Move over Rudolph, Santa’s driving a FedEx truck this year!
Moore Township resident Justin Walker may be missing the pointy ears and short stature of the elves at the North Pole, but he is undeniably one of Santa’s biggest helpers. Not only does his annual toy drive spark Christmas spirit in the area, but it also helps gather thousands of donations every year for less fortunate children.
By day, Justin is a linehaul driver for FedEx Freight, moving bulk freight with twin trailers between terminals. Knowing that an office job wasn’t for him, he started out as a truck driver in 1997 at American Freightways and has loved his job ever since.
When FedEx Freight bought the company he worked for, he accepted a position with FedEx and has now been working as a linehaul driver for the last 26 years.
“It’s provided my family with a very good life,” Justin shares.
Every day, he gets up at 4 a.m., arrives at the hub at 5:30 a.m., hooks up the trailers he’s assigned for the day, and drives the five-hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio to meet with a driver coming from Indiana where they drop and exchange their sets. Then, around 12:30 p.m., he drives another five hours as he heads back to the hub.
Justin explains that his job as a linehaul driver is very fast paced with only a seven-minute window of time between when he has to get back on the road, so that he doesn’t miss his gate time, which comes with extra reports he must fill out if he’s not back at a certain time.
What the general public doesn’t know about this line of work is that the trucks are governed and there are laws in place that mandate the speed of trucks, making it a very overregulated industry for safety measures, which is why Justin suggests people have more patience with truckers in order to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.
Although his job can be stressful with long hours and five or six-day work weeks, Justin admits that he also likes the pressure. However, the long hours have unfortunately prohibited him from being readily there for his family and loved ones over the years, which is his least favorite part of the job.
On the other hand, Justin’s sacrifices have provided him with a lucrative career, and he is thankful that it allowed his wife to stay home to raise their two sons for as long as she liked before recently deciding to go back to work now that their boys are older.
One of the other perks of being a driver is that Justin gets to talk to his best friend for hours every day since they are both truck drivers at FedEx Freight and started out just a month apart from each other some 24 years ago.
“Surprisingly, we never run out of things to talk about,” Justin jokes.
Being a linehaul driver can also be challenging during inclement weather, which requires him to be aware of sight distance, temperatures and road conditions, although by now, he is a seasoned professional.
In fact, Justin’s professionalism earned him his second presidential safety award from FedEx Freight during his 20th year with the company for driving over 2.5 million miles with no accidents or scratches, which he is deservingly proud of.
Then, eight years ago, he decided that he wanted to do something to give back.
“I love kids and I wanted to find a way to give back and help kids,” Justin explains.
He contacted his boss at FedEx and asked to use a trailer to collect toys for kids through Toys for Tots in Allentown. With his boss’ approval, he began setting the trailer up at Klecknersville Rangers Volunteer Fire Company on Sundays, and although he didn’t think this would become something he set up annually, his operation is now approaching 10,000 toys that have been accumulated from donations over the years for Toys for Tots.
Once Justin learned more about the organization after his trips to the Toys for Tots warehouse and seeing just how big the operation actually is, he realized that there are volunteers tasked with sorting through and categorizing thousands of toys that come in from a large portion of the Lehigh Valley every day.
“They have to sort everything, so I decided I would help them out by sorting the donations myself. There are thousands of toys coming in that would’ve taken hours to sort, so I make it easier by sorting and keeping track of the toys as they come in, which helps out the people at the warehouse,” Justin adds.
Over the years, Justin has turned the operation into a family affair with help from his wife and sons.
“It allows us to spend more time together and helps teach my boys about giving back. I’m really proud of how involved they have become and how excited they get to help out,” Justin beams.
It is certainly clear how much this cause means to Justin, and this year alone, he has received over 1,000 donations already, which he is extremely grateful for. And while the operation grows every year, Justin explains that the past few years have taken a hit due to the economy, which is why he believes it is more important than ever for people to donate toys to less fortunate children.
Toys for Tots is always low on toys for girls aged 0 to 2, and Justin’s Facebook page “Unofficial: Toys for Tots” provides updates on what categories he hasn’t received much of to help bolster donations. Those interested in donating can bring new and unwrapped toys to the Klecknersville Rangers Vol. Fire Co. on Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon, so that just like the Grinch, your heart, too, can grow three sizes as the spirit of giving shows you just how magical Christmas can truly be.