Family gatherings with a delicious turkey on the table. Friends and communities joining together for holiday traditions. Stores and sidewalks bustling as we shop for presents to exchange with loved ones. Wreaths on doors and ornate decorations lighting up downtowns.
These are just some of the images I think about when the holiday season is upon us. And no matter who you are, which holidays you celebrate or where you’re from, all of these images share something in common — they’re all made possible by trucking.
The fact is, trucking touches every aspect of the holidays — and it goes beyond stocking grocery store shelves or delivering that perfect gift. In addition to providing all those goods and cargo, trucking keeps your family members moving on the roads for that special time together by ensuring our gas stations are amply stocked with fuel.
The trucking industry is proud to deliver the holidays, and we recognize the enormous responsibility that comes with it. When more than 100 million drivers are on the road this season — as AAA forecasted for year-end holidays last year — they’ll be driving alongside nearly 3.5 million professional truck drivers. That’s why professional truck drivers are trained and dedicated to ensuring the safety of all motorists on the road, and why the industry as a whole invests $9.5 billion each year in safety. The investment spans all facets of trucking safety, including driver training, compliance with safety rules, onboard safety technology, and awards and bonus pay for improved safety performances.
There’s no doubt that the investment is paying off. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that trucks have a crash rate that is 28 percent lower than that of other vehicles. The fatal crash rate has fallen 74 percent since 1980, and that figure has dropped 17 percent in the last decade alone. Further, trucks are principally at fault in only 25 percent of fatal car-truck crashes. This improvement comes even as the trucking industry is expanding, by operating an additional 2.7 million trucks and driving billions of additional miles each year.
In addition to keeping our roads safe — during the holidays and throughout the year — trucking works to better our communities. Many families and organizations answer a call to service during the holiday season, and the trucking industry is no exception.
To kick off a recent work retreat, dozens of trucking industry executives came together to volunteer at the Capitol Area Food Bank in Northeast Washington, D.C. There, we sorted various cooking and food items into large bins, then packed those items into individual boxes. Next, we stacked the boxes on pallets, which were loaded into the back of a truck and delivered to distribution centers throughout the Washington metro area. A few hours of service and generosity will now provide festive seasonal meals for hundreds of underserved families in our nation’s capital. It is true that the trucking industry is a vital part of delivering the holiday season, but this recent day of volunteering is another example of the human element that our industry brings to the holiday season.
The list of good deeds goes on, and it spans trucking-related companies of all kinds, at the community level all over the country. Dozens of trucking-industry organizations and state-level trucking associations are getting involved in everything from Toys for Tots and Adopt-a-Family efforts to assisting food banks, schools and the local Salvation Army to ensure children and families are cared for during the holidays.
From safety to service, the trucking industry is dedicated to ensuring the holidays happen for all of us. It’s the only industry that can say it directly ships to every community in America, helping to make this time of the year brighter for all families — snow, sleet, rain or shine. Professional truck drivers sacrifice time with their own families to ensure our gifts are delivered, our tables are set, and our roads are safe — a true embodiment of the holiday spirit.
If you’re not acquainted with a truck driver or industry professional, I have a small challenge for you this holiday season. Take a second to acknowledge a truck driver who’s refueling next to you at a truck stop or delivering a gift to your front door. That small recognition can make a profound difference in his or her busy day of delivering the items that we enjoy, but sometimes take for granted.
• Kevin Burch is chairman of the American Trucking Associations.