The TCA’s Highway Angels program recognizes truckers who help others
By Mindy Long
Motorists and truckers in trouble on the road often find the first to offer them a helping hand is a truck driver. Since 1996 the Truckload Carriers Association’s Highway Angels program has been honoring drivers for their roadside good deeds. Throughout the year, drivers are recognized for both simple acts of kindness, such as getting a stranded motorist moving again, and outright heroism that results in lives being saved. Road King sat down with Deborah Sparks, vice president of development for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), to learn more about the Highway Angels program.
Q What stands out most about this program?
A Without these drivers, I don’t know how the people they helped would have been saved. We have police report after police report that tell us the professional drivers were the only ones who have stopped and helped. Drivers are on the highway every day and it is instinctual in them to go and help. They have a comfort level with the road, and they have toolkits and fire extinguishers that empower them to do something when everyone around them feels helpless. We’ve known all along that drivers are the knights of the road, but now we have these compelling examples, which we validate, to help tell the story.
Q Who can nominate a Highway Angel and what does it entail?
A Anyone can — the motoring public, a carrier’s safety director, someone in the company or the driver’s spouse are all examples. Once we get the information, we verify the data and then we name the driver a Highway Angel. They are recognized with a letter, lapel pin and a patch. If the driver is being recognized for a life-saving or heroic event, we also issue a press release and alert the driver’s congressman and senators. Those drivers are also nominated to win the Highway Angel of the Year award.
Q How do you select the Highway Angel of the Year?
A The Highway Angel Task Force reviews every heroic effort that was submitted and chooses some of the key stories. They pass those stories onto TCA’s Communications and Image Policy Committee. They review the story and can take into consideration the driver’s safety record and the media coverage of the event, or they can simply select a story that really speaks to them.
Q How many nominations do you get each year?
A It really varies. Some years we’ll get 1,000 and other years we’ll drop down to a few hundred. We haven’t figured out the trend, but we do see the ebb and flow.
Q I know the program has evolved and now is linked with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Game where you present the Highway Angel of the Year award. Can you tell me more about what else has grown out of the program?
A One of the most exciting things has been a song that country singer Lindsay Lawler wrote titled “Highway Angels.” Lawler heard about our program and reached out to us asking if she could record the song, which truly gets to the emotion involved in these stories. She also created a powerful music video for the song that features professional drivers helping motorists in need.
I’m also always moved by how welcome the drivers are at the bowl game. They hold a banquet honoring the athletes and during that banquet, we share the story of the Highway Angel of the Year and present the award. The athletes get a round of applause, but the driver always gets a standing ovation.
Highway Angel nomination forms are available to the public year-round at www.truckload.org/Highway-Angel.