There are more than 3.5 million professional truck drivers, men and women, who get behind the wheel every day with safety first and foremost on their minds. These hard-working professionals deliver America’s food, fuel, medicine, clothing — every item in your home or office — safely and efficiently each day.
They are moms and dads who might miss a soccer game every now and then, but understand that an honest day’s work takes sacrifice and that providing for their families is an American pastime. They are middle-class, down-to-earth people who kick back to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July, look forward to grabbing a good meal at the truck stop, and sometimes leave burgers on the grill a little too long. They are your next door neighbor, your kid’s little league coach or the deacon in your church.
The country’s backbone
The trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, and our professional drivers are the industry’s heart. It represents 1 in 16 jobs in the United States. Trucking is the top job in 29 states and moves 70 percent of the domestic freight.
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.
Annually, the trucking industry invests over $9.5 billion in safety. These investments include safety technologies, safety training, driver incentive pay, and compliance with safety regulations.
Today, a driver slips behind the wheel of a true engineering marvel — complete with devices and design elements intended to keep the truck, its driver and cargo moving safely and efficiently. However, the most important piece of technology in the cab is — and will be for quite some time — the professional truck driver.
These professionals have to deal with an ever more challenging work environment: highways that are increasingly clogged with traffic and that are no longer adequate for a 21st century economy. These professionals are also 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.
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.
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.
The next time you head to the store and see the variety of products that are available on the shelves, think about the professional drivers that got them there. When you’re in your home or office, look around and realize all those items were at some point in the back of a truck before they got to where they are. When you’re out to dinner, think about the meal you’re about to eat and how the ingredients were very recently delivered by truck.
Take a moment to be thankful for the efforts of America’s truck drivers and recognize that without them, your table, your closet and the store would all be empty.
Our trucks, and truck drivers, truly do move America forward.