Daniel P. Bearth | Transport Topics Senior Features Writer

Truck drivers have a message for America: While we appreciate the outpouring of thanks during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, what we really want is respect on the highways, at the loading docks and in the office for the job we do.

Priscilla Peters, vice president of marketing and training at Conversion Interactive Agency, a firm that helps freight carriers recruit drivers, said the effort to recognize drivers has gained traction among trucking executives, many of whom spent the past week going out of their way to spend time with drivers.

“For drivers, this is like Christmas,” Peters said. “If they go to a truck stop, they’re going to get something, maybe just water or a pat on the back. Companies are holding events in terminals. There are giveaways. Executives are hanging out with drivers.”

Across the internet, trucking companies and industry vendors posted messages and videos to say thanks to drivers.

One video shows executives at Maverick Transportation lip-syncing to the song “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane.

Labelmaster, a company that makes placards and safety materials for trucks and trailers, put together a playlist of songs for people who drive for a living. Topping the list is “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Hank Snow followed by “Nothing but Time” by Jackson Browne.

In Nashville on Sept. 13, members of America’s Road Team, a group of elite drivers selected by American Trucking Associations to represent the industry, conducted interviews with more than 30 media outlets from across the country. They also had a message, which was that truck driving is a great career and that drivers are often the first to respond when communities are in need due to natural disasters or other emergencies.

“Thousands of drivers volunteered time to hurricane relief,” said ATA spokesman Andrew Mitrisin, who was in New York City with delegation from ATA to tout trucking, including its main message of safety.

Included in the delegation was ATA Chairman Kevin Burch, who is also president of Jet Express Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, and truck drivers Russell Simpson and John Lex, who dressed as the new mascot, Safety Sammy. They made a brief appearance on the set of the “Today Show” and spent time with people on the streets of the Big Apple.

Among those they met was a guy who drove trucks with triple-trailer combinations in Australia and a young man who impressed the group with his knowledge of the “essentiality of trucking,” Mitrisin said.

“Trucks literally deliver the goods that provide food, clothing and shelter for us all,” said Todd Amen, president of American Truck Business Services in Lakeland, Colo., a company that provides accounting services to independent owner-operators and small fleets. “But we can’t lean on a single initiative. The driver community needs increases in technology to make their miles safer and more comfortable and support from organizations like Women in Trucking or sites like Team Run Smart that help lower their expenses, improve the reliability of their truck or better manage their business.”

Sam Elitzer, publisher of Truckers Report, said he sees a bit cynicism among drivers who he encounters on his job search website. “Absolutely drivers appreciate being appreciated because they oftentimes feel like they are lowest rung on the totem pole. What many really would like to see is higher wages and more honesty about home time and other promises from employers.”

But in Maine, more appreciation was on display. The members of the Maine State Police Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Unit served a free lunch for drivers at the northbound scale facility in York.

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a company with offices in Miami and Dallas, cheered its drivers, too.

“Our drivers are the backbone of our organization and the face of the company to our 360,000 customers,” said Bobby Burg, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. “Their commitment to safety and service is critical to the success of our business and we are proud of what they do every day.”

It has more than 16,500 drivers and 699 tractors, 1,105 straight trucks and 2,044 trailers.

Roemer Insurance used the occasion to recognize Luella Bates as the nation’s first woman truck driver in 1918. Bates was a test driver for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. and traveled throughout the state of Wisconsin in a Model B Ford truck.

“We regard trucking as an essential industry to our nation’s economy,” said Wellington Roemer III, president and CEO of Roemer Insurance in Toledo, Ohio.