Rodney “Rocky” Tasso and Devin Bruce didn’t know when they set out on a training trip for Merit Distribution Services that before the night was over they would see a woman die and help three other people survive.
They were traveling eastbound on a desolate area of I-70 through Utah on a cold evening. The roads were slick with black ice. Suddenly, the two men caught a strange sight in the westbound lane: headlights running sideways. As the driver attempted to straighten out the vehicle, he hit the sandy median, and the car flipped over several times. The two truckers watched the headlights bouncing in the darkness, and they knew they had to stop.
The two men then hurried to the scene, Tasso, who is from Westervalley, Utah, dialing 9-1-1 on his cell phone as he ran. They found a child, a young male and a young female partially out of the vehicle when they arrived and an elderly woman lying on the snowy ground outside the vehicle.
“I took my coat off and covered the lady on the ground,” says Bruce, who is from Tremonton, Utah. Shortly thereafter, he saw the woman take her last breath. “We didn’t say anything to [the others]; we didn’t want to create further havoc,” Bruce says.
The truckers assisted the other three individuals, who appeared to be injured but not seriously. The woman complained of a hurt shoulder, and the toddler had a bump on his forehead the size of a golf ball.
While the young man stayed by the vehicle, Bruce took the woman and child to their truck to keep them warm. He put yellow triangles out on the road and got on the CB to warn others of the situation ahead. Tasso stayed with the elderly woman and spoke with the young man to keep him calm. Tasso tried to distract him by letting the man use his cell phone to call relatives in California.
When the paramedics arrived, at least a half hour later, the truckers relayed the situation and headed back on the road sometime after midnight. “I was fine throughout the incident, but a half hour later, I was just rattled,” recalls Bruce. It was “absolutely helpful” to have Tasso with him, he says. “He’s a terrific guy.”
Although he was driving as a trainee with this carrier, Bruce says he had been driving for two years prior to joining the company and has helped people in need on the road before. But this was the first time he experienced someone dying at the scene. Still, he’d do it again “in a New York second.”
“We’re out there every day, and we get to see the things that happen,” he explains. “If we see a situation … I don’t know how someone could turn their backs and walk away. If everyone were to stop and help one another, this world would be a whole lot better place.”
Both Tasso and Bruce received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for their efforts, and their employer, Merit Distribution Services, Inc., also received a certificate for acknowledging these Highway Angels in their midst.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angel program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy and courage they have shown others while on the job. Truckload Carriers Association has received letters and e-mails from people across the country nominating truck drivers for the program.
Highway Angels recognition is awarded for a driver’s good deeds, ranging from simple acts of kindness, like fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, like pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR. When you know of, witness or experience an exceptional act of kindness or courtesy by a truck driver, you can nominate that trucker for a Highway Angel award by filling out the electronic form at www.truckload.org or faxing the information to (703) 836-6610. Make sure the fax says “Attention Highway Angels program” on the cover sheet and that the driver’s name is clearly visible.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.