Alexandria, Virginia

Barry Eckert, a professional truck driver for Epes Transport System, Inc., of Greensboro, North Carolina, has been named a Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Highway Angel for protecting a young child from harm.

On August 19, 2010, at approx. 12:45 a.m., Eckert was driving along Highway 24, a heavily traveled thoroughfare in Beulaville, North Carolina, when another truck driver flashed his lights, indicating that something was wrong. Almost immediately, Eckert saw a small child on the shoulder of the roadway.

The child was six years old; however, she seemed to have the mental capacity of a three-year old. Laughing and giggling, she was flailing her arms and jumping around in just a t-shirt and underwear. She had slipped out of her grandparents’ home and wandered half a mile away and onto the highway. Her grandparents were still asleep and had no idea that the child – one of eleven that they were watching that night – was missing.

Eckert and the other truck driver used their vehicles to block traffic from coming near the girl. Eckert called 911, while the other truck driver attempted to catch the child. Eventually, they were able to calm her down and get her to stay in one place until the police arrived. A passing pedestrian who knew the child told them the grandparents’ address, and the police took the girl home.

“That busy road was no place for a little girl to be at 12:30/1:00 in the morning,” said Eckert, who has been driving trucks for 22 years. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Officer Brandon Turner of the Beulaville Police Department later wrote to Epes Transport System, praising Eckert for his assistance. “It is with heavy heart to even say that if your driver had not acted quickly, the child very well may have been [struck by a passing vehicle and] killed,” he wrote.

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