By Kristen Miller
Truck drivers are essential to the American economy as a majority of all goods will or have been transported over the road. However, often, their dedication and hard work is overlooked by the average consumer.
This week, Americans take the opportunity to honor all professional truck drivers for their hard work and commitment during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week now through Saturday, Sept. 22.
In Minnesota alone, trucks transported 85 percent of total manufactured tonnage in 2010, or 528,529 tons per day, according to the Minnesota Trucking Association. More than 68 percent of Minnesota communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods.
Local transportation companies, such as Teske Trucking out of Cokato, help fulfill those needs.
What has been a family-owned business since 1952, Teske Trucking’s main customer is Faribault Foods, hauling product from Cokato to Faribault and back. Teske’s drivers also haul equipment for Snap Fitness. In all, Teske’s 17 drivers wrack up 95,000 miles each month.
In 2010, the trucking industry in Minnesota provided 121,560 jobs, or one out of 18 in the state.
The greatest obstacle to transportation companies has been increased regulations, which makes it more difficult to attract drivers to the industry.
More regulations are being placed on drive time and required experience.
“It’s getting a lot more difficult,” said Tom Teske, who started working full time for his parents, Reuben and Mary Lou, in 1971.
Teske understands, however, that safety does come first for all who share the roadways.
“It’s another hurdle we’re going to have to jump,” he commented.
Roughly 60 to 70 percent of the drivers working for Teske are over 50 years of age, many are even over 60, he said.
Two of Teske’s longest owners/operators are John Cafferty, who has been driving for 28 years for the company; and Kevin Jaeger, who has been there for 27 years.
“We have good people here,” Teske said. “I don’t just hire anybody.”
Demand for over-the-road transportation is also increasing.
Teske explained that even goods made overseas eventually need to be transported to the stores via trucks.
Between 1990 and 2006, total truck tonnage increased nearly 40 percent, and it is only expected to climb.
“That is why Truck Driver Appreciation Week is so important they are our first contact with our customer,” Teske said. “They drive this industry. Good drivers are needed.”
Here are more statistics that further emphasize just how important truck drivers are to the economy and the individual consumer.
• Total trucking industry wages paid in Minnesota in 2010 exceeded $5.5 billion, with an average annual trucking industry salary of $45,178.
• In 2011, there were more than 14,370 trucking companies located in Minnesota, most of them small, locally-owned businesses. These companies are served by a wide range of supporting businesses, both large and small.
• In 2009, the trucking industry in Minnesota paid approximately $680 million in federal and state roadway taxes and fees. The industry paid 33 percent of all taxes and fees owed by Minnesota motorists, despite trucks representing only 8 percent of vehicle miles traveled in the state.
• At the national level, the large truck fatal crash rate for 2009 was 1.04 fatal crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This rate is at its lowest point since the US Department of Transportation began keeping these records in 1975. Since that time, it has dropped 77 percent.