A product manager at telematics systems provider Omnitracs, Ken Yeomans expresses a sentiment in this guest column that will many in the industry no doubt will agree with: truck drivers and the tireless work the perform day in and day out is largely taken for granted by American society. And that view, he feels, must change.
Years ago, there were bumper stickers in support of America’s farmers that said something like “Don’t complain about food prices with your mouth full.”
Today, much the same thing could be said about America’s truck drivers—only the subject wouldn’t be limited to food but to the delivery of electronics, clothing, household supplies, cars, furniture, machinery … and, well, just about everything else.
In fact, that’s why this week America is celebrating the 30th annual National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Now, we in the industry would be fooling ourselves to think that every other motorist we share the roads with this week, will be aware that this is the week set aside to say thank you to the 3.5 million men and women who drive everything from local delivery vans and service trucks to the biggest of big rigs as part of the $726 billion-a-year trucking industry.
Many big gas stations, truck stops, travel centers, trucking service companies and even restaurants are joining the party this year. Some are offering discounted or free on merchandise popular with truckers, discounted or free food and drink, or bonus frequent customer points worth millions of dollars in services, products or parts.
Don’t be surprised when you walk into a big truck stop to be greeted with extra enthusiasm, party whistles or even confetti tossed in the air by the checkout clerk. Some stops are decorating their entries with balloons, streamers and signs in honor of drivers.
Recent events have put a spotlight on the driving profession, and Americans are increasingly becoming more aware of just how important a job driving trucks really is.
Sadly, Hurricane Harvey – which recently tore through the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast region and left an astounding four-feet or more of rain water in its path – as well as Hurricane Irma, which delivered a wallop to the state of Florida, serve as strong reminders of just how important truck drivers are to both the national economy and to every family’s existence.
You probably know the statistics pretty well:
- Some 80% or more of all U.S. communities are totally dependent on truckers bringing them the food and other products they need.
- The other nearly 20% of U.S. communities are still largely dependent on truckers for food and other products and nearly 100% dependent on professional drivers bringing those products to stores in their neighborhoods.
- More than seven million people are directly or indirectly employed by the trucking industry, meaning that for every truck driver there’s at least one more person working behind the scenes in this economically critical industry.
- Nearly 100% of all products brought into our homes or workplaces travel at least part of the way on a truck or van driven by a professional driver. Even products that arrive by ship or air have to be moved to the warehouse, the retail store or to individuals’ homes somehow.
In short, truckers are involved in every aspect of the American family’s life.
They bring relief supplies after natural disasters, make sure the freshest food in the world reaches our supermarkets and dining tables in great condition, bring life-saving and life-enhancing healthcare supplies and devices to the ill among us, make it possible for us to fill up our personal vehicles with fuel, and haul the products we produce to market and bring the raw materials we require to produce them back to us.
What’s not as widely recognized is that today’s professional drivers do their jobs under arguably the toughest conditions ever.
Roads and highways are most crowded they’ve ever been. Just-in-time logistics systems and the rapidly changing demands of today’s pressurized and lightning-fast retail environment, along with the intense focus on keeping transportation costs under control, have added pressure to an already physically and mentally demanding job.
And tougher regulations covering everything from a truck’s operating condition to the driver’s own health and wellness are demanding ever-higher levels of professionalism among drivers, both while they’re on duty and off.
So it’s more than appropriate for America to dedicate this week to saying thanks to the great men and women who are dedicated to moving us all forward.
Have a great and safe National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, everyone.