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Sept. 14-20 is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week
Sept. 15, 2014

By Liz Hackenmueller
Correspondent

DELANO, MN – Imagine walking into a local store and finding 80 percent or more of the products gone from the shelves. This could be the reality without truckers.

“It’s a very challenging industry, being away from home, overnights, driving hundreds of miles a day, day-in and day-out,” Lance Wetter, general manager and vice president of GW Transportation Services in Delano, said.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is Sept. 14-20. Finding and keeping good drivers is not easy, especially with many drivers approaching retirement.

“Everybody needs drivers,” Jim Koch, president and CEO of K-Way Express in Winsted, said.

Of the 3.1 million professional truck drivers in the country, the average age of a driver is 48, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We have a great fleet of drivers, and some have been with us for 30 years. But getting the younger generation is not as easy,” said Tammy Thompson, vice president and part owner of Teske Trucking in Cokato.

The market is primed for individuals who are interested in starting a career in trucking, as the truck driving industry is projected to grow by 11 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The trucking industry provided 119,870 jobs – one out of every 19 – in Minnesota in 2012, according to the Minnesota Trucking Association (MTA). The average trucking industry salary in the state was $46,071 in 2012, according to MTA.

“This is a great opportunity for people to work either locally or over the road,” said Wayne Thompson, who has been driving truck for more than 25 years for Teske Trucking.

Truck drivers usually have a high school diploma and attend a professional truck driving school. They must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Most drivers also receive a few months of on-the-job training, as well.

“It is a very challenging job. You get to see a lot of new things. You’re challenged every day,” Koch said.

There are many rules and federal regulations governing the industry, and it is mandated that drivers pass tests in hearing, physical health, and vision. They also need to have excellent hand-eye coordination.

“The average Joe doesn’t understand how difficult that job is; to drive an 18-wheeler, 80-feet-long and weighing close to 80,000 pounds, hauling valuable freight hundreds of miles from home,” Wetter said.

Indeed, the economy and local stores would be vastly different without trucks and the people who drive those trucks.

More than 80 percent of US communities depend solely on trucking to deliver their goods and commodities, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Trucks haul just about everything.

“It’s amazing to me still, after all these years, what we get on our trailers sometimes,” said Tammy Thompson, who’s been in the business for 20 years. Teske Trucking hauls loads ranging from mulch to pillows, cabinets to fitness equipment.

New improvements in trucking
Trucking is now safer and more economically friendly.

Newer trucks have diesel engines, producing 98 percent less particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions than trucks did before 1990, according to MTA.

Sulfur emissions have also decreased by 97 percent since 1999.

During the last decade, the number of commercial trucks involved in injury crashes has decreased by 42 percent, according to MTA.

In almost three-quarters of all truck and passenger car accidents, passenger vehicles are at fault.

“I don’t think people realize there are blind spots on trucks and how long it takes them to stop,” Thompson said.

Passenger car drivers should be aware of truck driver’s blind spots, or “no zones,” and try to stay out of them. A good rule of thumb is, if the driver of the passenger car can’t see the truck driver, he can’t see them and might not know the car is there.

Kevin Otto of Delano receives outstanding service award
Kevin Otto, CFO of Otto Transfer of Delano, received the outstanding service award of the year at the annual conference of the MTA in early August.

“Kevin Otto joined the MTA in 1994, and has been active with committees, forums, and annual conference planning ever since,” said MTA President John Hausladen. “Two years ago, he revitalized our scholarship program, focusing it specifically on those seeking a career in trucking. He’s on the executive committee of the board today, and continues to make significant contributions to the work of MTA.”

Otto Transfer was founded in l946 by Kevin Otto’s father and uncle. It hauls primarily flatbed oversized freight.

The MTA’s outstanding service award was created to recognize an individual who has significantly contributed to the programs and mission of the Minnesota Trucking Association.

The Minnesota Trucking Association is a non-profit trade association representing 700 member-trucking companies and allied firms from across the state. The membership reflects the diversity of the Minnesota trucking industry, including less-than-truckload, truckload, bulk, agricultural, heavy specialized, and private trucking operations.

Show appreciation by driving safely
Motorists can show appreciation to truck drivers by driving safely. The following tips are from National Traffic Safety Institute:

• Trucks have large blind spots, also known as “no zones,” and need additional room when making turns. A trustworthy rule to follow at all times is, if you cannot see the operator of the truck in their outside mirrors, then he/she probably cannot see your vehicle.

• At night, use low-beam headlights when following large vehicles.

• Maintain a minimum of a four-second following distance.

• When passing a large vehicle, be sure you can see the front of the cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling back in front of the truck.

• Since large vehicles need additional turning space, never try to squeeze into the space next to a large truck when it is making a turn.

• If you are stopped behind a large vehicle on an incline, leave space between the vehicle and yours in case the vehicle operator allows the vehicle to drift backwards slightly when it starts to move.

• The best defensive driving technique when dealing with large vehicles is to stay away from them.

 

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