Central Oregon Truck Company recently drove the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, “The People’s Tree,” across the country. SmartDrive had the opportunity to speak with three people who drove the new Kenworth 990: Rick Williams, CEO; Phil Taylor, VP of Maintenance and Brad Aimone, Director, Driver Safety and Services. Many of the comments in this blog post are not attributed to any one person as they express the sentiments of everyone involved in this humbling experience. Congratulations, Central Oregon!
When we were asked to drive the Capitol Christmas Tree across America, we thought, “How big a deal could this be?” Wow, were we ever wrong!
The honor to drive the Capitol Christmas Tree from town to town – with final delivery at the foot of the U.S. Capitol – far exceeded our expectations. We dramatically underestimated the impact this tree has across our great country. It connected people from all walks of life and broke down all barriers – political, social and religious. All of us have driven across our country many times, but never like this. As a result of this journey, we now have a renewed understanding of how amazing America is.
First, the quick facts: This was a team effort – everyone at Central Oregon was involved in ensuring the People’s Tree was transported and delivered safely starting with loading the tree in the Willamette National Forest (see infographic below). From November 2 to November 26, we drove 3,620 miles, made 30 stops and met thousands of people along the way. An additional 10 drivers joined us to drive the tree into each town as we continued our journey. From small towns to big cities, the tree received a hero’s welcome – as did we .
- As we drove down the highway, a gentleman passed us and pulled over to the side of the road. He waited for us to catch up, got out of his vehicle and saluted the tree. When we learned he was a veteran, it hit us how much this tree means to America.
- We met one young boy in Scotts Bluff, NE. Several stops later, his aunt and uncle drove many miles to visit with us in Nebraska City simply to let us know the impact we, the tree and the truck had on their young nephew. Another revealing moment about how important this tree is – to Americans of all ages.
- On the other end of the age spectrum, we’ll never forget the 104-year-old woman who insisted on getting a photograph! Wherever we parked, people wanted pictures in, and around, the truck. It was obvious that the truck represented America to so many people in so many towns across our great country.
- I’ve trucked through Oakridge, OR many times but never really “saw” the city. When we pulled in on Veteran’s Day, the streets were packed. People couldn’t wait to sign the banner lining the truck and thank our company for transporting the tree across the country.
- We drove into Bend, OR at night; the town lights lit up the area. We were thrilled to learn that 7,000 people attended the town event the next day – one of the largest events the town had ever experienced.
- It’s hard to explain the feeling when we drove up to the U.S. Capitol early in the morning, stepped out of the truck and saw the Capitol lit up behind us … “by dawn’s early light.” As they took the tree off the truck and moved it in to place, we felt great pride knowing that Central Oregon had safely delivered the People’s Tree to its final place.
This final point brought it home to us … this is what Central Oregon does everyday: Safely deliver a product to an end user in perfect condition.
Safety is our life. We’re not in this industry to damage property or injure/kill anyone. Everything we do is geared around safety. We know accidents happen. But, when an accident happens, we don’t want to have to rely on someone’s observations or recollections. We want to know the whole story. Because of this, we’ll continue to use technology to create the safest fleet in America. If there was one silver bullet that could guarantee no accidents, we’d have it. But, it doesn’t exist. It’s a combination of many technologies, strategies and processes that create a safe working environment.
SmartDrive is proud of customers, like Central Oregon, who take safety so seriously and put in the effort to deliver goods across America. Having worked with Central Oregon for nearly three years, we know how seriously they take safety, how well they treat their drivers and how much they deserved this honor. Congratulations to the entire Central Oregon family and we wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.