OOIDA Board Member Carl Smith speaks at FMCSA Driver Appreciation Day

September 15, 2022

SJ Munoz

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OOIDA Alternate Board Member Carl Smith was selected to speak as part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Driver Appreciation Day celebration.

The event, part of National Driver Appreciation Week, took place at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Other speakers included FMCSA acting Administrator Robin Hutcheson; Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenburg; Kala Wright, FMCSA’s director of external affairs; Rhonda Hartman of the American Trucking Associations; Harold Thomas of the American Bus Association; and KayLeigh McCall, Women in Trucking driver ambassador.

In Trottenburg’s comments were mention of recent grants for new truck parking facilities.

“We just announced our latest round of (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) grants, and I’m happy to say, OOIDA I’m looking at you, two of those grants are for important, new truck parking facilities. One in Tennessee on I-40 and another on the I-4 corridor in Central Florida, which gets over 18,000 trucks per day.”

The grants totaling $23 million will be used to build the start-of-the-art facility in Tennessee with 125 space, while Florida’s facility will have 120 spaces.

“We have heard loud and clear from the truck industry what a big gap there is terms of in truck parking,” Trottenburg said. “Not only are we working closely with state and local DOTs to try and help them find truck parking, but we are putting some real dollars on the table.”

Smith speaks on highway safety

Smith, who’s been a driver of 43 years – 31 of those as a small-business trucker – said he’s seen a lot of improvements in terms of safety, such as better road design and safer vehicles.

However, based on recent data showing an increase in highway fatalities, safety concerns remain for Smith – and all drivers.

“Like most professional drivers, I’m deeply concerned by this trend,” Smith said. “Out on the highway, this is my life at stake, too. And my livelihood. While I recognize that I can’t change it on my own, there is something I can do. Be alert.”

Complacency and distracted driving are among the major contributors to this trend, Smith said.

“One of the greatest errors we make when we get behind the wheel is we become complacent,” Smith said. “I have nearly 3 million miles on the road without a preventable accident, and yet I still struggle with this. Every time I get into my truck I have to remind myself to stay alert. Stay vigilant. Because today may just be the day that I’ll need to avoid an accident.”

 

Keeping his eyes moving while traveling down the road, looking beyond what’s immediately in front of him and reading bumper stickers are all ways Smith helps himself stay alert.

One particular bumper sticker made an impression on Smith. It read, “Honk if you love Jesus … Text while driving if you want to meet him now.”

Smith said getting into a motor vehicle and out on the road is one of the most dangerous things most of us do daily. He asks all drivers to do all they can to limit that danger.

“Professional drivers are doing their best to make the roads a safer place to travel,” Smith said. “I encourage the rest of the country to join us in this quest.” LL

SJ Munoz joined the Land Line Media team in 2020. He brings a variety of skills to the job as he has experience as a reporter, photographer and in radio. He’s also written for Omaha Magazine, the Lawrence Journal-World, and PrepsKC.com.