WASHINGTON — In May, a group of determined truckers descended on Washington to protest low freight rates, broker transparency and other issues. As the calendar turned to October, some of those same truckers have returned to promote the industry and help educate the public.
In May, trucks lined Constitution Avenue for blocks. In October, they were parked right in the National Mall, with the U.S. Capitol building clearly visible on one side and the Washington Monument on the other.
“It’s a really good mood,” said Steven Myers, one of the organizers of the annual event. “Lots of kids want to get up in the trucks and check them out.”
Myers said about 32 trucks were parked on the mall. A video posted on social media showed American flags waving in a brisk breeze under a near-perfect, cloud-dotted blue sky.
Myers, an owner-operator leased to Birmingham, Alabama-based Watkins Trucking Co., described how participants were engaging passers-by, talking about truckers and the industry they serve.
“We try to educate them on where the stuff they buy comes from,” he said.
Ten Four DC (tenfourdc.com) organizes the event each year, scheduled around Oct. 4 in a nod to the “Ten-Four” code on the C.B. radio that indicates an affirmative answer. This year’s event, however, is being held in a time of national unrest, and concerns over potential damage to participants equipment or persons have impacted participation.
According to Myers, the group is smaller than last year’s, and drivers plan to leave before expected weekend protests begin.
“We’re pretty much parked at ground zero for any demonstrations,” he said. “We’re not allowed to move unless we’re leaving the area, so we’re trying to make sure everyone stays safe.”
Myers is an administrator for the Facebook group “The Disrespected Trucker,” whose membership has more than doubled in size since the “May Day” protests the group helped organized — the group now has more than 12,000 members.
After the May protest, Myers, who is an ordained minister, decided that another group was needed to help meet the spiritual needs of truckers, who often don’t have available resources while on the road. He and Jeremy Johnson, another Disrespected Trucker administrator, founded the Facebook group Truckers for Christ. That group has grown to nearly 1,800 members.
The Truckers for Christ Facebook page offers online teaching, including sermons, for those who can’t be home on Sundays, but Myers stresses the importance of person-to-person contact.
“Sometimes, a person who’s a thousand miles from home just needs somebody to talk to or to pray with them,” he said. “I’ve made my personal phone number available for anyone who needs counseling or help. I get between 200 and 400 calls every month.”
Not all of those calls are from the faithful. however. Myers has received death threats for himself and his family for his efforts, “from an untraceable number, of course,” he said.
For now, Myers is enjoying the sights in the nation’s capital like any other tourist.
“Most of us have only seen Washington from the highway, missing the history that’s available here,” he explained. “We’re seeing the sights while we can.”
There’s no centralized leadership to the group in Washington, Myers said.
“It’s not about you, not about me,” he explained. “It’s about US.”
Earlier this week, he and other members of the group attended a fund-raising event for a trucker diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
“We need to take care of one another,” he said.
Next week, Myers will be hauling steel and other products on his flatbed trailer, likely on a regular run from Birmingham to Arizona. For now, however, he is content to see the sights and make sure others know about America’s hard-working truckers.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.