As a young girl, my interaction with truckers was the highlight of family road trips. Nestled in the back of our minivan with enough snacks to try to keep us quiet, my four siblings and I would stare out the window looking for truckers who would notice us.
With that universal “honk your horn” arm pull, our neighbors on the road would often notice us and happily oblige with a pull on a real string and the big, exciting sound of an air horn. We would giggle and smile and those truckers instantly became our buddies. Kids can still find trucker buddies today, but they don’t have to be on the road.
Truckers Fill The Shelves
Next time you are in the check-out line at the grocery store, take a minute to visualize the effort it took to get each of the items in your basket from the farm or factory to the shelves. All of those items came from a truck! Now, think about the families of those truckers, especially the kids. While the parent driver is away for days on the road, they miss their kids.
Twenty-nine years ago, Gary King was one of those drivers who missed his son. After being on the road for days at a time, Gary wanted to find a way to spend more time with his son while he was at home. Gary realized that getting into the classroom would give him time with his son and provide opportunities to enrich other kids. The idea of Trucker Buddy was born!
Trucker Buddy International
The mission of Trucker Buddy is to connect students with truck drivers. Through this nonprofit organization, truckers become mentors and have opportunities to get into classrooms to teach students about what they do. As these students meet truck drivers and learn and understand what their job entails, students build a positive image of truckers and the trucking industry. They will become the next generation of kids pulling their arms in the air, looking for a smile and that oh-so-exciting air horn response.
What It Takes
Fullbay interviewed Alan Welborn, Executive Director of Trucker Buddy International, to get some additional insight on how this unique organization connects truck drivers to students. Here’s the scoop!
The success of Trucker Buddy depends on two things: teachers and truck drivers. More specifically, they need teachers who would like a truck driver to mentor their students, and truck drivers who are willing to spend time in the classroom in order to make a match.
Both truckers and teachers can fill out the interest form on the Trucker Buddy website. Matches are made based on the location of the school and the location and availability of the driver. Some drivers request schools in their hometown, while others prefer schools on their route. Once that match is made, the teacher takes it from there!
This program has made a great impact on the lives of students in many different ways. Here are a few:
Benefits of Trucker Buddy
Math Has Meaning
Truckers teach math by showing students how to calculate miles per gallon, and students learn about how cubing math relates to the trucker’s load.
Geography Comes To Life
Truckers show their routes on maps. Many of the students have never left their hometowns, and seeing the map and hearing about the routes can be very exciting to a young mind when they realize that there is a great big world filled with roads and highways.
Relationships Are Formed
The truck itself is pretty impressive, and some truckers have been known to show up at the school in their actual 18-wheeler and trailer! It is particularly exciting for students to touch the wheels, and climb up into a big seat, and honk a loud horn. Oh, and let’s not forget the excitement when the parents show up with their cameras to capture the beaming grin as Junior sits with their hands on the wheel. These truckers are often viewed as superheroes.
Improve Writing Skills
Can you imagine the excitement of the students when they receive a postcard sent by their mentor from a truck stop? Or the look on the students’ faces when the teacher receives an email from their mentor from the road? The students love to receive these and respond. They often become pen-pals, or writing buddies.
Since safety with children is always a priority, Trucker Buddy conducts a background check on every volunteer trucker. In addition, every bit of communication between the truckers and the students is monitored through the teacher. So, for example, if a trucker mails postcards from a truck stop, they would go directly to the teacher, who then passes them to the students. Likewise, when the students respond, the letters are given to the teacher who then passes them along to the trucker.
The primary goal of Trucker Buddy is to promote a positive image of all things related to the trucking industry. After all, this industry needs a variety of workers to keep trucks rolling and families and businesses stocked with supplies they need. These kids might become one of these workers!
Trucker Buddy Grants
In addition to the trucker/teacher match, Trucker Buddy has gone one step further to award grants to certain classrooms. Recognizing that teachers seem to always fall short of classroom supplies and often lack the financial resources to keep up with technology in the classroom, Trucker Buddy awards selected teachers up to $500 to use for classroom supplies. The number of teachers selected and the amount awarded is directly determined by the number of donations Trucker Buddy receives each year.
Fullbay and our initiative Fullbay Cares are happy to support Trucker Buddy, and we are excited for the 10,000+ students in schools that have received enhanced educational experiences and are able to put a “face behind the steering wheel of trucks across the country.” Check out their website to see how you can help their cause!
Though modern students may not motion to hear a loud honking sound when they see truckers on the road like I did, the hope is that when they see truckers, they will smile and feel a connection and appreciation for them in their own special way.