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  • Joseph Sarcona

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week: Honoring America's Unsung Heroes

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

The annual National Truck Driver Appreciation Week was September 12-18, 2021, presenting an important opportunity to thank the nation’s truck drivers for their commitment and hard work.

Truck drivers play a vital role in our day-to-day lives, supporting virtually all our daily activities, from delivering vaccines to ensuring the stores are well stocked in time for Christmas. Over the past 18 months, truck drivers have been crucial in moving the country forward, providing emergency supplies and aid to hurricane victims while transporting millions of tons of PPE, medical equipment, and vaccines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial truck drivers play a vital role in the lives of millions of consumers and business owners throughout the United States. Forming the backbone of the industry, they transport materials and products across the country and beyond. Without our nation’s truck drivers, business owners would not receive the materials they need to make products and run their companies. Every day, truck drivers deliver construction materials, fresh produce, and a plethora of other essential items to locations across the United States.

In a globalized economy, businesses are connecting across increasingly wide distances. The trucking industry drives the success of the American economy—every business relies on truck drivers to deliver the supplies and equipment they need to function.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week took on a special significance this year in light of the crucial role that truckers have played throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, going out every day while many of us were under quarantine. From “I Heart Truck” signs on the highways to children passing out lunches, the public has taken even more notice of the vital role truck drivers play in our lives.

The trucking industry transported more than 11.8 billion tons of freight in 2019 alone, distributing goods valued at circa $772 billion. In fact, 68 percent of goods transported between Canada and the United States that year were transported by truck. Today, there are 3.6 million truck drivers in America.

With 70 percent of consumables transported via US highways, America’s transportation industry is crucial to the economy. Without truck drivers, the nation would soon run out of basic supplies such as food and fuel and grind to a standstill.

However, the American Trucking Associations reports a shortfall in truck drivers, warning that the industry will need to recruit approximately 1.1 million new truck drivers over the next 10 years to keep pace with current industry demand. In fact, the trucking industry has struggled to recruit enough drivers for more than a decade. With the average professional truck driver aged 55, there are not enough recruits coming into the sector to repopulate an aging workforce.

Women account for more than 50 percent of the total US population, but with outdated stereotypes still pervading, few are attracted to the transport industry. Just 6.7 percent of the trucking industry is made up of women. A common misconception is that truck driving is a physically demanding occupation, but upgrades to equipment and industrywide changes have made truck driving a highly inclusive occupation.

In the United Kingdom, truck driver shortages are becoming a significant problem, taking a heavy toll on the economy and impacting people’s daily lives as empty shelves become an increasingly frequent sight in grocery stores. A combination of Brexit, fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasing discontent within the industry has culminated in a drastic deficit in drivers.

With a minimum working week of 45 hours and antisocial shift patterns, just 27 percent of British truck drivers earned more than the median pay of a shop cashier, according to a poll conducted in 2020. Given the long, unpredictable hours and responsibility involved, UK truck drivers have been leaving the industry in droves. In the UK, the shortfall in truck drivers has resulted in serious failures in supply chains, with fresh produce rotting in the fields while shoppers face row upon row of empty shelves.

Supermarket chains have repeatedly lobbied for government intervention, citing a lack of foreign workers following Brexit as a significant obstacle, but, to date, the government has failed to intervene.

In the United States, the average truck driver covers almost 100,000 miles every year, equating to almost 40 trips across the United States annually. Founded in 1998 by the American Trucking Associations, National Truck Drivers Appreciation Week is an important opportunity for all of us to express our gratitude to truck drivers everywhere.

With more than 80 percent of US communities relying exclusively on truck drivers to transport commodities and goods, the event is a celebration of the trucking industry and an acknowledgment of the sacrifices of these frontline heroes. American Trucking Associations chair Sherri Garner Brumbaugh called on Americans everywhere to join her in honoring truck drivers, celebrating the vital contribution they make, both to the national economy and all our lives.

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