Shine a Light
ATA’s Elisabeth Barna talks about National Truck Driver Appreciation Week
By Mindy Long
Once a year the trucking industry comes together to celebrate drivers during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW). This year it runs Sept. 16-22. American Trucking Associations coordinates its timing and promotion. Elisabeth Barna, vice president of image and outreach advocacy for ATA, talks about the annual tribute.
Q How did National Truck Driver Appreciation Week get started?
A It began in 1998. ATA and its members wanted to thank professional drivers for all that they do, as well as highlight the driver and the essentiality of the industry. You can have trucks, but if you don’t have a safe professional behind the wheel, freight doesn’t get delivered. We established one week and encouraged carriers and state associations to honor the drivers by hosting a barbecue or another event to thank them.
Q How has the event evolved over the past 23 years?
A It has really become an industrywide event, including shippers, truckstops, vendors and more. Many of the customers the drivers deliver to will have a celebration in honor of them. Some will pass out box lunches, hats, T-shirts, or have coffee and doughnuts. In many states the highway patrol will team up with the state trucking association and cook hamburgers and hot dogs for drivers as they come through the weigh stations. More and more communities are also getting involved by placing ads in local papers, hanging banners in their towns or having specials that week for anyone with a CDL.
Q Why has the date changed over the past few years?
A For a long time NTDAW was in the middle or end of August. A lot of groups ask to change the date once schools started going back before Labor Day. Many families were either on their last vacation of the summer or already wrapped up in the beginning of the school session. We also like to include the families in the events if we can because they are a huge support system for the drivers. We did try a few other weeks but finally found that either the second or third week of September seems to work best. The weather in most cases is also more pleasant in September.
Q What are some of the ways that people in and out of the trucking industry can recognize drivers?
A We are encouraging drivers and carriers to invite the local media, elected officials or community leaders to get up in the cab and ride along with a professional driver to see what they experience on the roads each day and thank them for a job well done. We are also encouraging carriers to host elected officials or members of the media on a terminal or facility tour, or to invite them to their “thank the driver” event. We feel this is the best way to educate people about the essentiality of the trucking industry as well as tout the impressive safety record of the drivers behind the wheel.
We are encouraging everyone to continue their safety banquets, barbecues and other celebrations during that week. We are asking drivers, carriers, shippers and others to contact their local papers and share stories of how safe and essential the professional truck driver is, and to thank them for all they do each and every day.
Every year there are members of Congress who officially thank the professional truck driver in remarks on the House or Senate floor, and every state gets a proclamation from the governor naming the week National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.
Q For the past few years, you’ve held an amateur video contest. Is that going on again this year?
A Yes! We’re moving into our fifth year and people are excited about it. The deadline is Sept. 28, and we want people to share videos that are full of passion and emotion thanking the driver. We get videos from family members, retailers, motor carriers, OEM’s and more.
Last year we had great videos, even one from the Second Harvest food bank in Minneapolis. All the videos are posted on You Tube under the Trucks Bring It banner. We want to show the public how important and safe the truck driver is, and how proud the industry is to have them delivering the “good stuff” and life’s essentials.