Drivers are the lifeblood of the transportation and logistics industry. They spend their days driving across town or across the country, or nights carrying loads to fuel our vehicles, restock store shelves and deliver other critical goods. Even internationally, they’re the linchpin to North American transportation. Nearly 70 percent of all freight moved in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico is carried by trucks.
This week, the American trucking industry celebrates Driver Appreciation Week. Created in 1988 by the American Trucking Association, the week celebrates the nation’s 3.1 million professional drivers – men, women and increasingly retired military veterans – and the vital roles they play in all facets of American consumers’ lives.
The industry realizes drivers face a tough, demanding and solitary job, delivering important, even sensitive goods, often to unattended locations at all hours of the day and night.
Transportation companies across the country this week will celebrate their drivers. They’ll host events, hand out apparel and maybe bring in senior leaders to meet with and personally thank their drivers. This goes beyond “appreciation.” This engagement reflects the commitment of senior leadership and an acknowledgement of the role drivers play.
A week’s appreciation only goes so far. Across the transportation and logistics industry, strong driver-focused companies work the other 51 weeks of the year to improve the workplace and driver experience. They actively seek driver feedback about working conditions and their experiences. They hold events to get the team together and build camaraderie.
Such companies realize that public recognition for a job well done can be a point of pride for an employee. They work with customers to seek out nominations for drivers who deliver more than what’s in their trailers – drivers who deliver unparalleled customer service and a shared commitment to a safe work environment. They bestow driver awards to celebrate those drivers committed to their own mission and values.
Such engagement, between a shipper, its customers and its drivers, recognize the drivers’ professionalism and elevates their performance to an even higher level.
Many providers across the trucking industry have increased their efforts to recruit drivers looking for this kind of workplace. The industry is introducing newcomers to the career opportunities trucking offers. They may be millennials in search of a long-term career, those seeking a career change, or retired military veterans looking for private sector employment, and who bring strong skills and work ethic that were critical to military performance and essential now to the trucking industry. Together, they comprise the next generation of talent who will drive this industry.
What those inexperienced with the transportation and logistics industry discover is that trucking is about more than driving vehicles. From vehicle maintenance to warehouse, logistics and managerial jobs, this industry relies on new recruits to fill critical roles. For their part, most drivers are home each night. They are respected as “captains of their ship” who have the authority to delay departure if they see maintenance, weather or other issues that could jeopardize the safety of the driver, vehicle or public.
More than all that, they become part of an organization that thrives on camaraderie and a commitment to excellence. More than being the lifeblood of the transportation and logistics industry, drivers are the heart and soul of the industry. During Driver Appreciation Week, and every week, let’s all celebrate the role they play in our shared success.
Authored by Patrick Pendergast, Sr. Director, Recruiting – Ryder System Inc.