Carriers finding ways to recognize their drivers’ work in this age of COVID-19; general public plays a role, too
By Al Muskewitz
National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is underway in earnest and while the COVID-19 restrictions have muted what is normally a spirited celebration of drivers nationwide trucking companies across the country are still doing things to recognize what one driver called “the circulatory system of our country.”
But this year the usual large gatherings that have been associated with NTDAW have been replaced with tributes, giveaways and contests being done remotely. Such are the times.
Still, it remains important for companies to recognize the efforts of the lifeblood of an industry that keeps the America rolling.
“The critical impact and service of the professional men and women behind the wheel who drive our economy forward every day can never be underestimated,” American Trucking Associations president and CEO Chris Spear said. “(NTDAW) provides a chance for America to honor and thank these national heroes, let them know how much we appreciate them, and tell their remarkable story.”
Driver appreciation is a two-way street. The general public can take an active role as well.
The public cheered when truckers, showing what ATA chairman Randy Guillot called “unprecedented bravery, perseverance and dedication to our country,” pulled their big rigs into their favorite stores to deliver essential goods that were missing or lagging at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. They thanked them by providing meals and services to reduce the hardships they faced during the toughest of times. But there’s a lot more that can be done year-round.
“The stereotypes for who a driver is these days is just inaccurate,” said Kellylynn McLaughlin, a driver/driver trainer for Schneider and an ambassador for Women In Trucking. “We could change our rate of turnover if we worked on changing the perception of who a driver is and what our role is in our economy. Maybe COVID is bringing a little bit more limelight to drivers, but I just feel like they’re not well-respected even though it is a really important job, it’s essential, it’s a dangerous job.
“It’s a legit professional industry. We cannot continue our country without it. I think of it often as we are the circulatory system of our country. You don’t really think about the blood pumping through your veins until it’s coming out.
“The way they could really thank drivers is by driving safely around them when we’re out doing our job. They could thank us by inviting us back into their communities instead of kind of pushing driver parking out into the country where there’s nothing around. And by paying drivers a real living wage.”
Here are some things being done within the industry to show appreciation to drivers this week. Virtually every company has produced a message of appreciation on their social media platforms.
The Alabama Trucking Association kicked off the week with the state’s Truck Driver of the Year, Rosko Craig of Montgomery Transport, and other industry leaders, including Montgomery Transport president Rollins Montgomery, participating in a commendation ceremony with Gov. Kay Ivey at the State Capitol.
Craig, who had more than 3 million safe miles under his wheels, pulled his big rig up to the Capitol steps and signaled his arrival with a blast from the truck’s horn, much to the delight of Ivey and the onlookers.
“Rosko certainly has a positive attitude and proven track record over his 20-plus-year trucking career,” Ivey said. “Our hats go off to Rosko and all our truckers who keep Alabama moving.”
“Professional truck drivers are the backbone of our industry and the cavalry of the America economy,” Alabama Trucking Association president Mark Colson said. “Crisis or Christmas, Alabama truckers deliver the goods.”
Averitt Express is offering prizes drawings for truck tech, gift cards, personal electronics and more. In addition, five OTR drivers will be drawn to be assigned a brand-new Freightliner truck.
“This year has presented very unique challenges and I’m incredibly proud of how our team has reacted, adapted and persevered,” Averitt chairman and CEO Gary Sasser said. “Because of the efforts of our entire team we’re well-positioned for success and Driver Appreciation Week is a great opportunity to reaffirm how thankful we are for our associates.”
Landstar System is giving away a Freightliner Cascadia 126 to one of its 10,000 owner-operators Sept. 18.
Roadrunner Freight announced its Drivers of the Year – Brenda Kyle, Lawton, Okla. (linehaul); Kenneth Bell, Memphis, Tenn. (local); and Angelo Culotta, Fisher, Ill. (Expedited Freight Systems company driver) – in addition to recognizing other drivers throughout its system with tokens of appreciation.
Joplin, Mo.-based CFI is providing its drivers $15 for a meal on the road and handing out CFI tumblers to both company and independent contractor professional drivers.
U.S. Xpress is holding hourly gift card drawings throughout the week, with four grand prize winners of $1,500 each. On Tuesday, it recognized nearly 50 Million Mile drivers. And all drivers will receive a company cooler backpack.
Major truck stop operators are participating with various drawings and driver perks.
Al Muskewitz is Editor of Wright Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Montgomery Transport driver Rosko Craig is presented a commendation from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in recognition of his service and National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. (Photo by Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager courtesy of Alabama Trucking Association)