Shootout disrupted, crash victim saved in remote desert: Two Highway Hero winners

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, March 5, 2024:

Goodyear's 2023 Highway Heroes award winners

2023 Goodyear Highway HeroesTimothy VanNostrand (left) and Elijah Ramos (right) were named the 2023 Goodyear Highway Heroes.Goodyear

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company on Monday announced two winners in the 40th anniversary Goodyear Highway Hero program. Since 1983, Goodyear has recognized commercial drivers who go above and beyond their regular duties to keep the highways safe by acting courageously for the good of others on roadways across the U.S. and Canada.

“In 2023, we asked for nominations of commercial drivers who went above and beyond to help others on the road,” said Rich Cottrell, Good year senior director for commercial marketing. “The stories submitted this year reinforced the important job that commercial drivers play in our everyday lives and illustrate in heroic ways the powerful impact professional drivers can have on the roads, individual lives and communities when they help others.”

The grand prize winners and runners-up in this year’s program faced different challenges in the course of their duty but, in a similar fashion, jumped in to help, regardless of danger or situation.

In June 2023, Timothy VanNostrand, an owner-operator of his own log transport company from Northville, New York, turned hero during a New York State Trooper traffic stop that escalated into a shootout. VanNostrand sprang into action. He used his logging truck to block the suspect’s escape, preventing a potentially disastrous situation.

In those intense 12 minutes, gunfire exchanged between the trooper and the assailant. The suspect fled into nearby woods, pursued by police. Thanks to VanNostrand’s swift response, the impact was contained, sparing motorists and pedestrians. 

Reflecting on the incident, the member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) stated, "I’m just grateful to have been in the right place at the right time and place to prevent the situation from being much, much worse, as my seemingly normal Friday route turned something that you only see on television.”

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[Related: J.B. Hunt driver named Goodyear Highway Hero]

In September 2023, Elijah Ramos, a driver for Ryder System, was on his morning route in Victorville, California. As he drove through a remote desert area, he witnessed an SUV lose control, cross multiple lanes of traffic and crash into a field. Ramos jumped to respond, assessing the situation and promptly alerting his dispatcher. He stayed with the injured young woman until help arrived, ensuring a swift response in the isolated location.

“Since it was such a remote area, it could have been a long time until help arrived,” Ramos said. “I was glad to be there when it happened to call for help quickly.”

Afterward, he went back to work and resumed his route.

After a nationwide call for entries, finalists were identified and reviewed by a panel of independent industry judges to help select VanNostrand and Ramos as the grand prize winners. They will receive prizes from Goodyear in recognition of their heroic actions. After review, two additional finalists were recognized as runners-up and receive their own Goodyear prizes. The runners-up are:

Joshua Day, an ABF Freight driver from Potsdam, Ohio, pulled over swiftly when a motorist’s truck and camper spun out of control, flipped and landed on the side of a busy road. Day assisted the injured driver and ensured safety by moving them away from a hazardous propane leak until first responders arrived.

Russel Peasley, a Brakebush Transportation driver from Necedah, Wisconsin, witnessed a car veer off a busy interstate, flip and land in a field. He stopped and joined other drivers to lift the car and rescue the trapped driver. After freeing her, Peasley stayed by her side, providing comfort until emergency medical services arrived.

[Related: CFI driver named Highway Angel of the Year]

Kenworth’s Chillicothe plant celebrates 50th anniversary

Kenworth Chillicothe plant 50th anniversaryKenworth's truck production plant in Chillicothe opened 50 years ago Monday, March 4, and the first truck -- a W900 -- rolled off the assembly line 50 years ago today.Kenworth

On Monday, March 4, the Kenworth truck assembly plant in Chillicothe, Ohio, celebrated 50 years of building Kenworth trucks. The plant officially opened on March 4, 1974, and the plant’s first truck -- a Kenworth W900 -- rolled off the assembly line a day later.

Since then, Kenworth Chillicothe plant employees have produced more than 782,000 trucks in alignment with the company’s core values of quality, innovation and state-of-the-art technology. The plant employs approximately 2,500 people, one of the largest employers in Ross County (where Chillicothe resides), and is Kenworth’s largest manufacturing facility. 

“Chillicothe is a great place for Kenworth to build trucks because it is close to our customers, suppliers and, of course, a community of highly skilled employees we are fortunate to call our Kenworth family,” said Jim Walenczak, Kenworth general manager and Paccar vice president. “Today we celebrate 50 years of innovation in Chillicothe, community involvement in Ross County and The World’s Best employees. This milestone is a testament to the dedication of our incredible workforce -- both past and present -- and Kenworth’s commitment to continued growth in Chillicothe.” 

[Related: Kenworth continues 100th-anniversary celebration with truck parade]

The Kenworth Chillicothe plant is located on a 120-acre site 50 miles south of Columbus, Ohio. Since 2018, Kenworth has invested $300 million in the 622,000-square-foot facility that features advanced manufacturing technologies, including robotic assembly, and a state-of-the-art paint facility that utilizes the latest technology in the industry. The multi-level paint facility went into production in October 2021 and is equipped with bell spray head technology that improves the appearance and transfer efficiency of the paint.

In 2022, the Kenworth Chillicothe plant received two Manufacturing Leadership Awards for its new Kenworth Paint Facility and Henrob Error Proofing project from the National Association of Manufacturers. In 2020, the plant received an Encouraging Environmental Excellence “E3” Gold Award from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for going beyond regulatory compliance requirements for environmental stewardship activities and in 2006, was recognized by Quality Magazine for its “Plant of the Year” Award.

[Related: ‘A real truck driver’s truck’: The 100th anniversary Kenworth W900L Limited Edition]

Love’s opens new location in Florida

Love’s Travel Stops last week opened a new location in St. Augustine, Florida.

The store, located off I-95 at exit 305, features 63 truck parking spaces, a Hardee’s restaurant, eight diesel lanes with DEF, seven showers and more.