Name an industry that can get away with leaving a labor force stranded across the United States days before Christmas and hardly get any mainstream media giving it any coverage?
This is the power of controlling media and the trucking industry proved it during December 2009 when Arrow trucking turned off gas cards, bounced paychecks, closed its doors, and left truck drivers stranded.
I decided against a picture of an Arrow Truck for this post but instead I chose this nifty picture of Bill Graves the CEO of the “American Trucking Association” with Ray LaHood & Anne Ferro because they obviously all know each other.
On December 22, 2009 the Christian Science Monitor reported the Arrow closing and the story made its way to Twitter shortly afterwards. In researching the timeline for this post I noted that the editor has made a comment about the original title. It makes me wonder if someone “contacted them” and a correction to the wording was made. Speaking out about human indignities by the trucking industry seems to be monitored very carefully.
Twitter became quickly a buzz on the 22nd with that initial article. Shortly thereafter a second report via Landline eNews article called “ Nightmare before Christmas ” by Clarissa Kell-Holland was also circulating.
Remarks by the truckers on twitter quickly became heated when it became clear that the twitter tags of @RayLaHood who is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and frequently tweeted about job creation during that week & the ATA Twitter tag @TruckingMatters remained silent on the Arrow Issue.
Ellen Voie of @WomeninTrucking tweeted an announcement that Anne Ferro of the FMCSA would speak at the “Salute to Women Behind the Wheel” but said nothing about Arrow. In a private email I was advised she was very much aware of the situation but for whatever reason did not tweet any articles. I still have those dated emails but some of the remarks are not pleasing about Ellen Voie and they were made by one of her members so I will refrain for now.
Meanwhile others like @HDTrucking tweeted “Arrow Drivers get one heck of a lump of coal for Christmas” in between “Retweeting” things for Hubby Evan Lockridge @LockridgeReport who tweeted he would be doing a show on the 23rd about the Stranded Arrow Drivers.
Individual Truckers on Twitter were tweeting: “Hope we never see management from Arrow trucking in management jobs in any other trucking company. #Fail 9:52 PM Dec 22nd, 2009” which was just one of the popular “ReTweets” that went on for days. (This was a retweet I copy & pasted from Jami Jones @Shewhoknowstruck )
On Facebook remarks of disgust that no one knew about the drivers went like this: “…I was talking to some at church, they have no clue what just happened! Sad! Some said they would have just brought the truck home. I ask how? Most of these guys had no money. How you going to buy fuel, pay tolls, cross border without cash? Plus they lost all contact with their company!” were made on the newly created Fan Page called “Stranded Arrow Trucking Drivers-Coordinate Efforts Here” which was made by the Landline Staff on Twitter. (The title has since been changed as well as the mission)
In prior projects on twitter such as @JasonsLaw & the Virginia Rest Area Issue , there had been interference by the Landline Staff on Twitter so I would be lying if I said everyone believed that OOIDA was creating the page for anything more than a membership drive. I have included a link above from my previous post on Jason’s Law but at this time I cannot elaborate further.
That afternoon in fact a well known Canadian Trucker had some mixed signals from comments made by Jami Jones the Senior Editor of Landline and challenged her to call into Daniel Audet’s “Truck Star Radio” to discuss the Fan Page.
At first she declined but when pressed to show that she truly cared to get the word out through ALL mediums, she agreed and convinced the listeners that the OOIDA Fan Page was an effort to help the stranded drivers and not a membership ploy as we had seen in the past.
I was aware that OOIDA Media had also been calling around. I was on home time, I was very sick with a high fever and my truck starter had died so I had to drive to Denton, Texas to go into the shop. I was actually parked in the mechanics bay for the night on the 22nd and was hesitant to become a fan of the page until I was convinced by Daniel Audet that Jami Jones was sincere. At about 9pm CST I became a fan of the page and forwarded it to MANY people.
Dan Little was in close contact through Twitter, Facebook and nightly on “Truck Star Radio” and reported that OOU members were going above the call to assist the Arrow Drivers in getting them home, fed, & get them motels. The OOU board of Directors also offered a 1 year 100% free membership to all Arrow Drivers.
Within a hour of the Qualcomm message that was received by the Arrow Drivers telling them that the company had folded the OOU was contacted and that information was passed on to Bob McCarty and several other national media contacts. According to Dan Little it was Mr. McCarty who contacted CNN who broke the story worldwide.
On the morning of December 23, 2009 I was received an early morning call from @Longhawl a trusted friend from twitter who has dispelled many misinformation campaigns by “The Trolls of Trucking on Twitter”.
My friend “Longhawl” was deeply disturbed by the news of the Arrow closing and more so that the ATA had the nerve to sit quietly and saying nothing and doing nothing. I agreed that the ATA was a despicable example how to represent an industry but the truth about trucking is that this is how truckers are treated and most people could care less. Longhawl told me he was just plain tired of seeing the arrogance that the ATA displayed toward the hardworking American Trucker and he wanted to help. He asked me why no one was attacking the ATA on Twitter outright and I said that retaliation in trucking is very real so most individuals are intimidated, also much of the trucking media sources are controlled.
In fact as I recal the day the ATA came on Twitter they only followed national media contacts and the publishing partners for the major trucking periodicals are very much “connected”.
Longhawl said “Well I don’t work for the Trucking Industry and I am going to say a few things” I said “Okay, I will ReTweet what you say.” I also introduced Longhawl to Mike Rone of “RMR Consultants” who was working on cleaning up a DAC for a woman trucker named @NJKatwoman .
Mike was disturbed that no one had assisted the drivers by notifying truck stops properly, making sure the drivers who were cut off from the outside world suddenly could make their way home with their belongings for the holidays. I spent a few hours on the phone with both Mike & Longhawl that morning while I awaited the repair on my truck. During that time I saw an Arrow driver try to turn in his keys to the Service Desk and the girl had no idea what he was talking about. Then he went to the fuel desk and she had no idea either.
Mike Rone had called Dallas Radio Station KRLD to get them to cover the story and I spoke to the girl at the fuel desk and told her what was going on. While I was speaking to her another girl walked up and said that the day before an Arrow driver was able to fuel up but the card did not go through so they had to pump out the fuel. Still they did not know that the company had gone belly up nor were they aware that the drivers were stranded. How humiliating is this for a driver who is on his way home for the holidays? They had already received one bounced paycheck and via qualcomm the company told them they were unemployed without notice. A message that said in essence “See Ya wouldn’t want to be Ya”.
The OOIDA Fan Page had numerous offers to help the drivers but there was no rhyme or reason to it. There were carriers offering jobs and rides but in practice that meant nothing more than a free link ad. There were no drivers on Facebook because they were out-of- touch. When companies like Swift & Schneider came forth to offer rides home it sounded grand but in practice how would the Arrow drivers know this? Were Schneider’s drivers advised to go track them down? What if they did see an Arrow driver who was stranded and they needed to go to Florida but the Schneider truck was under a load going to Washington? Then what? I mean it looked great on the surface but in reality there was not any sort of practical rescue operation being conducted.
Together, Longhawl & Mike Rone created a forum that went live the morning of December 24, 2009 which aimed to sort out offers for assistance from all over the internet to make it easy for the drivers once they were located but not many people ever found that forum. It was submerged before it took off but it was made to help the drivers and that was all.
We had twitter going crazy despite the lack of mainstream media attention. The ruckus of the Stranded Arrow drivers and our constant circulating of the OOIDA fan page link was everywhere you looked. Within hours if you googled “Arrow Drivers” the 2 lone articles were complimented by thousands of additional items which were actual tweets that were going into Google.
Not many people realize that what you post on Facebook it remains in Facebook but on Twitter it escapes the “Twitoshepre” and into the “World Wide Web” which makes it searchable in Google!
The chatter could not be ignored, this was not just truckers on twitter who had jumped onboard, and the news of the Stranded Arrow Drivers was being circulated by concerned citizens from around the world on Twitter who were OUTRAGED!!!!
On the morning of December 23, 2009 “Fleet Owner” magazine put out an article called “Social Media Comes to the aid of Stranded Arrow Truck Drivers” but here’s the thing, these are all ATA skewed publications and it was sort of a slap in the face with some feeble acknowledgement that said: “Yes, we see you are making an impact but we are still not going to do anything about it.”
I personally monitored those tweets in Google regularly and forwarded the increasing stats to interested parties. There were many familiar faces in those tweets who were not only my followers but even my DOG’s followers!
My Damn Dog was doing more for Arrow Drivers than the FMCSA, Women in Trucking or the American Trucking Association! Merry Effing Christmas Truckers!
Okay, so I’m getting a little pissed… Breathe Breathe…
The tweets were very targeted by utilizing “Hashtags”, we had seen success in several projects by doing this method for the Virginia Rest Areas, Pickens Plan and Dog Rescue.
In the future I will detail this but I did go on “Truck Star Radio” and give a tutorial to people who wanted to help.
This was an enormous success and by the 24th I had been introduced to a group of former Arrow drivers and volunteers on Twitter and Facebook who I invited to join “Truck Star Radio” as much as they wanted to tell their true story.
It was not long until reports began coming back that pledges to give help were being ignored and that the OOIDA page was not being managed properly. Still it was an amazing outpouring of people wanting to help. Still today it is inspiring to see all the people wanting to help truckers and it stands as a testament to the power of social media.
In those beginning hours there was truly more offers for help than there was drivers. That was the problem, how would a stranded driver know that they needed to get on the internet?
As I said in the recent “Blog Talk Radio” broadcast I was deeply moved when I observed former Arrow Driver Brandon White organize efforts while enroute to his new job on the greyhound bus.
I was included in a circulating email of volunteers but I did not post publically because I did not want to alert “The Trolls” about my involvement which would derail the cooperation that we thought was taking place.
I have included the radio broadcast link and I don’t want to recap everything here but basically at this time I did not know about Donna Creekmore but learned of her shortly afterwards and her list of drivers.
This list was crucial to weed out the scammers who emerged. The other disturbing thing was that people who were disgusted trying to pledge assistance on the OOIDA board. Some people were reporting they went ahead and gave to some of the designated charities but then some drivers were reporting those same charities either ran out of funds or the told the drivers that they did not meet the criteria to get assistance.
One Arrow driver called the number and was told to go to a homeless shelter!
This was a problem for me and others who felt if Donna Creekmore had verified them as drivers and there were people willing to help assist them they should be matched up, end of story.
Again, I won’t get into all the backroom shenanigans FOR NOW but I did receive the exchanges between OOIDA & the Volunteers and it was not surprising to me who the characters were but still it was disappointing that this crisis was turning into a media power struggle.
Another page on Facebook surfaced on the 24th called the “Ex-Arrow Employee’s Page” and it seemed odd that OOIDA had not been in direct contact with these folks and Donna Creekmore as soon as they appeared on the scene to collaborate.
Donna Creekmore was assisted by a woman named Dana to organize help directly to drivers. I personally called both of them to see who they were because it was true that scammers were coming out of the woodwork on the OOIDA page and it seemed like no one was managing it properly. My own followers on twitter were getting too personally involved and I did not want any of them getting ripped off.
Donna Creekmore was actually in the emergency room with her Husband when I spoke to her, she said she was concerned with getting “her drivers” home. To my knowledge no one from OOIDA had contacted her at this time nor were they aware that Dana, Donna, Brandon and other Volunteers had set up a base of operations to help the actual drivers on from the driver list and match with pledges for help from individuals.
On the Monday after Christmas however the emails were flying. Soon after, Dana set up a third page of Volunteer efforts on Facebook for the Arrow drivers. Dana continued assisting drivers with volunteers while Donna Creekmore was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
It was an amazing weekend! A huge storm had hit Oklahoma & Texas and shut down I-40. Many truckers were stranded and some were attempting to help stranded Arrow drivers when the storm hit.
Despite my attempt to stay in the background I was compelled to post publically after an OOIDA member called me to dispel rumors about repo men being at truck stops. I also called Freightliner and posted on their Facebook page asking for a public announcement. I did not get a response but it sure brought the trolls out.
Private texts to me by other truckers on twitter asked for me to pass along offers of help and jobs to Donna & Dana because they too did not want to stir up the trolls.
It was already too late; in fact the King of Trolls had posted on the OOIDA page Jan 2nd to stay away from any of the “other groups” and wanted to know if anyone had a concrete list. He had been tweeting with Jami Jones who was ensuring that to him that, “…/amazing/ isn’t the word for it. It seems like we spend as much time killing rumors as productive good some days. & we have debunked some requests from alleged Arrow drivers needing help. We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck here” but that was not the truth.
There were problems behind the scenes and Jami Jones blogged “Imagine All the People” where she implied there was social media backstabbing which was sort of crazy because all the people I knew of had been up 24/7 tweeting, donating every last nickel they had and making phone calls to help Arrow Drivers while they were in bad shape themselves.
One woman who is a big fan of @TruckinDogKarma was in the ICU tweeting from her phone and had to have it removed from her by her doctor! She later made phone calls with a partial list and got deeply involved with the missing trucker story when the Mother of that guy poured her heart out to her.
If that were not enough to turn my stomach, on January 5, 2010 the ATA finally remarked on the Arrow driver situation. Like a synchronized swimming event Ellen Voie tweeted “Angels Among Us” which originally had comments on it that have been moderated off but I was sent the copies.
In this article Ellen states she was called by OOIDA to bring home the last Arrow drivers but according to Donna Creekmore there were many drivers who were still not home or had no home to go to.
On this same day OOIDA edited their Mission Statement and Title on the Facebook Fan Page and the ATA Twitter @TruckingMatters account tweets this dumbass remark “Thank you to all the trucking companies working from day 1 to help former Arrow drivers #SupportArrowDrivers #Win “
That was in addition to this tweet right next to it: “TweetsSchneider National encourages former Arrow drivers to apply http://www.schneiderjobs.com #SupportArrowDrivers #trucking”
OY VEY! So those are the Holy Grail of Hope to the American Trucker? Seems to me every day is media day in trucking!
There was huge lesson to be learned in the Arrow Trucking mess and that is people do care about truckers but they are not getting the information they need to help them.
Many people came together who were formerly divided and eventually worked together.
Good can come out of what happened at Arrow in the sense that an awakening should begin to come about that ordinary people can make a difference. You can gather the rest on your own when your eyes begin to clear like mine have.
Listen to the Blog Talk Radio called “Truckers Home” with former Arrow Trucking Employee Donna Creekmore that aired May 6, 2010
There were so many individual people to thank it was not possible to remember everyone. If you would like to thank someone please post and let them be recognized.