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Veteran driver Steve Fields’ devotion to trucking industry doesn’t punch a clock

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Veteran driver steve fields’ devotion to trucking industry doesn’t punch a clock
YRC Freight professional truck driver Steve Fields, center, receives the Mike Russell Trucking Image Award from American Trucking Associations Chairman Barry Pottle, right. Looking on is Tommy Hogan with Hire Right, which sponsors the award. (Courtesy: YRC FREIGHT)

For some, driving a truck professionally is a job. There are good days and bad days, but when the parking brake is on and the key turned off, it’s time to leave it behind and go home.

Then there are drivers like Steve Fields, for whom representing the trucking industry is a round-the-clock proposition. He’s driven 3.3 million miles without an accident in a career spanning 34 years, setting examples for both safety and longevity for other drivers. He’s been with YRC for 22 years and sits on the company’s freight safety committee.

Steve has competed in truck driving championships at state and national level for most of his career. He often shines brightest, however, when he climbs down from the cab. He has served as a captain with America’s Road Team and is still an active participant in the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA’s) Share the Road program. He’s a member of Trucker Buddy. He’s worked with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in a safety campaign and talked trucking with President Trump at the White House. And, he was the ATA’s choice to receive the 2019 Mike Russell Trucking Image Award, presented at the organization’s Management Conference and Exhibition, October 5-9 in San Diego.

Like many drivers, Fields got his start in trucking at a young age.

“My grandfather drove for TG&Y Stores back in the day,” he said. “I would sometimes ride along in his GMC Astro 95.” Fields has noticed a difference in the way drivers were perceived back then versus how they are seen now. “In my grandfather’s day,” he said, “truck drivers were held in high regard. A lot has changed.”

In his view, the driver is on the front line of the image battle. “The public perceives trucking, as a whole, by the actions of the driver. How you dress, how you act, the language you use all say something about trucking.”

While racking up safe miles, Steve began participating in truck driving championships in his home state of Missouri and nationally. Fields won the Missouri Grand Champion crown in 2003 and was top in the twins category at the nationals in 2011. The competition is fierce, but he enjoys watching and working with the other contestants. “This will be my 28th or 29th year,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of seconds and thirds, but it’s always great to see the talented drivers compete.”

In 2007, he was selected as a captain on ATA’s America’s Road Team, frequently traveling to speak to high school students, drivers and to industry and community groups about driving safely around tractor-trailers.

One of Steve’s favorite assignments is making presentations to teen drivers through ATA’s Share the Road program.

“We talk to high school drivers ed classes about following distances, characteristics of the truck, stopping distances and so on,” Fields said. “Most of them are really surprised that takes more than a football field, including end zones, to stop a truck.”

The instruction includes tips on giving trucks plenty or room, especially passing safely without pulling back in front of the truck too soon.

The visits include some real-world training, as cars are placed in blind spots around the parked truck.

“When they get behind the wheel and close the doors, they can’t see the cars,” he said. “It really opens their eyes.”

Fields is a fan of the latest safety technology, but when asked for the most impactful innovations he’s definitely old school.

“The number one safety improvement is the seat belt,” he said. “Any time you can stay in the vehicle during an accident, your chances are better.”

He’s adamant, however about one thing.

“The safest thing on the truck is the driver,” he said. When he speaks to other drivers, he talks about seat belts.

“I always ask, ‘if you knew that 20 minutes from now you were going to be involved in a rollover accident, would you put your seat belt on?”

On the rare occasions when he’s not behind the wheel or in front of a group, Fields likes camping, motorcycle riding and showing off his hot rod, a ’67 Camaro RS/SS that he enters into local parades and shows. He has a daughter who recently became engaged. “It’ll be an interesting year,” he said.

The Mike Russell Trucking Image Award, sponsored by Hire Right, is presented to an individual, motor carrier, trucking organization and industry supplier who “demonstrates excellence in illustrating the industry’s essentiality, safety-first approach to doing business and professionalism.”

With drivers like Steve Fields carrying the torch, the industry is well represented to the public, helping promote a return to the high regard earned by past drivers like his grandfather. From the schoolhouse to the  White House, his attitude and professionalism have taken him far beyond a truck driving job.

“I’ve enjoyed this career,” Fields said. “It’s been a wonderful ride.”

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The Nation

Moving America forward: Sammy Brewster is dedicated to safety

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Sammy Brewster
Sammy Brewster, Georgia (Courtesy: Trucking Moves America Forward)

To celebrate the modern-day achievements of African Americans in the trucking industry, Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) has selected four drivers who exemplify excellence in trucking. They were selected because of their professionalism and dedication to their jobs, commitment to safety and continuous efforts to move America forward every day.

The drivers are being featured on TMAF’s blog and social media pages throughout the month of February as well as on The Trucker.com. The stories highlight the drivers’ accomplishments and safety records and share the personal story of each driver. This is the fourth of four features in the series.

Moving America forward: Sammy Brewster is dedicated to safety

Sammy Brewster, a professional truck driver for ABF Freight for the past 12 years, has been a truck driver for 29 years. He resides in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Brewster, is a second-generation truck driver. During an interview with TMAF, Sammy said, “I got my start at an early age by driving for my father. He also ran a small family logging business.”

When asked what Brewster loves most about trucking, he told TMAF that he loves the free feeling of being out on the open road and the opportunity to travel and see different parts of the country. Most importantly, Brewster said, it has been a great support system to raise his family.

Brewster’s son, who just got his trucking license last year, is continuing in his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a third-generation truck driver.

Prior to joining the trucking industry, Brewster served in the U.S. Army. Brewster said that dedication to safety is one of the lessons instilled in him during his service. He carries that lesson into his job as a truck driver.

Prioritizing and promoting safety are essential for Brewster while on and off the road. Because of his strong safety record, Brewster has received many safe driving awards, including the 11-year safe driving certificate and the 10-year Safety Performance Award from ABF Freight.

Brewster was appointed as a member of ATA’s 2019–2020 America’s Road Team. He also serves as member of ATA’s Share the Road highway safety program, helping to educate motorists about road safety during heavy traffic weekends, such as Memorial Day.

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Backlogs expected as weekly closure of eastbound Tuscarora Tunnel begins Sunday

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Backlogs expected as weekly closure of eastbound tuscarora tunnel begins sunday
All drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are advised to expect delays while the eastbound Tuscarora Tunnel is closed for improvements and modernization. The tunnel will be closed every Sunday night and reopen at noon Friday each week through late June.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission advises motorists traveling in both directions on Interstate 76 to be prepared for an ongoing closure of the eastbound tube of the Tuscarora Tunnel starting at 9 p.m. Sun., Feb. 23, and ending at noon Friday, Feb. 28.

The weekly tunnel closure, which will impact traffic in both directions in Franklin County, will continue until June 26; some schedule modifications may occur due to weather conditions or during holiday periods.

Eastbound traffic will be directed into one lane and then cross over to continue through one lane of the westbound tunnel. Motorists in both directions should be alert for a continuous single-lane traffic pattern approaching the tunnel and bidirectional traffic within the tunnel.

Additionally, no overwidth commercial vehicles will be allowed in the tunnel during bidirectional traffic patterns.

Motorists should be prepared for slow moving or stopped traffic approaching the Tuscarora Tunnel in both directions. Backlogs are expected daily in both directions beginning around mid-day and lasting into the evening hours. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has installed a smart work zone as part of this project which monitors current traffic conditions and displays travel times and slow or stopped traffic messages on Portable Changeable Message signs placed in advance of the tunnel in both directions.

Impacted motorists should visit www.511pa.com/tuscarora to view travel alerts and current travel times for the project and to find suggested detour routes.

Drivers are advised to turn on headlights, slow to the posted work-zone speed limit of 40 mph and keep an adequate distance from the vehicle ahead. Never pass inside the tunnel. Drivers who experience car trouble and cannot safely exit the tunnel should stay in the vehicle, put on the hazard lights, dial *11 from a mobile phone and wait for assistance. Tunnel personnel will monitor closed-circuit cameras and send help for disabled vehicles.

The Tuscarora Tunnel is located on I-76 between mileposts 186 and 187, between the Fort Littleton Interchange (Exit 180) and the Willow Hill Interchange (Exit 189) at the Huntingdon and Franklin county lines.

The tunnel crossovers are necessary as part of a four-year $110 million project to improve and modernize the Tuscarora Tunnel. The major tasks to be completed include the removal of ceiling slabs, a new ventilation system, new membrane waterproofing and the replacement of walkways, concrete barriers and the drainage system in the tunnels. Some enhancements have already been completed in the westbound tunnel, such as additional lighting, in-pavement lights and overhead lane-control signs.

The Tuscarora Tunnel eastbound tube opened in 1940 and the westbound tube opened in 1968. The two tunnels were last renovated in the 1980s. For more information about the Tuscarora Tunnel Rehabilitation Project visit www.PATurnpiketunnels.com.

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The Nation

Connecticut governor drops proposal for highway tolls for trucks

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HARTFORD, Conn.  — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday, Feb. 19, that he is dropping his plan for highway tolls for trucks, expressing frustration with legislative leaders who have delayed a vote on the issue.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly had planned to vote Thursday on the tolls, which were under consideration to fund a wide-ranging transportation improvement plan. But Lamont, also a Democrat, said the Senate informed him that it needed more time, once again.

“I’ve got a Legislature that doesn’t want to make a choice,” Lamont said at a news conference. “I think it’s time to take a pause.”

Tolls on trucks had been projected to raise an estimate $200 million annually. Lamont said he plans for now to generate that money instead through state borrowing to help finance his roughly $19 billion 2030 transportation improvement plan.

“I hate to do it this way. It’s bonding in place of other things that are priorities,” he said. “But right now, there’s no other option on the table.”

As Lamont was talking to reporters, the Senate Democrats issued a statement saying the caucus was “still confident” it will have the necessary number of votes to pass a transportation plan with 12 toll gantries on 18-wheeler trucks only. In a joint statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said they had only asked for five more days because the senators needed that time to prepare for an anticipated two-day, 30-hour debate over tolls.

“We are prepared to hold a session next week to vote on a bill to make the necessary transportation improvements for Connecticut’s economic development, residents and businesses,” they said.

Minority Republican leaders were doubtful the issue of tolls, which has hounded Lamont and his administration since the former businessman first took office in January 2019, will be resurrected for a vote during this legislative session, which ends in May. But they didn’t rule out the issue returning next year.

“Nothing’s dead in this building,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven. “Back up again this session? I might be a little bit surprised. Back up again in 2021, I think you could probably bank on it.”

Some House Democrats expressed disappointment about Lamont’s announcement he’s not going to push ahead with tolls.

“This is crazy — let’s vote on the plan,” tweeted Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport. “Continuing to kick the can down the road and borrowing even more money 100% on the backs of CT taxpayers is what got us in this mess to start with.”

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