Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Persons of interest

A roomful of truckers and driver advocates, a handful of deaf drivers, a trucking lawyer, a regulatory expert, at least one wellness advocate and one brave FMCSA official. That’s just a few of the people who attended the Second Annual Truck Drivers Social Media Convention in Kansas City last weekend.

OOIDA members Allen and Donna Smith – the event founders, coordinators and producers – brought together some interesting individuals.

On Saturday I sat beside a woman I had never met. A pretty, sassy, smart, witty woman in heels and a fringed shawl. From her long perfect fingernails I guessed she might not be a truck driver. As it turned out, she was a guest speaker and panelist. Her comments were a bit disarming and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Here’s an example:

“I really appreciate truckers. ... In fact, sometimes I flash them when they pass me, just to show my appreciation …”

I would have never guessed this woman to be the award-winning national media personality and host of the “Dr. Daliah Show” – Dr. Daliah Wachs from Las Vegas.

She was seated during the panel discussion by Paul O. Taylor, a well-known attorney from Burnsville, MN. His presentation was especially good, and Dr. Dahlia told him she never liked a lawyer as much as she liked him. Nor had she ever sat that close to one.

My favorite part of Taylor’s hourlong business seminar-type speech was about how to be a whistleblower and survive it. That topic is his specialty.

One guy who did another seminar-type business presentation on Saturday was Richard Wilson, a regulatory expert from Trans Products and Trans Services. Rules and regs – that’s a tough topic to keep an audience enthralled, but Richard always hits one out of the park and he did at the social media event, as was expected. I give Richard five stars for tackling “What motor carriers don’t want you to know.”

I especially liked the presentation by Rick Ash, an OOIDA life member and owner-operator from Lakewood, CO. Rick spoke on driver wellness and, using his own weight loss tale, caught the attention of many. Interest in driver wellness? That in itself was significant, right?

Elaine Papp, a nurse and FMCSA official (Division Chief of the Office of Medical Programs), made an appearance on the stage, doing a solo and also appearing on a panel. It wasn’t the friendliest atmosphere for Elaine, who addressed hot issues like the medical examiners registry, BMI, sleep apnea, etc. but she stayed for the whole event.

I also got to spend some time with OOIDA members Lee and Kari (pronounced CAR ee) Fisher from Salida, CO. Neat people. The convention featured a truck competition, and Lee Fisher won third place with his International 9400i. If the contest had been for who had the most dogs, the Fishers would have been grand champions, because they were traveling with a cab full of dogs and new puppies. Not your typical cab accessories.

Kari was named the winner of the Jason Rivenburg “Making a Difference” award for her work with the Missing Truck Driver Alert Network. Good job, Kari.

Others honored for the award include grassroots activist Kylla Leeburg of Truckers Against Trafficking. Kylla teaches high school history in her home town of Broken Arrow, OK. I was thinking to myself as I watched her compelling presentation (and video), how fortunate her students are to have her as a teacher.

Others honored were OOIDA Life Member Sandy Long, an activist and driver advocate, writer and blogger; driver Desiree Wood for her advocacy efforts on behalf of women truckers; and Kathy Cass for her advocacy and support of drivers through her Facebook, “Advice Page for Drivers and Their Families.”

I also met a trucker named Isaac Bland, an OOIDA member from Buckley, WA. He was there representing Trucker Charity. He told me about a recent mission in which he drove to Kansas City and “rescued” a trucking family who needed to get  home. The upshot is: Palmentere Brothers went belly up last week and the driver and his family needed to get home. Palmentere offered a bus trip but that did not include their belongings.

So Isaac, who was delivering in Springfield, MO, drove in and took the family (and their stuff) home to South Carolina. Roses to Isaac and to Trucker Charity, whose motto is “get ’em fed, get ’em home.” Isaac did just that.