PCHS drivers ed students 'Share the Road'
Driver's education students at Pocahontas County High School attended a safety demonstration last week, and got an inside look at the trucking industry thanks to Burns Motor Freight and the American Trucking Association.
The nationwide "Share the Road" program is provided by the ATA in conjunction with sponsors Mack Trucks, Inc. and Michelin. The team that held the demonstration is a unit based in Arlington, Virginia.
"[It's] a safety demonstration," said Clarence Jenkins, of the ATA. "The name of our program is 'Share the Road.' What we're trying to do is teach people how to share the road with large trucks."
According to Doug Burns, safety director at Burns Motor Freight, the ATA drivers who came out for the demonstration are some of the most skilled drivers on the road.
"The ATA started this program. It's called 'America's Road Team,'" explained Burns. "Basically these are the best of the best. These guys are selected and go through an interview process for the position, then they travel all over the country reaching out to the general public, politicians, and of course, schools."
This is the first safety demonstration of its kind at the high school and it was Burns Motor Freight that helped make it happen. They submitted the necessary paperwork to the ATA to hold the event.
"They wanted to come to West Virginia and make a few stops," said Burns. "We submitted Pocahontas County High School. We thought it would be a good opportunity to have those guys come in and have the students hear their message. We thought it'd be a good idea and they agreed to it."
Jenkins talked about some of the hazards truck drivers face.
"People don't realize that we have these large blind spots around our trucks," he said. "We're trying to teach them where those blind spots are. On the left side there's a small blind spot, the right side is our largest blind spot - about three lanes wide and the full length of the trailer. And of course the rear. Some people don't know that there is a blind spot in the rear."
Students had the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat of a Mack truck to monitor vehicles parked in these blind spots.
"We tell them we're magicians," joked Jenkins. "They sit down in that seat and look in the mirrors, and the cars disappear. That's what we face on the highway, it's part of our every day life."
According to Jenkins, high school visits are an important part of the program, but they hold demonstrations in all kinds of venues.
"The reason we come to schools like this is because we want to get the kids when they're first gettin' their drivers license, first learning their driving habits," said Jenkins. "But we do this not only at schools, but trade shows. We go to business conventions, state capitals. Even the governor has been up in this truck."
Jenkins stressed driver awareness during the demonstration.
"People are not bad drivers, they're just not aware," he said. "A car traveling down the road at 55 mph can stop in about half of a football field. Us [truckers], weighing 80,000 pounds, traveling at 55 mph, take the length of a football field, plus both end zones."
The exhibition served two purposes. One was to make the students aware of what a truck driver does and doesn't see. The second, was to talk to students who were interested in pursuing a career in trucking.
"It just so happens, this second class had a lot of people who were interested in becoming truck drivers or getting into the trucking industry. So as long as we're teaching 'em safety tips, we tell them a little bit about the industry too. We told them what they have to do to get their licenses. One in 14 jobs in West Virginia pertains to the trucking industry. Now that's not just drivers, but that's people that work as dispatchers, mechanics, anything to do with the trucking industry in one way or another. So you can see how important it is to the state. It goes along well with our safety training, so it worked out great. We love doing that."
Jenkins said he felt like the message really got through to the students.
"I feel like they took something away from this. They were a really, really great bunch of students, it seemed like everyone was paying attention. Teenagers, unfortunately, are the highest statistically in deaths each year. Over 6,000 teenagers every year don't get to come home to their families. We need to correct that. If we can instill good habits in them now, then they'll take that forward, and maybe down the road someday it might keep 'em out of an accident or something."
"If we can save one life by doing this, then it's all worthwhile," said Jenkins.