Friday, January 29, 2010

Running wild

Jasmine Jordan, also known as Jazzy, completed her run through Dallas Friday morning – her 1,372nd mile completed.

Jasmine is completing a nationwide run across America in an effort to raise awareness about the medical expenses truck drivers face.

After an injury sidelined Jazzy for more than a month during the fall, she has come roaring back by continuing her 15- to 18-mile daily pace, albeit at a slightly slower pace from the 7-7.5 minutes per mile she was training with.

You can imagine the kind of pounding created by 100-mile-per-week running when you consider the number of pairs of running shoes Jazzy has burned through since beginning her run in California on Labor Day weekend.

Not yet halfway across the country, Jazzy has gone through eight pairs of Saucony running shoes.

“Thankfully, Saucony is a sponsor,” said her father, Lee.

In the past week, the Jordans made their way through the Dallas area and into Mesquite, TX.

Friday’s run surrounded Jasmine with police escorts and even a Dallas Fire Department fire truck, lights flashing, to warn approaching cars of the runner on the shoulder.

The day before, Jasmine ran into Dallas’ west side with members of the Texas Tornadoes junior league hockey team from Frisco, TX. The group included 10 hockey players, an assistant coach and even the team mascot.

“It was a great morning,” Lee said.

The hockey players each ran a mile with Jazzy, and several talked hockey with Lee – a native Canadian and longtime amateur hockey player himself.

“We talked general hockey – goals, penalty minutes, positions,” Lee said. “What a great bunch of kids.”

Lee says he’s shed tears along with Jazzy as she deals with shin splints, injuries and missing her mother and brother, who are at home back in Minnesota. When Jasmine reads and does homework at night, Lee worries that her not being physically present for 11th grade in school will hurt potential scholarship opportunities.

Jazzy has gotten several supportive e-mails and messages on Facebook daily, including one from a 10-year-old boy who was writing a paper about her and her running.

Once or twice a week, Lee said, the Jordans will read one from a truck driver overwhelmed by medical expenses, or a note from the child of a trucker who is no longer alive.

“The e-mails we get thanking us – they’re real tear-jerkers,” Lee said. “The number of people she’s inspiring, we’ll probably never know. But you can tell it’s everyone from grandparents right down to young people.”

Buoyed by support but sometimes challenged by surprises, Jazzy continues eastward.

Step by step, one pair of shoes at a time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Samaritan not put off by a ‘cockroach in the soup’

One of the most popular people stories to come out of the collapse of Arrow Trucking was a Good Samaritan story aired by Amarillo’s NewsChannel 10, KFDA. The Tulsa-based carrier ceased operations suddenly, leaving 1,400 employees and drivers unemployed two days before Christmas. NewsChannel 10’s Dec. 27 newscast told how a trucker unselfishly volunteered to put 200 gallons of fuel in the tank of a truck driven by a former Arrow driver trying to get home.

Such a tale is heartwarming, especially on Christmas Eve. However, it didn’t end there and as facts surrounding the good deed unraveled, it demands that a serious warning message be shared with others.

Let’s back up a bit. OOIDA Life Member Rusty Wade is an owner-operator from Alabama who has been trucking since 1973. Wade, also known as “Yoda,” was following OOIDA’s Facebook initiative to support stranded Arrow drivers when he read about a couple stuck at a truck stop in Stafford, MO. Wade was trucking through Missouri and decided to see if he could help.

“When I first met Frank Davilla, I filled his tanks with fuel,” said Wade. “All I wanted to do was help, and he seemed to need it.”

Davilla (pictured above) told Wade he had worked for Arrow only three months. When he heard operations had ceased, he was in Myrtle Beach. He left the trailer and started bobtailing back toward California – a 3,000 mile trip – with no money and no fuel card.

“Turning the truck in immediately and getting a bus ticket home wasn’t a good option,” said Wade, “as he was traveling with his ‘wife’ and they had a lot of personal belongings and all.”

Both truckers were westbound and trucking the same route from Missouri all the way to California. Wade told Davilla he would add more fuel if needed to get him to the home he claimed to have in Bakersfield.

Wade said while they were snowbound in Joplin, MO, he witnessed Davilla take the tarps and chains and binders off of an Arrow truck that was abandoned there. Wade stayed out of it.

“Frank claimed a right to do this because he said his last check had bounced,” Wade told Land Line.

Later, in Amarillo, Channel 10’s news team learned of Wade’s good Samaritan act back in Stafford. NewsChannel 10 liked the spirit of the Arrow story and how truckers pulled together to get stranded drivers home. A news team went to a truck stop in Amarillo, where they did a “live” evening news segment, featuring Rusty Wade and Frank Davilla.

Wade said his grandfather’s credo of doing right by your fellow man was a code that guided him throughout his trucking career. “All I ask is that the driver that I helped just pay it forward.”

On the NewsChannel 10 news, viewers heard a beholden Frank Davilla vow he would do just that, pay it forward.

But Wade said while they were in Amarillo, he noticed Davilla still selling chains, binders, tarps, etc. in the parking lot. Word of the Arrow shutdown had spread like wildfire, and the generosity of truckers toward their brothers was turning out to be particularly lucrative for Davilla.

“I didn’t mind helping and buying them food and fuel, but the sums of money I saw him take in made my feeding them unnecessary,” said Wade, “so I stopped doing that!”

In addition, Wade said Davilla was “collecting a lot of money” from drivers who wanted to help an Arrow driver.

Wade said Davilla and his “wife” got into an argument over that because she thought he should have used some of that money to help the other former Arrow drivers they met along the way. Wade said he eventually learned that the woman Davilla called his wife was in fact a girlfriend.

“I just wanted to help those drivers in trouble get home,” said Wade, who says he plans to take the whole thing in stride. “All in all, everyone who gave those former Arrow drivers a hand did an extraordinary job. Davilla is a cockroach in the soup, a bad apple, and he’s fighting against forces much more powerful than he can understand at this point in his life. I will pray for him to survive the lessons he will learn.”

More to the story

Frank Davilla called OOIDA on Tuesday, Jan. 12, for help. He told the Association he was “delivering in Canada” when Arrow shut its doors, was detained for several days at the border, was forced to sell everything on his truck for fuel money and had only made it as far as Bakersfield. He said he owned the truck via lease-purchase. He needed to get “home to Missouri to his wife” and could we please, please loan him some money? He said he had not received a dime from anyone so far, but he was just going to have to swallow his pride now and ask for help.

He asked for a loan, but OOIDA’s not in the loan business. We do, however, have a finance department, and one of our members had notified us he was out of trucking and had left a trailer in Bakersfield. OOIDA had financed the trailer, and we needed to bring it back to Missouri. Bakersfield? Hey, that’s where Frank was. Missouri? That’s where Frank wanted to go.

If Frank could prove he was an Arrow driver, we were willing to give him a job.

We asked him to fax something from Arrow with the truck number on it. He did. We then forwarded his name and truck number to the “Arrow volunteers” so they could confirm he was a driver. They did. Frank even gave us his date of birth and license number. Everything looked good.

We told him if he wanted to bring the trailer back for us, we would pay for fuel, food and lodging. We told him we would pay a few hundred on top so he could have some money for bills when he got home. He enthusiastically agreed and seemed genuinely appreciative. So we wired him some money for fuel, parts (he said he sold the air hoses and electrical lines) and money to pay the trailer storage.

He was supposed to check in on Jan. 15, but that didn’t happen. He finally called Jan. 18 and said he was unable to get the trailer. It was agreed that he would return some of the money; in fact, he was going to run across the street to Western Union and wire it straight away. He would call us right back with the control number.

That was Jan. 18.

We’ve still received no money back. Frank’s cell phone is “not currently accepting calls.”

We’ve since found out the Social Security number he gave us was bogus, and the guy has an old rap sheet a mile long in Kern County, CA.

OOIDA does not regret any of the help the Association or its members have extended to former Arrow drivers. We’ve been helping drivers in one way or another since 1973. We will keep on doing that. And we’ll continue to report on the bankruptcy and provide important post-employment information to those who need it.

But if you run across this man in your travels, be wary and watch your wallet. He is quick with a lie and may seem convincing, but if you dig around, things clearly don’t add up.

Shame on you, Frank Davilla.