All it took was a mass panic at the grocery store, to get Americans to start thinking differently about the trucking industry. Among the experiences we will all remember about the year 2020, will be unprecedented shortages in things like toilet paper. Who knew toilet paper would become the top item on the shelves of every grocery store in the country?
Did it feel like one of the only good things to come out of the year 2020, might be some extra love and appreciation for truckers and trucking companies? We feel that way, and in our very biased opinion, it was long overdue.
If you have seen the hashtag #ThankATrucker on social media, it is actually part of a pretty big movement that happened for our industry this year. And a trend we hope continues, as it has put trucking back on the map as an essential service that the American economy cannot thrive without.
The Industry That Has Tried to ‘Keep Trucking’ Through Trade War and Global Pandemic
In 2019, there was an unprecedented number of carriers who went out of business. The increased pressures from the America vs. China trade war made some economists call 2019 a “blood bath” for the trucking industry. Already weakened and trying to navigate the drop in freight in 2019, the next economic tsunami would come in the form of the first global pandemic since 1918.
The trucking industry has for decades, faced industry challenges. And today, carriers face increased threats from changing regulations, cost of fuel increases, and proposed changes to labor laws regarding contract leases to owner-operators. Those concerns are jus the tip of the iceberg for the industry that 70% of all goods and service delivery rely on.
Why has trucking always seem to have a public relations problem? Where both consumers and federal regulators do not understand the challenges the industry faces? When the “Thank a Trucker” campaign started, it created hope in the trucking industry. That finally the vital contribution that truckers make to the economy would be recognized. And protected with legislation that would make it easier for trucking companies to thrive and support the growing economy.
One analogy for the trucking industry is like a child who always get’s straight A’s, but never gets rewarded for it. Sounds about right if you ask any CDL professional or carrier. But among the adversities faced by the trucking industry this year, maybe a positive change in public and legislative awareness has taken root.
Who Started the “Thank A Trucker” Campaign?
We don’t like to talk about other carriers, but in this case, Uber Freight did a great service to our industry. Because what started out as a marketing and promotional campaign to help truckers, elevated the trucking industry as the Covid-19 pandemic got worse.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) released a declaration on March 12, 2020. It designated the trucking industry as an essential service for Covid-19 relief efforts nationwide. The declaration also provided temporary amendments to the HOS (hours of service) regulations to allow trucking companies and independent owner-operators to meet the emergency demand. The HOS regulation amendments have now been extended to March of 2021.
Uber Freight joined efforts with FourKites, Howes and Smashmallow to provide 10,000 care packages. These were distributed to truckers across the United States. The packages included PPE items like cleaning supplies and face masks. They also partnered with trucking non-profit organizations like Meals for 18 Wheels, REAL Women in Trucking, and the Truckers Emergency Assistance Responders (TEAR).
The multiorganizational effort caught fire within the trucking community. And while Uber Freight had no idea it would go viral, it did. Soon the hashtag #ThankATrucker was everywhere. And soon after, volunteer organizations in other states began to do similar programs and outreach for truckers across the country.
National Truck Driver Appreciation Week Joins in the “Thank A Trucker” Movement
The annual day of recognizing the value of the logistics industry, and the hardworking men and women of the trucking industry is a celebration. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is held annually in September.
During the 2020 celebration, the “Thank a Trucker” movement caught more momentum across the country. And it even made its way up to Canada, where members of the trucking industry made a point to further awareness.
During the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was truck drivers risking infection and driving long hours. They were working as hard as they could to keep American retail shelves stocked. To keep hospitals well supplied. And to keep American businesses (and jobs) alive. And the 2020 National Truck Driver Appreciation Week was all that more personal. As charities and trucking groups reached out to see how they could help their fellow truckers.
Will The Hashtag and Recognition for Truckers Last?
In spite of the impacts of the trade war and the Covid-19 pandemic, trucking kept trucking. But 2019 and 2020 were also years where the OOIDA and other trucking associations made a lot of noise in Washington. Specific to hour of service regulations and other problems hindering the American trucking industry.
Infrastructure remains a big issue for trucking in the United States. The repair bill for highways and bridges is astronomical, but very overdue. In around some of America’s busiest piers and shipping ports (like Houston) the roads need to re-engineer to promote better transit flow. Trucks in, loaded and trucks out needs to happen with fewer delays. Both for time efficiencies and to reduce idling time and emissions.
For now, we’re seeing a lot of companies and non-profit organizations, as well as pro-trucking political leaders using the #ThankATrucker hashtag. And it has become a symbol not only of gratitude to truckers, but to highlight infrastructure and regulatory changes that need to happen, to keep the American trucking industry thriving.