TCA honors drivers who display courage on the job

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The Truckload Carriers Association has been recognizing Highway Angels, or professional truck drivers who demonstrate compassion and courage on the road, since its 1997 inception. Recently, seven standout drivers received the honor for acts of heroism performed.

“Their good deeds range from simple acts of kindness, such as fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, such as pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR,” according to the TCA website.

Highway Angels can be nominated by their employers, fellow drivers or the people they assisted. After the nomination comes in, the TCA verifies the details of the nomination before recognizing the driver.

Honored drivers receive a lapel pin, patch, decals and certificate of appreciation. Their employers also receive a certificate to display.

Michael Morgan -- San Angelo, Texas

Morgan, a professional truck driver for Melton Truck Lines, is being recognized for his willingness to assist motorists after they lost control of their SUV on slick roads and veered off the highway.

It was 8 a.m. February 12, and  Morgan was on Highway 295 enroute to Camden, New Jersey. He was trying to get ahead of a bad storm. It was snowing and sleeting and the roads were starting to get bad. Because of the poor conditions, Morgan was going about 45 mph in the right lane. Suddenly, a Lexus SUV came around on his left and got just far enough in front of Morgan for him to see the vehicle’s license plate before the driver lost control on the slick road and spun out. Morgan had just enough time to apply the brakes, slow the truck, and miss hitting the SUV by inches before it veered off the road and slammed into a tree.

Another truck driver traveling behind Morgan saw what happened and radioed him asking if he was okay and told Morgan he would call emergency services. Morgan pulled his truck to the shoulder and went to check on the SUV. There was extensive damage to the vehicle. The driver’s side had hit the tree. All the windows were broken and the roof was smashed in preventing the doors from being opened. There were two men inside. Although they were badly shaken, they didn’t appear to be injured.

Morgan saw a wedding band on the driver’s hand and started asking him questions about his family to distract him as they waited for state troopers to arrive.

“He told me he had an eight-month-old son at home named Michael,” Morgan said with some emotion in his voice. “I have four kids of my own. I would hope that if something like that happened to me someone would stop to help. I was raised in a small community where everyone takes care of everyone. You have to have compassion for others. It’s the right thing to do, otherwise we’re not doing what we’re supposed to in life.”

Sam Dyess -- Killeen, Texas

Dyess, a professional truck driver for Melton Truck Lines, is being recognized for assisting a couple whose vehicle was pushed into his truck by another truck on a mountain overpass during a blizzard.

Dyess was just west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, going over the mountains on I-80 with a load on his flatbed headed to Washington state. The day was overcast when he’d left Cheyenne and now it started snowing hard. The temperature was in the low 20s.

“It was really coming down and I couldn’t see the lines in the road,” Dyess says.

He slowed to 30-40 mph. Three to four inches had already accumulated by the time he reached the overpass.

There was another truck up ahead of him and a Jeep Wrangler was traveling between the two trucks. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the truck in front of the Wrangler stopped in the middle of the interstate and the Wrangler stopped behind him. Dyess had plenty of follow distance and stopped 20-25 feet behind the Wrangler. There was another truck behind him. Dyess checked his mirrors and a moment later saw the first truck rolling backward. “We were on an incline. I don’t know if he missed a gear or was sliding,” he says.

The Wrangler shifted into reverse but could only go so far before being struck by the first truck and pushed into Dyess’s truck. Dyess couldn’t roll back because of the truck behind him. The Wrangler’s spare tire was pushed into Dyess’s front bumper and the force blew out the back window of the Wrangler.

“I was laying on the horn to get the other trucker’s attention,” Dyess says. “Then it moved forward and took off, never stopping to check on the Wrangler.”

The Wrangler resumed driving as did Dyess. He called the safety manager at Melton to report the incident relaying the information he was able to get off the first truck. He followed the Wrangler to the first exit where they both pulled to the side of the road. Dyess jumped out and went to check on the driver and passenger.

“They said they were okay and had called the state troopers but were told it would be at least an hour before a trooper could arrive.”

Dyess invited the driver and his wife to sit in his warm truck for nearly two hours while they waited.

Dyess’s good deed that day didn’t go unnoticed. The couple he helped contacted Melton Chairman and CEO, Bob Peterson, with a letter describing the incident first-hand. The driver and his wife were traveling home after a holiday weekend spent with family and were grateful for Dyess’s help.

“He offered us water and waited patiently with us. We thanked him for his help and then he said something I won’t soon forget: ‘We are the knights of the highway and it’s our duty to make sure everyone is safe.’ He possesses an attitude and professionalism that should make you proud.”

Dyess is humble about his role that day.

“I was just doing the right thing; trying to take care of business and maintain integrity,” he says. “Being a professional driver, it’s about more than just getting from Point A to Point B. You also need to take care of everyone around you; that’s my job.”

Peter Lester -- Vero Beach, Florida

Lester, a professional truck driver for Carroll Fulmer Logistics Corporation, is being recognized for saving a fellow truck drivers’ life and thwarting fire at facility.

On December 8, 2018, Lester was making an early morning delivery at the Coca Cola facility in Jacksonville, Florida. There were a few parking spots available out on the road on a residential street, so Lester pulled in there to do some paperwork as he had arrived early to the delivery.  There were 2 trucks parked there already, and there was just enough room for Lester to back in behind the second truck. Once he got settled, he noticed a light coming from the front of the first truck and that seemed out of place. Quickly after, he noticed it was not a light, yet a flame, and he then saw smoke coming out from under the front wheels of the truck.

He pulled around and got on the horn to him to try and alert the truck, not knowing if someone was in the cab or not.   

“I pulled the airhorn to notify anyone in there and the truck in front of him as well.  The flames then all broke out and more smoke came rushing out. I hit the horn again with one hand and called 911 with the other,” Lester said.

He pulled his truck up to the Coca Cola entrance to alert the guard and facility that there was a fire near the premises, which backs up to a wooded area. By that point luckily the fire department was on their way so Peter knew first responders would be able to take it from there. Although Lester never saw anyone get out of the trucks, he later found out there were people in both trucks, and saw the second truck pull out to safety.

“I’ve been driving since 1984 and I’ve never seen anything blow up the way this did so quickly.  It started out looking like headlights, and then mushroomed in to flames. I don’t believe the security guard would have noticed, so I am glad I pulled in when I did,” Lester said. “That event has bothered me everyday ever since.  I’m a worrier and my wife says I shouldn’t be, but you see a lot of things in this environment. And it just stays with you. So I guess we just do what we can, when we can.”