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National Truck Driver Appreciation Week      

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America can’t run without truck drivers. In honor of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, let’s take a moment to reflect on how important truck drivers are to our society and think about how we can show our appreciation and help keep truck drivers safe on the road. 

The State of the Trucking Industry 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than two million heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver jobs in the U.S. as of 2021. Between 2021 and 2031, the number is expected to increase by another 90,900 jobs. The median pay for truck drivers is $23.23 per hour, or $48,310 per year. 

The trucking industry also creates jobs for people who are not truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) says that 7.65 million people are employed in jobs related to trucking. There were 996,894 for-hire carriers on file with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as of February 2021. Many of these carriers are small – 91.5 percent operate no more than six trucks, and 97.4 percent operate fewer than 20 trucks. 

Truck Drivers: Driving America’s Supply Chain 

Truck drivers form a critical part of the nation’s supply chain. The ATA says that trucks moved 10.23 billion tons of freight in 2020, representing approximately 72.5 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage. Gross freight revenues from primary shipments totaled $732.3 billion in 2020, representing more than 80 percent of the nation’s total freight bill.  

The Country Needs More Professional Truck Drivers 

According to the 2021 Driver Shortage Update, the ATA estimated there would be a shortage of more than 80,000 drivers in 2021. The average age of drivers is high, and many drivers are being lost to retirement. To meet growing demand and replace drivers who are leaving, the trucking industry will need to recruit close to one million new drivers. If current trends continue, the driver shortage could exceed 160,000 by 2030.  

Despite the growing need, the ATA says the number of truck drivers decreased by 6.8 percent between 2019 and 2020.  

Job seekers are applying for truck driving positions, but finding qualified drivers isn’t always easy. In a press release, the ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello explains that motor carriers can’t just hire anyone who applies. There are strict requirements for age, CDL testing, drug and alcohol testing, and clean driving records. Motor carriers end up having to reject around 90 percent of applicants, as they do not meet one or more of these requirements. 

Challenges Faced by Truck Drivers 

Our country depends on truck drivers to deliver goods every day, but truck drivers face many challenges to meet demand. 

Long-haul truck drivers can be on the road for weeks at a time before they’re able to return home. This means drivers spend a long time away from their friends and family. 

Truck drivers also face long working hours. Under FMCSA guidelines, truck drivers carrying property (not passengers) can drive a maximum of 11 hours and be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours after having 10 hours off duty. However, when truckers encounter adverse driving conditions, limits can be extended by up to two hours. These rules can result in long days behind the wheel. In addition, a trucker’s workweek can be long. Under FMSCA rules, truckers may drive for up to 60 hours in a period of seven consecutive days or 70 hours in a period of eight consecutive days.  

Being on the road so much means truck drivers are at risk for vehicle crashes. According to the FMCSA, 5,237 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2019. There were also 127,000 crashes involving injuries. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by two percent (from 4,909 to 5,005), and the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by six percent (from 112,000 to 119,000). 

BLS says that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers experienced 43,500 nonfatal injury and illness cases involving days away from work in 2020. This puts the incident rate at 259.7 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers. There were also 766 fatal work-related injuries in 2020. 

Truck Driver Appreciation Ideas 

Truck drivers work hard to keep our supply chains running – and they deserve appreciation. 

Here are some ways people give thanks to truck drivers for their hard work. 

  • Say thanks. This is one of the simplest and most direct ways to express gratitude, but it’s important for people to feel recognized and appreciated. Employers can express their appreciation in cards, newsletters, emails, events and conversation. Individuals can say thanks to the truck drivers they see at gas stations and other locations. 
  • Provide perks. Employers can provide gifts to show their appreciation. Business owners can provide discounts or other perks. According to The Trucker, several companies (including AMBEST, Love’s, Pilot Flying J and TravelCenters of America) offered discounts, prizes or other perks to truck drivers to celebrate National Driver Appreciation Week. 
  • Help keep drivers safe. Perhaps the best way to show appreciation is to make sure truck drivers make it home safely. Employers can improve safety by implementing training programs. Everyone can make help make America’s highways safe by driving safely and giving trucks the space they need on the road.  

Truck Driver Safety Training and Programs 

Safety doesn’t stop with FMCSA screening requirements. Employers can help keep their fleet drivers safe through ongoing programs and policies. 

  • Driver Fatigue – Driver fatigue is a major risk factor for crashes; truck drivers who are on the road for long hours can be especially vulnerable. Fleet operators can fight drowsy driving by creating policies that reduce the risk and by educating drivers on what to do if they are too tired to drive. 
  • Distracted Driving – Distracted driving is another major risk factor. Fleet operators should create policies to prevent distracted driving. It’s also important to make sure job requirements aren’t forcing drivers to drive distracted. 
  • Safe and Defensive Driving – Ongoing driver training can help truckers stay safe on the road. Safety reminders can help prevent drivers from falling into bad habits. 
  • Inclement Weather – Ice, snow, rain and other hazardous weather events can increase the risk of a crash. To reduce risk, fleet operators can monitor the weather to adjust routes as needed and train drivers about how to stay safe in severe weather conditions. 
  • Vehicle Maintenance – Vehicle malfunction can cause or contribute to crashes. It’s important to keep the tires, brakes and other components in good condition. 
  • Telematics – Moderns telematics systems can help fleet operators monitor vehicles for maintenance issues and address safety issues before they cause a crash. 

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is also a good time to check your insurance coverage. Higginbotham can help. 

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

A great plan starts with a conversation. Let’s talk about what you need.

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