Did you know there is an event called Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which was observed last month by the transportation industry? Started in 1998, this is the industry’s program to honor the 3.5 million men and women who safely transport nearly 75% of all freight moved across the US.
Most trucking companies plan a week of events for their drivers, including bonuses, gifts, drawings and food. They even make dispatchers talk nicely to them. Major truckstop chains pitch in with promotions, as do some customers. This is all done in an effort to let the trucker know how much they are appreciated.
Over-the-road trucking can be a thankless occupation so their own week is much deserved. In addition to regularly working 70 hours per week, the driver must be constantly aware of road hazards, such as guiding 72’ of machinery around a city like New York or down a snow-covered Donner Pass. There is also the constant threat of 4-wheelers doing something “dangerous” around them. A truck needs 40% more stop time than a car. Did you know that 80% of the car-truck crashes are determined to be the fault of the auto driver? Or that truck accidents have dropped 40% since 2005?
The life can be lonely – long stretches of driving and being away from home. Consider the logistics of something as simple as just finding a shower daily. Think about how your back felt after your last long trip and then consider that truckers do it every day.
A common truism in the transportation industry is termed “hurry up and wait.” With a limited number of daily hours to drive, and scheduled delivery times, there are traffic jams and long lines everywhere - toll booths, shipper’s gates, fuel islands, and even a place to park for the evening. You read that correctly, truckers even have issues finding a safe place to park for the evening.
Here’s something else I bet you didn’t know – the average age of a truck driver is now about 57. And truckers live, on average, 10 years less than the average American. If you think about that, you will understand, there is a problem looming. And it will affect you, as everything you purchase was hauled by a trucker. Somebody has to “drive them old trucks,” and as of now, it certainly isn’t the millennials doing it. By 2024 the shortage is estimated to be around 174,000 drivers.
Some other information about “Truckin’:
Women comprise 6% of the driving force. The first woman trucker was Luella Bates of Wisconsin, who drove from 1918-1922 for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co during WWI. The first woman to earn a commercial driver’s license was Lillie Drennan of Texas in 1929. She and her husband started their own trucking company - she drove for 24 years without an accident!
Alexander Winton invented the first semi-truck-trailer in Cleveland in 1898. Well, technically, he invented a trailer he could hitch to one of his cars. He was a car manufacturer competing with Henry Ford, and needed a vehicle to deliver cars without putting miles on them. His first trailer carried one car.
Kenworth trucks was started in 1912 by Frederick Kent and Edgar Worthington when they bought the Gerlinger Motor Car Company, combined their names and introduced the Kenworth brand in 1923. Peterbilt was named after T.A. Peterman, a lumber industrialist who needed a way to move logs to lumber mills in 1939. Today both brands are owned by the Paccar Company of Renton WA.
By 1914 there were 25,000 trucks on the road. In 1915 registrations shot up to 99,000. By 1920 it had risen to 1,108,000. Roads were so bad or non-existent that trucks were limited to 15 miles per hour and mostly confined to city streets.
The largest trucking company in the world is UPS. The largest tractor-trailer over-the-road trucking company is Swift of Phoenix AZ. One out of every 10 people in the US work in the trucking industry.
Sean Connery, Elvis Presley, Charles Bronson, Chevy Chase, and Rock Hudson all were truckers before they became famous.
Trucking leads the way in environmental friendliness too. Since 1996, exhaust emissions of heavy trucks have plummeted 95 percent. It would take 60 of today’s clean-diesel trucks to generate the exhaust emissions of one truck from 1988!
And here is a mind-blower - the total yearly freight transported by trains can be moved by trucks in just 9 days!
Next time you see a trucker…give ‘em a hug!