Approximately 3.5 million professionals, often without thanks, are responsible for moving the roads’ largest working machines, ensuring that the contents they carry get to their proper destinations. This week, it’s time to give commercial truckers their proper respect.

This past Sunday kicked off the annual National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Running from Sept. 11-17, the seven-day period is set aside as a time to recognize the contributions of motor carriers, and for consumers who benefit from their services to express their gratitude for doing the jobs they do, which is often not demonstrated.

Kevin Burch, co-chairman for the industry trade group Trucking Moves America Forward, indicated that not a day goes by that short- and long-range truck drivers don’t take to the roads to provide goods and services for the masses.

“Our nation’s professional truck drivers work tirelessly for us every day, delivering the products and supplies that keep our lives moving – and they do it consistently and safely,” Burch explained.

Truckers’ safety has improved significantly
Indeed, commercial motor vehicle operators are among the safest road users in the country. According to Congressional testimony from the American Trucking Associations, highway fatality rates involving big rigs have fallen by nearly 75 percent since 1975 and by 38 percent over the last 10 years.

The real crux of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is to emphasize how vital the industry is to the U.S. economy. Perhaps the best proof is how much of the nation’s products bought and sold in stores are moved by truckers. According to ATA figures, truckers haul nearly 70 percent of domestic freight, eclipsing air, rail and sea transport volumes. In 2014, trucks carried 10 billion tons of freight and earned $700 billion in the process, accounting for 80 percent of the income made by all systems of commercial transport.

Truck drivers don’t only contribute to the nation’s economic health, but their states and local neighborhoods, noted Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO.

“This week is about raising public awareness and support for the important work professional truck drivers do in our communities year round,” Spear emphasized. “These men and women are safety-minded professionals who deserve our respect and praise. We’re fortunate that truck drivers have dedicated their careers to delivering critical goods like medicine, food and school books.”

x_0_0_0_14119020_800Though men account for the majority of truckers, women are joining the ranks in increasing numbers.

Communities rely on truckers exclusively for delivery of goods
Although the U.S. is increasingly undergoing urbanization as municipalities expand to provide added convenience to consumers, much of the country is still quite rural, requiring residents to travel far distances to take care of their necessities at home or in the office. Much of this wouldn’t be possible without professional drivers, as 80 percent of communities’ sole source of goods and services delivery comes from truckers, according to ATA estimates.

Trucking is also a significant contributor to the U.S. economy from a standpoint of jobs. One in every 16 jobs in America is made available by the trucking industry, according to ATA figures.

Still, because hauling demand is so high, motor carriers could use more help. Based on estimates from the American Transportation Research Institute, nearly a quarter million additional truckers will be needed by 2023 to adequately provide the appropriate amount of services. Presently, there’s a shortage of approximately 35,000 drivers.

For motor carriers that are interested in participating in National Driver Appreciation Week festivities, whether at the state or national level, ATA devotes a portion of its website for these very purposes that include a host of resources, such as an online store, calendar of events and ideas, as well as information on how to promote these activities via social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Transportation industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.