Sharing the Joy of Trucking With the Next Generation
Linda and Richard Thomas Are Changing Trucking One Classroom at a Time
It’s a long way from their home in Mountain Home, Idaho, to Emma Elementary School in Ashville, North Carolina. Two thousand-sixty-one miles to be exact. But for Linda and Richard Thomas, every mile is worth it to see their kids — Janet Miller’s kindergarten class.
At least once a year, Linda and Richard take a couple days off from their routine as team drivers for Transport America to share their love of the road with a class of elementary school children who attend Emma Elementary.
The relationship started in 2008, when Linda and Richard heard a commercial on the radio about the Trucker Buddy International program, a nonprofit dedicated to helping educate and mentor school children via a pen pal relationship between background-checked professional truck drivers and children in grades K-8 as well as special needs classes, Girls and Boys Clubs and Scouts.
Through the pen pal relationship, Linda and Richard send postcards each week to let their kids know where they’ve been traveling, and from time to time, they send goody bags filled with items the kids will need for school.
“We’ve been working with Janet Miller, who was a 5th grade teacher when we first met her in 2008, and is now a kindergarten teacher at Emma,” said Linda. “She uses our postcards to teach her students geography.”
When Linda and Richard make their visits, it gives them an opportunity to share why they’re professional truck drivers and to help children understand the important role that truck drivers play in moving food, medicine and other things that people need to live. In addition, students from all grades have the opportunity to see what a real truck and trailer actually look like.
“It’s fun to watch their reaction to the truck,” Linda said. “They’re pretty amazed, especially by how big the trailer is inside.”
Participating in the Trucking Buddy program is in the DNA of Linda and Richard, who have been driving as a team since 2007 when Linda got her CDL. Richard has been driving since 1998, and together, they have been driving for Transport America for more than a year.
“When we decided to make the switch to Transport America, it was really important to us to maintain our relationship with Emma Elementary,” said Linda. “We’ve really liked working for Transport America. We’re the captains of our own ship. That’s important to us. And second, Transport America is working hard to change trucking. The work we’re doing with Trucking Buddy goes hand in hand with what Transport America is trying to do.”
Driving primarily west of the Mississippi River, Linda and Richard are both in their late 50s and have been married for 35 years. They were both raised in Colorado but moved to New Mexico to raise their three boys, who are now adults. Richard grew up in a farming family and has always driven trucks or heavy equipment throughout his life. Linda had worked in the world of group health insurance and had become fed up with her career.
“When our youngest boy turned 21, I quit my job and decided to join Richard on the road,” said Linda.
About two years ago, they moved to Mountain Home, Idaho, where they intend to retire.
“This is our calling,” said Linda. “This is what we share with the kids. It’s a profession. It requires being a self-starter, being flexible, and being adaptable. It may not be like being a doctor or lawyer, but it’s just as important. Many if not all of the things in our homes, offices and factories would not be there without truck drivers. Being a truck driver is something to be proud of.”