By Tommy Neely
Every day, millions of Americans get behind the wheel and head out on the highways to get to work. But for more than 3.5 million Americans, the highways are their workplace. They are the professional truck drivers who deliver the goods that keep our country moving.
Collectively, American truckers drive approximately 300 billion miles each year. That is the equivalent of nearly 13 million trips around the globe or more than 1,700 round trips to the sun. Every one of those miles represents a stocked store shelf, a package placed on a household doorstep, raw materials delivered to a manufacturer, and equipment conveyed to a construction site.
There are countless reasons to thank professional truck drivers, and soon we will be able to officially put the spotlight on them. Beginning this week, we celebrate the 35th annual National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. This year’s theme — Miles of Gratitude — is a nod to the hundreds of billions of miles that professional truck drivers traverse to get things where they need to be on time, safely, and securely every day. The magnitude of our gratitude should match truck drivers’ commitment to their jobs.
The scale and reach of the trucking industry is simply enormous. Truck drivers deliver almost 11.5 billion tons of freight each year, which is about 70% of all the freight moved in the United States. More than 80% of communities depend solely on trucks to receive their goods.
Practically every object that we touch is transported on the back of a truck at some point, and virtually every aspect of our lives is impacted by the work of the professionals who make these deliveries. Without the trucking industry, the country would come to a screeching halt.
A key player in Alabama’s economy, a staggering 86 percent of the state’s communities rely entirely on trucking to provide essential goods, enabling citizens to flourish and a significant 81 percent of Alabama’s manufactured goods are transported by truck, showcasing the industry’s indispensable role.
With over 125,000 Alabamians employed in this sector – equivalent to 1 in every 13 jobs – it’s clear that trucking is not just a business but a lifeline for the state’s prosperity.
Proving the adage that not all heroes wear capes, truck drivers are among the first to answer the call for help in times of trouble. When the global pandemic struck and the world stopped, these hardworking men and women remained behind the wheel to continue making deliveries. When disaster strikes, America turns to the trucking industry, which is the only form of transportation that is nimble enough and has the capacity and capability to quickly bring relief supplies where they are needed most.
Clearly, we owe truck drivers “miles of gratitude” for the work they do and the sacrifices they make to help put food on our tables, keep our homes comfortable, and support our families and jobs. The trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, and professional drivers are the industry’s heart. Their dependability and commitment to safety ensures that our quality of life remains high.
During this National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, we extend our most sincere thanks to America’s professional truck drivers, who move our great country forward and deserve our praise and recognition.
And if you see a truck driver on National Truck Driver Appreciation Week or any week, please take the time to say “thank you.” It is a gesture that goes a long way for drivers who travel a long way for us.
Tommy Neely is president of Ross Neely Systems, Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., and is current Chairman of the Alabama Trucking Association.