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Will Whatley: Thank a trucker

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

I think we can all agree that this Covid pandemic ain’t fun. Even if you manage to avoid the virus, there’s still the social distancing, mask wearing and a lot of time with nothing to do but Netflix and chill via Zoom.

But if we can take away one positive thing from this experience, it’s that the spotlight has been shown on the army of frontline workers who work tirelessly to keep us functioning at the most basic of levels. From doctors and nurses to store clerks, we’ve finally learned the value of what these people do for us on a daily basis. But I feel like one group often gets overlooked in this situation because people rarely interact with them. They work behind the scenes to keep the country running. Anytime there’s a run on bread, milk and toilet papers, they’re the linchpin that gets the product from the producers to the storefront. Those fine people are truckers, and it’s about time they got their fair share of love.

September 19 marks the end of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, so if you’ll humor me, I’d love to talk with you about what truckers mean to me.

Growing up in a trucking family isn’t easy. It’s a lot of long hours for thankless work. So let me take this opportunity to celebrate the working man and give you the glimpse into the eye of a trucker.

My dad ran a trucking company when I was growing up. Granted he wasn’t on the road, but he had to be at work early enough to handle trucks on the East Coast and stay late enough to help his drivers on the West Coast. Working 18-hour days and seven days a week weren’t uncommon for him. But as much as having four boys under the age of six will drive you crazy, we knew he wasn’t missing ballgames and birthday parties because he wanted to.

My old man would hold driver appreciation days for those who drove under his banner. My brothers and I would assist him on the grill as he cooked up hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken breasts for the drivers and their families because my dad knew that his drivers sacrificed so much and he wanted to give a little back to them to say thanks for all they did. He’d have drawings for gifts that were donated from other companies like truck dealerships and truck stops. It was always a good laugh for whoever won the maps, as if they needed the help on where they were going after years on the road.

But this isn’t about my dad, this is about truckers. Truck drivers don’t just one day decide to hop in a cab and start hauling thousands of pounds of products and materials down the highway. Drivers have to be certified by the state with both a written test and a driving test before they’re allowed behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. On top of that, a majority of trucking companies require previous on-the-road driving experience before they’ll hire a new driver. And once that driver is hired, they have to maintain meticulous records. And drivers are routinely drug tested to ensure they’re operating on the roads as safely as possible.

I’ve personally had some experience driving trucks. In college, when I needed more cash to cover my bar tabs, I picked up a job hauling dumpsters and portable toilets around the Tuscaloosa area. To say the least it wasn’t a glamorous job, but that didn’t stop me from driving my truck down Sorority Row whenever I got the chance. For some reason it didn’t have the desired effect of landing me any dates, but you can’t say I didn’t try.

And like me fishing for dates in college, truck drivers often get overlooked because society has decided that what they do isn’t glamorous and therefore not worthy of attention. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth because if truck drivers stop, America stops. So, if you see a truck driver on the road, give him an arm pump for a horn blast and tell them “thank you” for keeping our country running.

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