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Don Pratt • Coopersville, Mich. • Driving for 15 years
I’m 43 years old. I earned my CDL in 1995, and I’ve logged 800,000 accident-free miles. God willing, I’ll make the million-mile club. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be standing in a room filled with complete strangers, wearing a Boy Scout uniform and talking about my job, I would have told you that’s not likely. I had never been a Boy Scout and didn’t know the wonderful impact that it has on the lives of young men. However, all of that would change because of a blind date set up by friends.
Seven years ago, I started dating Nancy, a single mom with two teenagers, Ryan and Elizabeth. At the time, Ryan was getting most of his mentoring in the Boy Scouts. One day Nancy said, “Do you know that there is a Truck Transportation Merit Badge? None of the boys in Ryan’s troop have it because no one has the credentials to teach it. Maybe you would like to help them out a little.” A little while later I became a merit badge counselor.
Since Nancy and I got married, our family has continued our involvement in the Boy Scouts and everything has turned out great. Ryan (pictured with me at left) earned the rank of Eagle Scout and is now a freshman in college. While I have helped about 100 boys earn their trucking badges, only 2 percent of scouts make it to the top rank of Eagle Scout.
Once a year, my boss, Jordan Luther, a former scout himself, allows me to have an open house in the Luther Logistics terminal. This presentation is three hours long. Topics covered are the history of the diesel engine, the history of the Interstate Highway System, how trucking is just one part of the transportation chain in our country, and a 15-minute video that shows how to share the road with a big truck. The video is not really part of the merit badge, but I believe that if it can help prevent one truck-car accident then it is worth the time. After the class, I take the boys outside and show them my semi truck. The third hour consists of a demonstration on how to slide the trailer tandems, the boys coupling and uncoupling airlines, raising and lowering the trailer landing legs, and climbing into the back of a 53’ trailer to get a feel for what 5,000-cubic-feet is really like. Finally everyone gets a chance to see my sleeper compartment, outfitted with a refrigerator, TV, VCR and a Nintendo 64 game system. More often than not at this point I receive a request to stop the tour and play video games, usually seconded by the adults so they can get coffee.
I encourage all professional drivers to volunteer their time for the Boy Scouts. It only requires three hours a year to be a positive role model for scouts. Scouting wouldn’t have made it to its 100th anniversary in 2010 without dedicated adults to lead the way.