Hauling For The Hungry

On a typical day, the students at Diesel Driving Academy practice hauling loads to develop their driving skills and to gain experience on the road. But every holiday season, a few road trips come with a little extra meaning.

Each year, the driving school helps nonprofit organizations in every city in which it has campuses to transport food from its food bank locations to its various branches. The driving schools, which are located in Little Rock, Ark., and Shreveport and Baton Rouge, La., haul all of the loads for free.

“There’s nothing like helping someone who’s hungry,” said Barry Yasuda of Diesel Driving Academy in Little Rock, Ark. “You really think about it this time of year, but it’s a year-round problem. Our effort is really a way to help society and the community. We get everyone involved, from our instructors to our students. They enjoy knowing they are making a difference.”

Yasuda said Diesel Driving Academy has been supporting community food banks for more than 20 years, beginning with a modest effort in Shreveport. In Baton Rouge, the deliveries have been an annual occurrence for about 10 years. The driving school delivers food, clothing and toys during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but has also assisted by hauling other items.

This fall, in Baton Rouge, students helped a local Boy Scout troop deliver popcorn that was sold as a group fundraiser. The driving school has also assisted in recycling efforts, helping transport thousands of pounds of phone books to a recycling plant and moving hundreds of Christmas trees to a conservation area to protect a marsh from erosion.

The Little Rock campus’s effort this year involved a crew of student drivers and instructors taking about 25,000 pounds of food three times a month to Warren, Ark. The drive is about 180 miles round-trip. This one partnership has saved the food bank nearly $12,000 in estimated transportation costs.

“We help out one truck at a time – with three students and an instructor at a time,” Yasuda said.

Aside from the advantages the hauling offers the food banks, there are also benefits to students, Yasuda said.

“Our students learn to get involved, to help others who are less fortunate. They get an understanding that it’s fairly easy to help if you just get involved. There are tons of different ways you can help. We happen to have trucks that can help with hauls. It creates a good feeling about helping. Once you feel it, it makes you want to do it some more.”