Line One
Dashboard Confidential
No good deed goes unpunished

By Dave Sweetman


Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember truck drivers being referred to as “knights of the road.” When the damsel in distress with a flat tire or other car troubles would appear on the horizon, a good guy in a semi would stop to assist. If a senior citizen were on the roadside with the hood up, a goodhearted trucker would come to the rescue. It was part of the unwritten code that was instilled in many of us.

These many years later, much has changed in the world and most of it not for the better. We need to be more wary of potential threats of hijackings or robbery; therefore, many drivers will not stop. Some companies forbid drivers from stopping, because of potential lawsuits or the possibility of being involved in an accident. The world gets colder every day out of fear of lawyers. Understandable, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I try not to be one of those. I have changed more flat tires for stranded folks than I can remember and have never taken a dime in payment. Instead, I will remind them that the next time they talk about truck drivers, try to say something nice. Maybe it works.

Like the other week, as I was strolling across Texas on I-20 near Abilene, drivers on the CB radio were talking about a Grandma and a young girl holding a baby standing by a disabled car. I rolled to a stop and hit the four-way flashers.

Grandma said they were on their way to visit family and that Grandpa was supposed to have checked all the fluids the night before the trip. Grandma said there was a bad noise coming from the engine, so they stopped and shut off the engine but had no idea what to check.

I pulled the oil dipstick, and it was bone-dry. I then walked back to my truck and got two spare jugs of oil from the side box. Adding one jug, I checked the dipstick and added the second, bringing the oil level to the full mark. I checked the coolant level and it was down a bit, so I topped it off with a little 50/50 mix. Turning the key, the car started up with a very bad rattle that quickly calmed down. Grandma lucked out. I checked for leaks and all was well. Tough little motors, those Fords.

Then the police car showed up. The officer got out and asked Grandma if she had been hit by the truck. Nice. I try to be a good guy and get accused. Grandma explained the situation. The young girl and the baby were in the air- conditioned car, out of the Texas sun.

I said nothing and picked up my empty oil jugs. I wouldn’t want a ticket for littering. I left without fanfare or thanks. Still, I had to shake my head.

A few days later, rolling across PA on I-80, I heard another call for help on the radio: a senior citizen couple in a car with a flat and a jack that did not work. A state trooper was parked behind them trying to assist, but the jack was being a problem. Not a problem, as I carry a compact scissor jack.

I made quick work of changing the tire and made a few friends for the trucking industry in the process. The trooper was polite and friendly and thanked me for stopping. The folks in the car offered to pay me, but I respectfully declined and invoked my cliché of “Next time you talk about truckers ...”

There are times when we can help and other times when the safest thing is to make a cell phone call to alert the police when a motorist has a problem. I won’t do anything to put anyone in danger or run the risk of being robbed or worse, but doing something is better than doing nothing.

Common sense is the key. If it were my wife or mother in a jam, I would hope someone decent would do the right thing. Not all of the Knights of the Road are gone, and I salute those of you who are still around. LL


Dave Sweetman can be reached at