Truck driver

What started National Trucker Appreciation Week?

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently spoke with Bill Webb, an industry executive for over 30 years and former president and CEO of the Texas Motor Transportation Association (now TXTA), who spearheaded the initiative. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW).

The national campaign began in the early 1990s when Webb was part of the driver recruiting service of FFE Transportation Services, a for-hire carrier based in Lancaster, Texas.

“Everyone was looking for a new angle of retention,” shared Webb. “For those of us who were present at every driver recruitment and retention event, it occurred to us that if we were to expect people outside the industry to respect drivers, we had to do a better job in the industry. “

As with most trucking companies, morals and values, as well as ownership, are passed down from generation to generation. As a newcomer to the industry, Webb knew that original thinking was needed on how to retain drivers. “The short answer was, let’s express our love for our own people internally, and then encourage people outside the industry to do the same.”

Knowing that this would not be an easy task, Webb and others knew they needed the support of a committed national trade association.

Webb fondly recalls the day he took a flight to the American Trucking Association headquarters in the DC metro area – a PowerPoint proposal in tow. After meeting with longtime staff and leaders, the team was generally interested.

Fast forward a year later to 1995, Webb visited TCA and then-president Lana Batts with a similar proposal. “TCA was interested in taking action because, let’s face it, there is some turnover in the truckload industry,” said Webb.

Batts noted that NTDAW emerged as TCA introduced other branding initiatives such as its Highway Angel program – a program that elevates the profession of truck driver and recognizes them for doing good deeds on the road.

“Bill’s vision was just amazing, and the industry embraced it,” she shared. “It’s great to see how the week has turned into something bigger than any of us involved – a real success.”

Over the past decade, TCA has partnered with state trucking associations to host dozens of driver health shows at select TravelCenters of America and Petro locations during NTDAW. The events offered medical professionals who administered blood pressure tests, blood sugar tests, as well as vision and hearing tests to the driver population.

So why is NTDAW celebrated for a week?

With a background in advertising and public relations, Webb had a mixed strategy for this initiative, which was evident from the first slide of his PowerPoint presentation: “Every day should be a day of driver appreciation, but it’s not. not realistic ”.

Webb went to United States today and other media to help spread awareness of this important week “We had to show our drivers a public show of affection,” he explained. “We knew we had to create a message that articulated their importance to the economy and how essential they are to putting food on the table.”

Knowing how often drivers visit the terminal or company headquarters, a haulier would have a better chance of showing appreciation to their drivers throughout a week rather than a day.

And the rest was history … sort of.

Webb explained that the goal was to “start small and, when the opportunity arises, grow into something bigger” and never did.

In addition to the national trucking associations and state associations that host a myriad of events, our Canadian neighbors and their provincial trucking associations also celebrate the week – National Trucking Week – during the first week of September.

During his tenure as President of the American Trucking Associations in 1995-96, DM Bowman, Inc. President Don Bowman was instrumental in the expansion of NTDAW.

Last year, the DM Bowman management team compiled a video in which we expressed our gratitude to our drivers. We can’t say how much they really mean to us. You can watch the video on dmbowman.com.

The efforts and contributions of professional drivers deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

How can the industry as a whole better promote this week?

Webb is pleased to see that through its organic growth, the industry has expanded on NTDAW’s ideas to develop necessary image campaigns throughout the year.

He explained that although Texas was one of the first states to develop a state campaign – to promote the relevance of truckers in general – it’s a battle the industry continues to wage today, as many still take truckers for granted.

Webb remembers a quote from his older grandparents that still rings true today, especially when it comes to restraining our drivers: “Don’t tell me, show me.”

“Our industry has come a long way in the way we treat our employees,” he said. “By hearing how trucking companies are receiving driver feedback and increasing their compensation, we need to keep that momentum going. We need to continue to listen to our drivers and use new tools like social media to get immediate feedback and act on it. “

In conclusion, we can all agree that it is high time the general public finally understood how essential the role of the professional truck driver really is in their daily life. Constantly reinventing and improving the way we show our appreciation for drivers, during NTDAW and throughout the year, will help us in our retention efforts.

To you, drivers! Thank you.

Jim Ward is president of DM Bowman, a fleet of 382 trucks based in Williamsport, Maryland. Under his leadership, the company has grown from being a full-load carrier to a full-service transportation company, offering its customers dedicated fleet, short-haul, line-haul, brokerage, logistics and warehousing for dry vans, flatbed trucks, bulk and specialty services. Ward is the 2021-2022 President of the Truckload Carriers Association.


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