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Truckers honored as Highway Angels for feeding snowbound drivers

Virginia driver also rewarded by major US food company

(Photo: TCA, Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently named truck driver Jean-Carlo Gachet, from Chester, Virginia, a Highway Angel for offering a hot breakfast to stranded motorists. Canadian driver Matthew Marchand was also recognized for aiding stuck motorists.

Both were honored in connection with a standstill on Interstate 95 following a snowstorm.

Gachet, a corporal in the Marine Corps Reserves, was one of hundreds of drivers who got stuck on Jan. 4 when a 50-mile stretch of the road was closed. Accidents involving tractor-trailers and cars started the backup.

Gachet, who drives for Abilene Motor Express, came upon the traffic snarl near Stafford, Virginia, around 1 a.m. ET while attempting to make a delivery from Rhode Island to Savannah, Georgia. He was concerned for the passengers in a car near him.

“Truckers are ready for a week to a month at a time on the road, so we have plenty of resources,” Gachet told TCA. “No car was ready for that situation — some were stuck for [more] than 24 hours.”

Related: Public invited to vote for TCA’s Highway Angel of the Year

After sitting for about seven hours, Gachet heated up a Jimmy Dean bacon, egg and cheese breakfast bowl in his microwave, poured a cup of fruit punch and walked to the car to deliver the hot breakfast. The man and his elderly mother had been stuck there as long as Gachet had been.

“They were shocked and really thankful for the meal and the cup of juice that I offered them,” Gachet recalled.

He wasn’t expecting to be on the road too long for this particular trip. He had just a three-day supply of food in his rig but wanted to give all he could. Gachet told FreightWaves that he’s a naturally giving person, but he also wanted to help because he felt it was simply the right thing to do and because he considered it part of his duty as a truck driver.

“I try to help in any situation that I can,” Gachet added.

His experience in the Marine Corps Reserves also guided him.

“We’re trained so we can help out people in any case, so it played a role,” Gachet said.

Gachet has been an over-the-road driver for just a short time  — since September 2020 — and has been with Abilene since May 2021.

About 30 minutes after Gachet gave the people their meal, traffic finally started moving, but not before he shot the event on his smartphone and tweeted it. The video received an overwhelming reaction. Within hours, national and worldwide media outlets picked up the story, and Jimmy Dean Foods chimed in. The company reached out to Gachet, offering him free food and making a charitable donation in his name.

Jimmy Dean Foods tweeted: “This kindly act warmed our boots! Thanks for helping out your neighbor, Jean-Carlo. Since you gave breakfast to those in need, we’re giving you a year’s supply of Jimmy Dean breakfast and will #payitforward by giving 100K breakfasts to @FeedingAmerica in your name!”

Related: Truckers who died helping accident victims named Highway Angels

Another trucker, Matthew Marchand, was also named a Highway Angel for helping during the I-95 gridlock. While trapped for more than 13 hours, Marchand, who drives for Ontario, Canada-based Premier Bulk Systems, gave people water and blankets, as well as jump-starting vehicles. He was traveling from Montreal to Florida on that trip but only drove a fraction of his usual mileage that day. Even before the traffic standstill, he had dug four people’s cars out of snowdrifts earlier that day.

TCA has presented Gachet and Marchand each with a certificate, patches, lapel pin and truck decals. In addition, TCA gave their employers letters acknowledging their drivers as Highway Angels.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy and courage they have displayed while on the job.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.