When truckers are on the road, it’s hard not to notice them. If you’re in a compact car beside them, you just pray that they notice you. But it’s not often that regular folks see the actual truckers for who they are: hard workers who get up early, steer 40 tons of whatever to God knows where, often cram themselves in an uncomfortable bunk before doing it all over again the next day. It’s typically a thankless task, yet wholly necessary as, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the 3.5 million truckers ensure almost three-quarters of the nation’s freight tonnage arrives at the assigned destination to keep store shelves stocked and the economy humming.
This week was different, though, as it’s National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, a time to reflect on truckers’ sacrifices and dedication, as well as ponder what companies need to do to ensure they feel appreciated and will continue to head out once more unto the road.
“Truck drivers play a critical role in the nation’s economy and deserve the recognition that this week brings,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.
Along with being the right thing to do, it’s a wise business decision, as one in five employees who don’t feel recognized wen doing a great job will have interviewed for another one in the last three months, according to TINYPulse data. And finding drivers is top of mind for every fleet owner, as unemployment is near record lows and there is currently a defecit of 60,800 truckers
For this year, Kenworth launched a video it hopes will both honor the current 3.5 million drivers and inspire the next generation to climb up in the cab and take the wheel (once they’re trained, of course). It focuses on a young girl, who during the course of her day out with dad getting supplies to build a tree house, observes all the various goods male and female truckers bring into her rural town via lustrous Kenworth T680 and T880s.
As Kenworth fancies itself "The Driver’s Truck,” it made sense to produce a slick, somewhat sappy video to show their appreciation to their customers. Take a look:
“Everything truck drivers do every day, whether they deliver apples or logs turned into lumber, or paint that goes on shelves, all of contributes to creating these memorable moments in life,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth’s marketing director who helped craft the video’s message. “Every one of us can go about our lives and find moments we cherish because of them.”
It also had the “not-so-subtle” task of addressing the disparity of women drivers (only 7% of the trucking workforce), Swihart said.
“There’s a massive driver shortage and really industry needs to be able to attract not only men but women,” Swihart noted. In the next decade, the ATA predict that shortage could hit 160,000 drivers.
That message, which could have come across heavy handed, wasn’t, in large part to featuring a female Kenworth employee who has a commercial driver’s license. Swihart says Kenworth not only take san active role in the Women in Trucking Association, but also looks for ways to organically add females to management and executive roles in the 96-year-old company.
“We still have a long way to go,” he concluded.
The video also showcased Kenworth’s Class 8 trucks as well as the K270 medium-duty truck. This is truly how Kenworth shows its appreciation every week of the year: by making high quality, ergonomic tractors. This includes having the Driver’s Studio option to create a cab that rivals some studio apartments and incudes a sturdy table and passenger seat that rotates around for a comfy lounge chair. Under the hood, the TruckTech+ diagnostic suite helps identify problems before they leave the driver stranded on the side of the road.
“By going with the premium product and deploying it in your fleet, you have a better chance to attract good drivers,” Swihart said.
Howard Sodano, owner of HRS Transport, who uses a fleet of T680s embedded with a 76-inch sleeper and PACCAR MX-13 engine and has seen turnover of less than 20%, agrees: “I know for a fact there is less fatigue in driving the T680. The truck is so quiet; it pulls better and drives nicer. At the end of the day, you’re not as fatigued.”
Kenworth will continue its appreciation this year by gifting one rookie trucker with military experience a new T680 in December as the top prize for the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” recognition program. This will be the fourth truck Kenworth has given away through the program.
"We’re trying to communicate to the men and women transitioning from the military that the truck industry is a great career opportunity,” Swihart said. “And we’re helping our fleet customers by providing them more drivers.”