Opinion: One Week Isn’t Enough to Honor Drivers | Transport Topics Online | Trucking, Freight Transportation and Logistics News
In thinking about what I wanted to say to mark National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, I kept coming back to one thought: One week is not enough. One week is not enough to recognize all that these hardworking professionals do for our industry and our country. They truly are moving America forward by delivering the things that make our quality of life possible. One week is not enough to thank and appreciate the 3.4 million men and women who get behind the wheel every day with safety first and foremost on their minds. Safety is an important part of what it means to be a professional truck driver — and millions of drivers hold that responsibility sacred, and their efforts are paying off. Today, trucking is much safer than it was a decade ago — and is virtually unrecognizable compared with the image of the outlaw, renegade industry portrayed in the media in the 1970s and ’80s. One week is not enough to talk about the advances in technology and training and professionalism that have led to an approximately 30% drop in truck-involved crashes over the past 10 years — and it is not enough to talk about safety improvements to come. Today’s driver slips behind the wheel of a true engineering marvel — replete with all manner of devices and design elements intended to keep the truck, its driver and its cargo moving safely and efficiently. However, the most important piece of technology in the cab is — and will be for some time — the driver. These professionals have to deal with an ever more challenging work environment: highways that are increasingly clogged with traffic and that no longer are adequate for a 21st-century economy. These professionals also are increasingly sharing the road with aggressive and distracted drivers — who in our current, fast-paced world are putting safety in the back seat to get to their destinations faster while trying to multitask on their cellphones.
Professional truck drivers see these dangerous behaviors every day, yet they continue to improve their safety record even as they move more and more of the nation’s goods. So, truly, one week is not enough to highlight their importance. Yet, we should at least take this week, Sept. 13-19, to appreciate just what these men and women sacrifice for our industry and our economy. They give up time with their families, nights of sleep in their own beds and the trappings of home to deliver the medicine to our hospitals, the food to our restaurants and the clothes to our stores. The cost of our quality of life is often missed ballgames and recitals and a family who misses their mom or dad. So, we should remember and thank those families as well for their sacrifice. I’m often asked about the shortage of drivers in our industry, and I reply that driving a truck isn’t for everybody. And while this is true, for many millions of Americans it isn’t just a job, it is a career and a gateway to a middle-class lifestyle for themselves and their families. Driving a truck pays more than the national median wage, according to a report by the departments of Education, Labor and Transportation. That same report highlights why we need to appreciate our drivers, not just this week but all the time. More than half of the current pool of drivers are older than 45, and it is believed there will be nearly 1.2 million job openings for truck drivers between 2012 and 2022. We need to show our appreciation to these tremendous professionals, not only to keep those already in our industry behind the wheel but to attract new and enthusiastic drivers to trucking. How do we show our appreciation? This week, carriers and shippers and service providers alike will be taking time out to thank their drivers, holding cookouts and other celebrations of their efforts. But we all can do our part. A friendly wave, giving that truck on the road a wide berth as you share the highway and even pausing a moment to think about how the back-to-school items you’ve recently purchased got from where they were made to the shelf of your local store. These are gestures that should be appreciated, not just this week but every week. One week is not enough to recognize all that these men and women do, but it’s what we have this week. So please, take a few moments to thank your drivers — and all drivers. American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade federation for the trucking industry, has headquarters in Arlington, Va., and affiliated associations in every state. ATA owns Transport Topics.
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