Highway Angels Program Gets a Face-lift after Pitching Positive Trucking Stories to the Mass Media for 11 Years


Alexandria, Virginia:

When Plains Transportation truck driver Wade Wiley spotted an elderly, disoriented woman shivering and coatless in the right lane of a four-lane highway at 1:00 a.m. in 20-degree darkness, he took her into the warmth and safety of his truck and worked with local authorities to return her to her family. It was a random act of kindness like any professional truck driver might perform while on the job; but in this case, his company reported the good deed to the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), who then honored Wiley with its prestigious Highway Angel award. TCA got word out to the trucking trade press, and before long, the story was picked up by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Soon, lots of people in Texas were reading about Wiley and what he had done. Then the story was placed on the Internet and suddenly, that Texas audience became global. Even today – nearly seven years later – the story remains on the Web and is accessible to countless worldwide readers.

That’s what the Highway Angels program is designed to do – portray a positive image of the trucking industry to the general public, in as many ways as possible. Since its founding in 1997, the program has honored hundreds of truck drivers for random acts of kindness ranging from returning a wallet found at a truckstop to pulling an unconscious victim from his car seconds before it burst into flames. TCA has then pitched these Angel stories to various media outlets, generating an amazing amount of positive press coverage over the years.

After 11 years of success, however, TCA’s Communications & Image Policy Committee (CIPC) has made a few changes to keep the program fresh and relevant to the times. It has replaced the pastel yellow logo that originally depicted a person reaching for a star with a bolder, red, white and blue logo that is more identifiable as a TCA product (and features a truck prominently in the center). Drivers receiving the Angel award will continue to receive a personalized certificate, patch and lapel pin as before, but plans are in the works to find sponsors who can help fund things like truck decals or special Angel rings.

“In addition to creating a new look for the program, we’ve updated our list of media outlets to which we can pitch Angel stories,” said Virginia Parker, co-chair of the CIPC and director of marketing for Flying J, Inc. “We’re going to add a new focus on radio programs through XM and SIRIUS, hoping to get the stories read on-air – or even have some of the Highway Angels interviewed live. Radio would provide us with an entirely new audience, as most of our past publicity efforts have been focused on print media.”

Other ways to get the word out might be through elected officials, consumer publications, local and regional newspapers, and, of course, through the trucking industry trade press.

You can do your part to keep this tremendous publicity program going by nominating any truck driver you know who has done a random act of kindness. We know truckers are out there helping the motoring public every day; now it is up to the carriers, family and friends, and the individuals who have been helped by an Angel to keep a steady flow of Angel nominations coming into TCA. Your nominations will be needed to keep the program going for the next decade and beyond.