclists got a few car lengths ahead of him, and two of them started to take an exit. As far as he could tell the third biker’s wheels locked up for some reason and he went end-over-end.
Moody said for a split second he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop, but he not only stopped but he swerved his truck to block traffic and prevent anyone else from running over the downed biker.
Moody then jumped out of his truck and tended to the unconscious motorcyclist, who was bleeding from a head injury. Moody literally gave him the shirt off his back, wrapping it around the man’s head, while trying to calm down other bystanders who’d stopped.
Moody said he’s ex-military, as was his dad, so all his life it’s been ingrained in him when things “hit the fan, you deal with it.”
Moody stayed with the motorcyclist until paramedics arrived. They later credited him with saving the man’s life.
“One of the officers said, ‘hey, do you want your shirt back?’ I said, no that’s his now.”
Vieira, who marked his 30th anniversary as a driver last year, was driving near Toronto one day when he heard a loud crash on a two-lane stretch of highway, looked over his shoulder and saw that a car on the other side of the road had slammed into the back of a stationary roll-off truck.
Vieira parked his truck, ran to the car, and found the driver, whose neck had been pierced by a piece of his own vehicle’s steering wheel, which had snapped off on impact.
“He had this thing on the right side of the neck, Vieira said.
Immediately, he placed one of his hands over the still-conscious motorist’s wound and applied direct pressure, while using his other hand to call for help. As he was doing this, the driver of the truck that had been hit had walked up, saw the impaled motorist, and fainted. Vieira said he didn’t even notice him until he saw the driver sprawled out on the ground, his legs lying over the line into the opposing lane of traffic. Without letting go of the first driver, Vieira managed to use his foot to pull the leg of the truck driver who had fainted away from traffic. Emergency personnel arrived and took over. Both men survived.
Vieira was surprised it’s become such a big thing, the attention he’s getting. Like the others, he was there and did what needed doing. “It’s a great feeling to be appreciated.”
“When I think about it, it seemed like it took half an hour, but it all happened in maybe four minutes,” Vieira said. He was so in the moment, he’s not even sure how he managed to do everything at once the way he did. “Not much thought goes through your mind; you just do it.”
After the incident he didn’t think much of it, either. “I was actually going to let this fly under the table and not talk about it,” he said. But word got around and before he knew it other people were congratulating him on his heroism. It’s the one aspect of his experience he shares with his fellow nominees.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” Bucenell said. “I didn’t literally safe anybody’s life. I never felt heroic about it. I felt like I did what was right.” When he heard he’d been nominated for the Goodyear Highway Hero award, he first thought one of his buddies was pulling a prank on him.
Moody also downplayed his incident. “To me I was just at the right place at the right time,” he said. “Somebody needed help and I was there. I don’t feel like I need any recognition; I just did the right thing.”
But others felt otherwise, and as it has for the previous 34 years, Goodyear put them in the spotlight. In the end, Vieira was named the winner of the top Highway Hero honor. Days after he heard the decision, he continued to wear the hero’s mantle with humility.
“If it inspires other drivers, great. The more we help, the better this world becomes, right?”
NHTSA, police chiefs unveil effort to combat drug-impaired driving
WASHINGTON — Newsal Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) have unveiled new $2.3 million grant program to help combat drug-impaired driving on America’s roads.
The grants will provide funding for state and local agencies to offer advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement and drug recognition expert training to law enforcement, judges and prosecutors. Training courses are expected to begin later this year. The International Association of Chiefs of Police will manage the grant program through a cooperative agreement with NHTSA.
The courses will train participants to observe, identify and articulate the signs of impairment related to drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both in order to reduce the number of impaired drivers and traffic crashes.
“These programs are effective tools to help law enforcement remove drug-impaired drivers from our roads,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King said. “As officers, judges, prosecutors and others complete these courses, they will learn more about how to identify potentially impaired drivers. This knowledge will aid in the prosecution of impaired-driving offenders and make our roads safer for everyone.”
“The IACP is excited to partner with NHTSA on this important issue. As the manager of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, IACP works side by side with the states and provides guidance to their drug-impaired driving enforcement efforts. This will help states train more officers and other members of the justice community and reduce the harm caused by drugged driving on our nation’s roadways,” IACP President Paul M. Cell said.
King said the program builds on NHTSA’s efforts to educate drivers about the dangers of drug-impaired driving, including a call-to-action summit in Washington in March 2018 and a series of regional meetings across the country. NHTSA and the Ad Council also launched a new public service announcement campaign in April to address drug impairment: “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.”
Bison Transport’s Treana Moniz all business when it comes to trucking
Treana Moniz loves her career as a professional driver. “I can’t think of anything that I’d be interested in doing, outside of trucking,” she said. She spoke with me from the cab of her doily-decorated Freightliner as she approached the Ambassador Bridge from the Detroit side. Since more than 25% of merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the bridge, she’s no stranger to the crossing.
Moniz may be the only driver making the crossing with hand-crocheted doilies adorning the seat backs in her cab and another covering her CB radio. They’re a constant reminder of family, mementos hand-made by her late grandmother.
“I like old fashioned stuff,” she said, describing another family heirloom she cherishes. “I’ve got a tablecloth at home that she made for my mother,” she related. “She crocheted some beautiful things.”
Despite the touches of home in her truck, Moniz is all business when it comes to trucking. She’s earned a long list of accolades for her work behind the wheel and out of the cab as well. She’s currently a member of the2019-2020 Ontario Trucking Association’s Road Knights team and was selected as a Women in Trucking 2018 Canadian Image Team Member. She’s racked up several Driver of the Month awards at Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bison Transport, as well as Eastern Company Driver of the year last year. And, she was Women in Trucking’s choice for May 2019 Member of the Month.
Career drivers often say that trucking is in their blood, and Moniz comes by hers honestly. Her grandfather hauled logs with horse teams and her father drove multiple types of trucks before her. Her grandmother, mother and an aunt all served drivers by working in truck stops as cooks and waitresses. For a while, Treana did too, but the call of the open road was strong. “Waitressing was a job,” she said. “Driving is a career.”
When she met the man who began her driver training, she left the apron and coffee pot behind to learn the trucking business. When the training was interrupted by a her then-boyfriend’s medical condition, she attended CDL school and got her license. After her friend recovered, they teamed together for five years. When that relationship ended, she took her career solo, ending up with Bison Transport after a short stint at another carrier. She’s nearly as passionate about Bison as she is about driving.
“They’re a great company,” she said. “My truck is spec’d for driver comfort, with an electric APU and a big inverter.” The inverter is important, because cooking is another talent of Moniz. “I love cooking,” she said. “I do my own cooking on the road, and when I get home, I’m the chief cook and bottle-washer.”
When she’s not at home cooking for her son, daughter and four grandchildren, she’s representing the industry, Bison and trucking women at events for the OTA, WIT and others. “As a road knight, I’ve been going out to the schools and talking to the kids,” she related. “They may not get into the career, but I hope they’re listening and they learn what women are capable of.”
Some of her educational efforts are to other drivers, too. She recently became a Driver Mentor at Bison, but she doesn’t have to be assigned a student – mentoree to offer help. “I have a lot of newer drivers that talk to me and get my advice,” she explained. “I let drivers know they can talk to me, they can lean on me.” She shares her knowledge with a down-to-earth approach that other drivers appreciate. “If you don’t understand how to do something, ask. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to help,” she explained.
Her personality is well-suited for talking to people. “I’m an outgoing person, I like meeting new people,” she explained. Then, an understatement, “I’m not shy.”
Whether she’s assisting new drivers, talking to school children or representing her gender at a WIT function, her intent remains the same. “I’m always planting those seeds to be safe,” she said. “I tell them to be safe out there, always stay alert and watch out the other person.”
What’s next in Moniz’ career? “I want that gold ring from Bison,” she said, referring to Bison’s gift for accumulating a million safe miles. “I’m over 700,000, and I want my millionth mile.
After that? “I’m not sure,” she answered. “If I ever quit driving, I’d like to get into the driver development or safety aspect of the industry.” Some might argue that she’s already pretty good at developing drivers and promoting safety, as well as representing with pride the women in the trucking industry.
“If I ever get out of trucking, I’ll probably spend time with the grandkids,” she concluded. There likely will not, however, be a lot of shopping. “I hate shopping,” she quipped. “Are you surprised?”
Whatever the future holds, Treana Moniz will undoubtedly approach it with the same determination and drive that earned her the selection as WIT’s Member of the Month. She’s happy to help anyone else get there, too.
Eye on Trucking: Time to stop being childish and get down to work in D.C.
When President Donald Trump goes on a road trip (other than to play golf on a Sunday when he ought to be in church), he leisurely strolls out of the White House (probably wearing a red tie), throws a few nuggets to a press corps intent for the most part on hearing something that will make their report the top story on the evening news or the lead story in tomorrow’s print editions (at least where they still exist), navigates the freshly cut lawn and climbs aboard Marine One for a quick trip to Joint Base Andrews where he climbs the stairs to Air Force One waiting for the door to close and then for a takeoff down a silk smooth runway.
Contrast that to this.
We decide to take a 45-minute drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a nice lunch at a restaurant that has outdoor seating on Lake Hamilton.
We head north on our subdivision (the street is nice and smooth because the subdivision is only a year or so old), turn onto Denny Road, where we dodge potholes for a mile or so (hoping no one is in the other lane), then eventually make a right on Kanis Road as we head toward Interstate 430, which will take us to Interstate 30, which will take us to U.S. Highway 270, which will take us into Hot Springs.
Just before we leave Kanis Road, we are subjected to a section of road that has to be the roughest in the U.S.
I-430 and I-30 through Benton are nice, but just on the other side of Benton we hit a stretch of I-30 where the right lanes have been beaten down by big rigs to the point that now even they cheat and move to the left lane.
Meanwhile, when he gets back in Washington, the it’s time for the president to meet with Congressional Democrats to further talk about a $2.2 trillion infrastructure package they so smilingly agreed to a couple of weeks ago.
The president is back from a smooth landing at JBA and the Democrats have ridden down Pennsylvania Avenue, which I’ll guarantee you has no bumps or bruises or potholes.
Once inside, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused Mr. Trump of a coverup (who in Washington hasn’t covered something up, except maybe Jimmy Carter?) and Mr. Trump turned, took his bat and ball and went out into the Rose Garden to tell the press what happened.
After the so-called meeting, Pelosi said she intended to pray for Mr. Trump following that surprise Rose Garden news conference where he demanded Democrats quit investigating him (how childish of them).
A lot of folks better pray for Mr. Trump, Pelosi and everyone in Washington who has anything to do with this partisan politics game that is preventing us from getting the roads and bridges that the general public richly deserves after sending their “offering” to Washington every paycheck.
It’s time for Washington to get down on its knees and then get up and do something about our infrastructure.
* * *
If you don’t think things are bad, consider the fact that the length of America’s structurally deficient bridges, if placed end-to-end, would span nearly 1,100 miles, the distance between Chicago and Houston, a new examination of federal government data shows. And it’s a problem that hits close to home.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the recently-released U.S. Department of Transportation 2018 Newsal Bridge Inventory (NBI) database reveals 47,052 bridges are classified as structurally deficient and in poor condition.
Cars, trucks and school buses cross these compromised structures 178 million times every day, the data show.
Nearly 1,775 are on the Interstate Highway System.
The most traveled structurally deficient bridges are on parts of Route 101, Interstate 405 and Interstate 5 in California, where daily crossings are as high as 289,000 vehicles per day.
Although the number of structurally deficient bridges is down slightly compared to 2017, the pace of improvement has slowed to the lowest point since ARTBA began compiling this report five years ago.
States with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,675 bridges); Pennsylvania (3,770); Oklahoma (2,540); Illinois (2,273); Missouri (2,116); North Carolina (1,871); California (1,812); New York (1,757); Louisiana (1,678); and Mississippi (1,603).
Those with the most structurally deficient bridges as a percent of their total bridge inventory are Rhode Island (23 percent); West Virginia (19.8 percent); Iowa (19.3 percent); South Dakota (16.7 percent); Pennsylvania (16.5 percent); Maine (13.1 percent); Louisiana (13 percent), Puerto Rico (11.7 percent), Oklahoma (10.9 percent) and North Dakota (10.7 percent).
Remember those numbers next time you cross a bridge.
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