Friday, March 27, 2015

OOIDA Member Matt Slovack named Trucker Buddy ambassador of the year

An OOIDA member who helped expand the Trucker Buddy program beyond the classroom has been named the organization’s ambassador of the year.

Matt Slovack of Colona, Ill., was named the Darrell Hicks Memorial Ambassador of the Year on Friday, March 27, during the Mid-America Trucking Show.

“It’s a huge blessing beyond my belief,” Slovack said in an interview with “Land Line Now” Host Mark Reddig, who is a member of the Trucker Buddy Board of Directors.

“The biggest reward is seeing the kids smile and learn stuff about our industry and see us in a positive light instead of the negative light that some people see us in,” Slovack said.

Slovack, who drives for Don Hummer Trucking, reached out to the Boy Scouts of America to expand the Trucker Buddy mission of educating students about trucks and safety.

OOIDA Member Matt Slovack, center, is Trucker Buddy's  
Darrell Hicks Memorial Ambassador of the Year. Pictured with 
Trucker Buddy Executive Director Randy Schwartzenburg, left, 
and Trucker Buddy President KC Brau, right. (Submitted photo)
Slovak got involved with Boy Scouts as a youth. Later, when he became a truck driver and discovered the Scouts had a Truck Transportation merit badge, he decided to become a merit badge counselor. He has brought local Scout troops to truck shows to work on getting their merit badges.

“We got the word out to the local Boy Scout councils, and the first class I ever did was about 75 Boy Scouts. They checked out the museum, the truck stop, got educated on the industry itself. It was a great time, and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Slovack said.

To get the badge, Scouts must complete a long list and understand how trucking “works,” he said.

Trucker Buddy International Executive Director Randy Schwartzenburg says the goal of getting the Boy Scouts involved is to help improve the image of trucking among the general public.

“Getting the Boy Scouts in here to get their Truck Transportation merit badge and their Traffic Safety merit badge is really important to the industry,” Schwartzenburg said.

The Darrell Hicks Memorial Ambassador of the Year Award is named after “Uncle Darrell” Hicks, a very well-known personality among truckers and the Trucker Buddy program. He was a lifetime member of OOIDA who began his 50-year career in trucking as a driver. When he retired in 2007, he was involved in the business side of the industry, traveling for years as an employee of Penray. Uncle Darrell passed away in July 2012.

“Darrell Hicks was an awesome, awesome person,” Schwartzenburg said. “We wanted to honor his work with Trucker Buddy so we named our Ambassador of the Year Award after him.”

Trucker Buddy continues to reach out in new ways to expand its mission.

“I think we can continue to encourage our individual trucker buddies to go to the local scouting councils in their hometowns and say, ‘I have a truck; use me,’ ” he said. “So the trucker doesn’t have to teach the merit badge. A scout leader can do that, but they can use his truck and him to help teach that award. Same with traffic safety and other awards.”

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