TORONTO, Ont. — The Pinkie Truck has completed its journey.
Driver Joanne Mackenzie shared the news with Trucking for a Cure supporters last month, after her pink-clad Peterbilt was handed back to Paccar. Highland Transport — her employer and the fleet that embraced vehicle graphics as a tool in the fight against breast cancer — closed on June 28. The truck’s lease had come to an end.
“We are still running our events each year, and we will continue to drive towards a cancer-free future,” Mackenzie stressed, referring to the broader Trucking for a Cure organization. “The Pinkie Truck truly brought awareness and exposure to this terrible disease for five amazing years and I was honored to be behind the wheel.”
It was an emotional day. Any driver can become attached to a truck, but there’s something special about driving equipment that promotes a charitable cause.
Vehicle graphics like these certainly deliver a message to a wide audience. According to 3M, which supplies vehicle wrap film, a single intra-city truck can generate up to 16 million visual impressions a year. Research for the American Trucking Associations determined that a typical van trailer makes 10 million impressions a year, and up to 14 million impressions when using the reflective films that deliver a visual pop at night.
But charity-related graphics also deliver an underlying message about the fleets that pull them.
“It’s a method to reinforce their culture, to show employees, to show customers, to show the general public that they’re more than a trucking company – that they’re members of the community and giving back,” says Pete Dalmazzi, president of Trucks for Change, an organization that organizes and showcases charitable work by the trucking industry.
Building on the image
The most effective campaigns build on the image itself, he says. “The next level is what they do along with that. When they combine [the vehicle graphics] with events and what I would call employee engagement, then they’re really involving people in that.”
Dalmazzi rattles off a long list of truck fleets that have accomplished this very thing. Motive Media and Apps Transport, for example, joined forces to wrap a truck with “Get Loud” graphics as part of a fundraising campaign to support Toronto’s SickKids hospital. Fleets such as Arnold Bros. and Roseneau Transport wrapped rigs in plaid as part of the Plaid for Dad campaign to fight prostate cancer. Trucking companies raised more than $90,000 for the latter cause in the last year alone. The list goes on.
The rolling billboards certainly attract attention in their own right.
“We’d get people slowing down, and waving at you, and passengers trying to take a picture. You see the shadows of people in the tour buses waving, which is pretty good,” Mackenzie says. Crowds were even known to assemble in truck stops. “I have to remember when opening my curtains to peek out first because tour buses would be parked there, and people would be waving away. It was pretty comical.”
It’s why Mackenzie says it was always important to be a “good girl” when on the highway. If the truck was being noticed, she wanted to ensure it wasn’t remembered for the wrong reasons.
The interactions could be emotional, too. When parked at show ‘n shine events, men would often approach the Pinkie Truck and share stories of mothers and wives who faced their own fights with breast cancer. That’s where the Trucking for a Cure volunteers focused on sharing information. The pink truck could open the door to a conversation, but volunteers still needed to seize on the opportunities to spread details that can make a difference.
Don Smith, a driver with Highlight Motor Group, has been spreading his own cancer-related messages as the founder of Bikers Battling Cancer. And he was in for a surprise when he recently approached his fleet to help support the cause in some way.
“Don has driven for us for four years now, and I know him to be a great employee and a great man. When he approached me to help support his charity, I was more than happy to chip in,” said fleet president Kirk Kalinitchenko. “Everyone at Highlight is a big family and we back each other as best as we can.”
“I was floored,” Smith says, referring the day when Kalinitchenko offered to wrap a new truck in the charity’s messaging. “This gesture brought tears to my eyes because I knew how much awareness this will bring to our cause.”
The charitable vehicle wraps don’t need to be limited to Canada’s largest fleets, either.
Small fleets, big impacts
Mike Murchison of Faith Trucking in Coaldale, Alta., recently decided to wrap his 2013 Great Dane reefer to support Wounded Warriors – a national organization that supports ill and wounded veterans and first responders.
He had never done anything like this before. Graphics were usually limited to the business name. But Murchison reached out to Wounded Warriors’ national director of fundraising in Whitby, Ont. They helped work on the look. Paul Stowick of Great-West Kenworth and his body shop manager, Barry Porter, even repaired some of the road scars marking up the truck itself, to ensure the final image popped. AV Brake in Lethbridge, Alta. added lights underneath, and Calgary’s Industrial Graphics did the rest. Murchison invested $3,200 to complete the project.
It takes a village, as they say.
The tractor-trailer now rolls between Lethbridge and Twin Falls, Idaho, as well as out to Winnipeg and south into North Dakota. And he occasionally pulls the equipment off the revenue routes to ensure the message appears at events like the Canadian Trucking Show in Winnipeg, or at a pancake breakfast hosted by a local member of parliament.
Like Mackenzie and the Pinkie Truck, he uses the attention to open discussions. The truck cab is always stocked with Wounded Warriors marketing collateral.
“I’m only one person, but I’m going to do what I can,” says Murchison. He never had the opportunity to serve in the military for medical reasons, but this way he feels that he is serving in his own way. “At least the graphics on the trailer and my speaking to people would bring awareness to this cause.”
It’s something he shares in common with the larger fleets. There always seems to be a personal connection behind such graphic displays.
Says Dalmazzi: “Those that do it, do it from the heart.”
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