Ever since then Lieutenant Dwight D. Eisenhower lead a convoy of early trucks across the United States in 1919, the role of the American truck driver has been cemented in our culture, history and economy. Because of the importance truckers play almost a century after that famous cross country trip, the American Trucking Associations celebrates National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.As part of this well deserved celebration, Shell Rotella is launching an all new season of the hit CarbonTV original, “Roadworthy”. In the show, viewers will meet and ride along with truckers around the United States who have a strong desire to give back.
Even before the invention of the automobile, a special breed of people had been working hauling freight and cargo. These teamsters created a unique culture around their work, and became indispensable for the growth of a modern, industrial capitalist society. The rise of the automobile gave birth to a new breed of worker- the trucker.
Early motor trucks were little more than stout short haul delivery vehicles, but as the technology improved, so did the range and power of these trucks. Eisenhower proved that even with horrible, barely improved roads, that trucks could literally go the distance, and gave reason to build early interstate highway systems, and later the modern freeway system.
Today, the truck driver has become a unique sort of individual. Sometimes able to go home each night, and driving company vehicles, or sometimes being a uniquely American mix of business owner, driver and general purpose mechanic, truck drivers are quite literally the lifeblood of America.
Truck drivers are indispensable to the American economy. They move 71 percent of all freight by weight within the US and are part of a massive seven hundred billion plus dollar freight industry. The value, and contribution of the truck driver to the economy cannot be understated. In addition to the freight moved, truck drivers further “drive” the economy through the purchase of fuel, and the huge industry that exists to build and support trucking. The trickle down impact of the trucking industry and truck drivers is enormous, and without them, the United States would likely face ruin.
Truck driving is one of the last remaining blue collar jobs that does not require advanced education to succeed at. In fact, the median average wage for a truck driver for private fleets is $73,000 per year, while the median average of all truck driving jobs is about $40,000 per year- not bad money for a job that doesn’t require a college education, or even many jobs that do.
We can see how important trucking and truck drivers are to the nation’s economy. But driving a truck is simply more than being a cog in a giant, important machine. Truck driving is a way of life with a culture of independence and freedom that dates back to the days of teamsters driving freight wagons across the mountains and prairies. While the modern truck driver might operate a vehicle with luxuries like air conditioning, instant wireless communication, and even comfortable sleeping quarters where needed, other dedicated truckers work in uncomfortable vehicles, or struggle along with older trucks that they are trying to pay off, in hopes of achieving the American Dream. It is easy to get lost in the glamour of the highest paying trucking jobs, with the newest, most comfortable rigs, but we cannot forget the many American truckers who go to work every day in all manner of vehicles.
We should not forget the many sacrifices truckers make for this nation either. Long haul truckers are away from home and family for days and sometimes weeks on end, driving a seemingly endless loop across the country, hauling one load, picking another up, and dropping it somewhere else, before maybe getting to go home for a few days.
Truck drivers operate in all manner of weather and road conditions. While most of us only have to put up with a short commute, truck drivers travel hundreds of miles a day, regardless of the rain, or snow, bitter cold temperatures, or blasting heat. For these reasons, and hundreds more, we should remember the often maligned truck driver, and show them just how important they are to our way of life. It is easy to get disgruntled at a truck seemingly slowing down freeway traffic, or be bitter over a late package delivery, but behind that sort of inconvenience, is a complex world that works half on science, and half on luck, and is propelled by individual men and women all of whom have to adapt and work with what cards they are dealt.
This week, remember the American truck driver. Remember their sacrifices of time and distance from home and family. Remember the ones who have died on the job trying to bring the wealth of our nation to market, and remember that without them, we would not enjoy the life we now have.