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People of Yellow
The Yellow Team | Mar. 31, 2023
It’s often said, “A little kindness goes a long way.”
Nearly two decades ago, a few Yellow drivers from Charlotte, N.C. and surrounding states began a company event called the Battle of the Borders to practice their safety skills and prepare themselves for the State Truck Driving Championships. Since then, the event has grown both in spirit and in scale, and even got a new name. Today, with participation and sponsorships from the entire trucking industry, Safety Drive for a Cure has truly come a long way in its mission of promoting driving safety and supporting a worthy cause.
On March 25, 130 professional truck drivers gathered from across the nation at Yellow’s Terminal #403 in Ellenwood near Atlanta, Ga., to participate in Safety Drive for a Cure. This year marked the 11th anniversary of this annual event – a Truck Driving Championship (TDC)-style competition where drivers compete on world-class driving courses and showcase their safe-driving skills.
Safety has always been a top priority at Yellow. Hosting Safety Drive for a Cure echoes that commitment while adding the thrill of competition and funding a powerful cause. The event focuses on three key goals:
1. Promoting safe driving and getting new drivers involved in State TDCs
2. Giving seasoned drivers a way to fine-tune their skills before their State TDC
3. Raising money to help children and their families battling brain tumors.
The competition itself has three parts, maintaining the standards of the state TDCs – a written test, a vehicle inspection and a driving course.
At the event, professional drivers competed under several categories or classes, such as Straight Truck, Three-Axle, Four-Axle, Tank Truck, Flatbed, Sleeper Berth and Twin Trailers. There were some fun classes for spouses and retired drivers to participate in as well.
Yellow driver Steve Tobolic from Terminal #272 in Wyoming, Mich., won the Dave Messmer Memorial Trophy for Vehicle Inspection. The trophy was curated by the late driver’s wife, Tricia Messmer Gil herself, in her husband’s memory. Dave Messmer was a Phoenix based driver for Yellow and a Grand Champion of the Arizona Trucking Association’s State Truck Driving Championships.
Josh Lewis, Yellow driver from Terminal #433 in Ringgold, Ga., won the Rookie of the Year trophy. This was the first truck driving competition he had ever competed in and he bested all the other rookies. Richard Frazer from Terminal #360 in Joliet, Ill., placed second.
Steve Tobolic (on left) and Josh Lewis (on right) with their trophies.
Yellow driver Patrick Green from Terminal #433 in Ringgold, Ga., placed third in the Flatbed class.
Yellow driver Patrick Green with his trophy.
After a few years of being held in North Carolina, the Battle of the Borders moved to Atlanta. Soon after, Yellow professional driver and ATA America’s Road Team Captain Herschel Evans got a request to take over the responsibility of organizing it. Herschel was the right man for the job as he was seasoned in the State Truck Driving Championships and had already placed in the National Truck Driving Championship (NTDC) a couple of times by then.
His answer was, “I'll take it over on the condition, that we do it as a fundraiser for some sort of charity.” Evans recalled, “I wanted it to grow, and I wanted to have a kind of an impact.”
He had been involved with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) for years and was one of the organizers of an Atlanta motorcycle ride called the Atlanta Ride for Kids benefiting PBFT. “For as long as I've been a truck driver, I've been involved with them,” said Evans, who now has more than 35 years of professional truck driving experience.
The committee agreed to hold the event as a fundraiser to benefit PBTF.
After a couple of successful years as a fundraiser, Evans pitched the idea of opening it up for all professional truck drivers from all companies. He emphasized, “Our costs and our involvement wouldn't be much different, but we could have much larger impact on the funds we collect, and they gave me the green light.”
Drivers showed up from across the Southeast that year, and the donations tripled. “Then every year after that, it's just grown and grown and grown and grown,” Evans added.
“No one wants to hear the words, ‘Your child has a brain tumor,’ and we always say it's a club that nobody wants to join. But our goal is really to build a community of hope,” said the Director of Family Support at the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Heather Held. “Events like Safety Drive are just an extension of that community we're trying to build for the families.”
The PBTF not only provides emotional, educational and financial support for patients and families throughout their journey, it is also the largest nonprofit funder in the United States for pediatric brain tumor research facilitating the development of targeted drugs and advanced treatments.
According to the data gathered by the foundation, more than 40,000 children in the U.S. are currently battling a brain tumor diagnosis, the deadliest form of childhood cancer and most common cancer in children under 15. Yet there is a lack of awareness and research in this field, Held said.
Safety Drive for a Cure has raised a cumulative amount of over $295,000 for the PBTF since its start. One of the programs the funds help support is the Butterfly Fund. This financial assistance program helps cover everything from rent and insurance to car payments, gas or grocery cards, for the families. Last year, the program helped about 600 families nationwide. “We do have families that have attended the event and found just love and comfort from the volunteers and the fundraisers. And that's been really nice,” said Held.
Herschel Evans and Michael Battaglia, fundraising and community engagement manager of PBTF, at this year’s event.
Apart from hosting the event at its terminal, Yellow provides several tandem-axle tractors and single-axle tractors for the event. The company also sponsors T-shirts and trophies. Over the years, more drivers and companies have helped to organize and fund the event.
“The main thing I love about it is, the companies that normally compete against one another for business or at Truck Driving Championships all come together to make this event possible,” Evans said. “This includes donations by LTL companies, tanker companies, flatbed companies, and grocery retailers.”
For more information about the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, visit curethekids.org.
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