We’ve all been there. Running late and seeing the cars in front of us slow down, or perhaps on the highway headed out on vacation and turning off the cruise control because the red brake lights of traffic are shining bright. We credit our misfortune to an 18-wheeler up ahead, who is keeping it just under the posted speed limit or is trying to make a sweeping right turn.
This truck is big – which can be intimidating – but more to the point, it is slowing you down by a few seconds and keeping you from your destination. Taking a moment to roll down your window to say “Thank you,” to the driver probably isn’t the first thing on your mind, but perhaps it should be.
Inside the cab of that truck is a professional truck driver – one of 3.5 million men and women, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors who collectively drive upwards of half a trillion miles each year. Their long hauls and hours on the road and away from family keep our homes, hospitals, schools, and stores stocked with the products that make life possible. In fact, trucking is the only industry that can say it directly ships to every community in America.
I mention this because this week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week – making it the perfect time to thank that driver and his or her millions of colleagues on the road.
Without them, the country would stop in its tracks. But because they’re committed, seven days a week, to safely moving America forward, the freight keeps rolling. It’s the reason they deserve our honor and acknowledgement. And it’s why – for the second year in a row – our industry group, Trucking Moves America Forward, is proud to celebrate NTDAW.
It’s our hope that folks outside of the industry and in communities all across America take the time this week to celebrate and thank all professional truck drivers for their hard work and commitment. They deserve our gratitude not only for moving America’s economy forward – delivering more than 80 percent of our nation’s goods directly to your homes, schools and businesses – but also for doing so safely.
This priority on safety spans all facets of the job, from drivers’ own safety on the road, to safe deliveries and, of course, the safety of fellow motorists on the road. You may be surprised to learn that the industry invests $9.5 billion each year in safety. Where is that investment going? More than a third, or 36 percent, has gone into driver safety training, a quarter has gone into compliance with safety rules, another quarter has gone into on-board safety technologies and 13 percent has gone toward awards and bonus pay for improved safety performances.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that trucks have a crash rate that is 28 percent lower than other vehicles’ and the fatal crash rate has fallen 74 percent since 1973.
So, the next time you see that big truck out on the road, we hope that instead of seeing an obstacle delaying your commute, you see a hardworking American tackling one of our economy’s most demanding and important jobs – and doing it the right way. Don’t be afraid to say thank you – you might just get a friendly honk of the truck horn in return.
Kevin Burch is the co-chairman of Trucking Moves America Forward, first vice chairman of American Trucking Associations and president of Ohio-based Jet Express.