These are the stories the public doesn’t hear and these are the stories we need to tell. Sometimes, change comes when enough people become aware that something isn’t right. The last part of this series is called Balder’s Story – A Problem He Can’t Forget. It’s a problem none of us should forget now that we’re aware of it.
In part four of this series, we looked at some of the ways the larger trucking lobbyists are working to change the industry and not for the better. The proposed changes are bad for everyone, from truckers to drivers to taxpayers. Yet, the lobbyists get away with many of these changes due to the “backdoor” politics they play with willing Congressional cronies. These are the stories the public doesn’t hear and these are the stories we need to tell. Sometimes, change comes when enough people become aware that something isn’t right. The last part of this series is called Balder’s Story – A Problem He Can’t Forget. It’s a problem none of us should forget now that we’re aware of it.
This isn’t just Balder’s story; this is also Renaldo Velasquez’ story. This is the story of every trucker, motorist, passenger, law enforcement officer and highway construction worker who has ever been injured, or worse, killed due to unsafe driving. This is the story of their families and loved ones. This is our story because, if the industry lobbyists and their Congressional friends get their way, we or one of our loved ones could be the next injury/fatality statistic.
Trooper Balder knows first-hand that horrific accidents are not just politics and business; they’re people’s lives. His horrific experience is forever burned into his memory and his body. Likewise, Renaldo Velasquez will never forget that night. He has a felony record now and the memory of causing one death and almost killing Trooper Balder on his conscience.
Trooper Balder is, perhaps, unique in his perspective. Many of us would want to forget such a thing, to move past it, to let it recede into distant memory. This is not the case with Trooper Balder and not just because he can’t. He doesn’t really want to forget it. When interviewed, he told the interviewer that he’s not only read the majority of the 5,000-page NTSB investigation of his accident, but that he also looks at pictures of what’s left of his cruiser every couple weeks. He told the interviewer that he doesn’t really know why he keeps the memory fresh.
He said, “I’ve been asked that question before, and I can’t answer it.”
The interviewer though, dug a bit deeper and found that there really is an answer. A damned good one, too.
Douglas Balder is a fighter committed to doing the right thing. After graduating high school in 1994, he joined the Navy reserves. He’s served overseas tours of duty, including North Africa and Iraq. He donates blood and marches in the St. Jude’s parade. He also has another reason to not give up: he and his wife welcomed a third child after his tragic accident.
In his words, “We all take an oath to make things better in the long run. And it’s got to be our focus now. I could easily have shriveled up in a ball and stayed at home and wasted away, but that’s not my mindset. That’s the military in me: You gotta move on — pick up and move on — and try to make a difference for the future. And I have to remind myself of what happened.”
Roughly a year after his accident, Trooper Balder returned to work. He also lends his experience to the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT). He, along with many safety advocates, including truckers, are speaking out against the wiggle wagon and widow makers the big industry lobbyists and their pets in Congress want to push out on the roads.
This series has prompted some interesting reader feedback. Some parts of the series were hard to write (part one, especially) and some readers took it that I was anti-trucker. I hope, in the subsequent parts of this series, I have managed to correct that misunderstanding. I am not anti-trucker, nor am I anti-motorist, nor anti-law enforcement.
I am, most definitely, anti-corruption and very much pro-safety. When even “road warriors,” who drive big rigs for a living, question the newer safety regulations, we must pay attention. This issue, this proliferation of backdoor legislation, is not about anything but profits over people. And the profits are not going into the pockets of our nation’s truckers. The companies whose lobbyists are pushing these new, unsafe “safety” regulations are the ones seeing the profits.
One voice may not be enough to bring about change. Then again, all it takes to start a fire is one good spark. It’s time we unite our voices: truckers, motorists, law enforcement, safety advocates and the press and let Congress know that people are more important than profits. They need to know that everyone on our nation’s roads deserves to come home safely and that their families and loved ones deserve their safe return as well.
If you’re interested (and I hope you are), here is a link to a customizable letter to your Senators urging them to block the wiggle wagons and widow makers in favor of safety. Just enter your address and it will send the letter (after you customize it if you wish to) to the appropriate recipient.
I customized mine to add that we have a duty to bring our nation’s truckers home alive to their families. That part, sadly, was missing from the original letter.