X-tra Special reunion

Eighteen Peterbilt 379X owners and 350 guests attended the first X Family Reunion in Springfield, Mo.

The attendees of the first X Family Reunion in August were related not by blood but by truck. Eighteen Peterbilt 379X owners gathered with friends and family to show off their limited-edition tractors at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, Mo.

The Larson Group, which owns and operates seven Peterbilt dealerships, hosted the reunion. The Larson Group sold 170 of the 1,000 X models that Peterbilt made in 2005 and 2006, which is more than any other Peterbilt dealership group in the country.

About 350 people attended the event.

“We hosted the reunion to celebrate and say thank you to the people who purchased their X,” says Larson Group Marketing Coordinator Beckie Collins.

Activities at the reunion included a barbecue lunch, prize drawings, games and activities for children, displays of a racecar and a motorcycle chopper customized with a Peterbilt theme, and a Best X in Show truck beauty contest. Three Peterbilt representatives judged the contest.

Charles Simmons and wife Janet, owners of Simmons Trucking, Inc., in Gainesville, Texas, won the contest. Doug added $30,000 worth of lights and chrome accessories to the interior and exterior of his 379X.

All attendants of the reunion received a plaque and a picture with their truck, as well as a picture of all the 379X trucks. After lunch, the reunion was opened to spectators.

“We advertised it as a car show but on a much bigger scale,” Collins says. “These are trucks with a lot of chrome and a lot of time and money put into them.”

The next X Family Reunion is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2006, at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.
Future details will be available at The Larson Group’s website.

Shelter From the Storm
A trucker ready for a night’s sleep instead transformed his rig into a shelter for families stranded by Hurricane Katrina.

On Aug. 31, two days after Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, Jimmy Levan parked his truck in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Brookwood, Miss. The Celadon Trucking driver was ready for a night’s rest after completing his delivery, according to the Truckload Carriers Association, which recognized the Graysville, Ala., resident as a Highway Angel.

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Many locals fleeing the hurricane’s devastation already had visited that Wal-Mart for gas and supplies. By the time Levan arrived, the gas was gone, and vehicles were stranded in the lot.

“The sheriff had told people to vacate the property, but some people had grabbed everything they could when they left [home], and they had no gas and no place to go,” Levan recalls.

Rather than let the families spend a hot night in their tightly packed vehicles, he invited them to sleep in his trailer. His guests included an asthmatic woman and her pet dogs that he let sleep on the top bunk.

Soon Levan, whose home state of Alabama had also been hit hard by Katrina, was host to more than 50 people. When he heard on the CB that a nearby service station might have fuel, he drove some of the motorists, clutching empty jugs, to the station. On his way back, he bought more than 100 McDonald’s hamburgers for the families in the lot.

One of the people he helped wrote his employer, based in Indiana, to express her thanks. “If the world was full of people like Jimmy, we would all be better off,” she wrote.

Levan says he had been helped when he was stranded and was just passing on the good deed. “I believe what goes around comes around,” he says.

TCA awarded Levan a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his good works.
Since the association founded the Highway Angel program in 1997, it has recognized hundreds of truckers for outstanding kindness and courage on the job.

Spirit of Giving
One dollar at a time, the 3,000 truckers and other employees at Contract Freighters, Inc. raised $20,000 to purchase Christmas gifts for local children and senior citizens.

Executive management at the Joplin, Mo.-based international truckload carrier donated prizes, and 20,000 raffle tickets were sold for $1 each to CFI employees.

In December, CFI employees used the money raised in the raffle to go on a shopping spree. They purchased gifts for 100 senior citizens through the Empire District Electric Company’s Christmas Elf Network and 345 children through the Salvation Army.

“Our employees raised an incredible sum of money,” says Herb Schmidt, president and CEO of CFI. “I’m very thankful for their commitment to help others. Many employees gave of their time to shop for gifts. Our employees gave of themselves to provide for the less fortunate. This is a great way to celebrate the holiday season.”

Pen Pal Presents
More than 2,000 elementary and middle school students received at least one toy for Christmas, thanks to Cat Scale and Trucker Buddy International.

Cat Scale donated 2,500 of its mascot Wade Wright Beanie Friends to students in the Trucker Buddy program, and drivers delivered the toys to students in their pen pal classrooms for the holidays.

The Trucker Buddy Program is a non-profit organization that partners truck drivers with classrooms grades two through eight, so the students can learn about geography and enhance their reading, writing, mathematics and social studies skills. Truck drivers write letters to the classrooms about their travels, and the students write back. Many classrooms display a Trucker Buddy map on the wall, tracking the driver’s route. Teachers may also create math problems for students by talking about the weight of their Trucker Buddy’s load.

Cat Scale has sponsored the Trucker Buddy Program for 10 years and donates a different gift for the students each year. Cat Scale is proud to support the program, says Marketing Manager Heather DeBaillie.

“It is all of our jobs to promote a positive image of truck driving, locally and nationally,” DeBaillie says. “We want people to support Trucker Buddy.”

Drivers interested in becoming a Trucker Buddy should log onto the Trucker Buddy website, www.truckerbuddy.com, to apply. Drivers are expected to correspond with the classroom for a full school year, September to May. Drivers can also coordinate classroom visits and gifts with the teacher throughout the year. Most drivers are paired with a classroom in their area, so the students can meet their Trucker Buddy.

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