The silent majority

By Randy Grider
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In this month’s issue we feature our sixth annual Great American Trucking Family for its contribution to the trucking industry. As usual we had an impressive number of entries this year. It was a close competition.

For the past several years, it’s been my pleasure getting to know so many trucking families that dedicate their lives to this industry. Each family has allowed me to spend time with them off the road. It becomes more personal when the families get together to relax and swap tales about themselves and relatives who have passed on. Together they each build a part of a great legacy.

This is true of the entire trucking industry. Each trucker, whether he or she is the only trucker in a family or part of a large group of truck drivers, contributes to the overall transportation system.

This month we also celebrate National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Aug. 26-Sept. 1. Some companies will go all out with picnics and nice gifts for their drivers. For others it may be doughnuts and coffee in the morning at their terminals.

Others may notice very little difference during this week set aside to honor the 3-million-plus drivers in this country. No “Thank You” signs in the drivers’ lounges or extra courtesy from workers at the loading docks. That’s a true shame, because truckers deserve every free hot dog, soft drink and thank you they can get.

Each month, we run announcements from companies whose drivers have earned safety awards or achieved million-mile milestones. At least a couple times a month, I get a call from a driver mentioned in our “Fleet Insider” department thanking me for putting their achievement into the magazine. Most say they are making a scrapbook for their kids or other family members.

I always thank them back for what they do. It’s not me who drove a little slower and paid extra attention to the traffic ahead or logged a million miles. There are no shortcuts to earning these kinds of honors. They come by getting behind the wheel and driving mile after mile, day after day, year after year.

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There also are a lot of drivers who never receive any type of recognition for what they do. They simply work hard and never think about accolades of any kind. They make up the majority of truckers on the road. They don’t seek fame and fortune. They just do the job they love and do it well.

As for our celebrated trucking family members, both past and present, not one has ever told me they sent in an entry for themselves. It’s always to honor a father, grandfather or other family member who has made a huge difference in their lives.

“There are a lot of deserving families out there, but we’re proud to carry the torch and honor those who paved the way for all of us,” said Gary Shealter of Bloomsburg, Pa., after learning his family had been named the 2007 Great American Trucking Family.

“Humble to a fault” would describe many truckers I know. At the same time, almost everyone likes to be recognized for the job they do. It’s a sign you’re doing something that matters and has a positive impact on others.

For the hours a driver spends on the job and away from home, the average wages are still too low. Anyone trucking simply for the money is probably unhappy. Most know they’ll never get rich as a truck driver.

Obviously, that’s not why they do the job. Truckers drive because they love most aspects of the job and the lifestyle.

Drivers also know that their job is essential to the country’s economy. Most are not idealist. They live in the real world – a world of machinery moving products to market. Professional truckers are masters of their craft in spite of the government’s “semi-skilled” classification.

There are millions of stories out there – many similar to the Great American Trucking Family winners. While we spotlight as many as we can, we’d be amiss to think we could ever adequately give everyone his or her due.

But we can offer a collective word of appreciation. To all the hard-working truckers out there, we say a heartfelt “thank you.”

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