Today’s 3.5 million professional drivers form the backbone of North America’s supply chain — a truth made apparent when COVID-19 first impacted our country six months ago.
In April, #thankatrucker went viral on social media with photographs of roadside lunches and children holding posters with encouraging messages. Now, during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW), companies across the industry are showing even more gratitude for the professional driver community.
Professional drivers have always worked hard to get goods from point A to point B regardless of the circumstances. The events of this year have shown just how essential and hard-working professional drivers are as they continue to travel across the country interacting with countless people along the way to keep shelves stocked with much-needed food and medical supplies. In response, businesses are reemphasizing their commitment to the success and well-being of drivers.
Here are five ways we’re seeing company’s support professional truck driver appreciation and well-being this month and all year long.
1. Joining the Celebration
NTDAW kicked off Sunday, September 13 and many are taking part in the celebration. The American Trucking Association (ATA) has already opened its online store stocked full of T-shirts, buttons, mugs and other handpicked items celebrating truck drivers.
Peterson Manufacturing is taking advantage of this year’s NTDAW by awarding 10 professional drivers who have suffered hardships during the pandemic monetary gifts of $1,000. These “Spotlight Awards” will be selected by a panel of independent judges, and winners will be contacted individually no later than Sept. 20.
Landstar System Inc. is also participating in a giveaway in honor of NTDAW. Nearly 10,000 Landstar owner-operators have been entered to win a new Freightliner Cascadia 126; the virtual giveaway will take place Sept. 18.
In a year when the world sees just how essential professional drivers are to daily life, Pilot Company is celebrating NTDAW all month long by giving professional drivers free drinks, showers and JRPO diagnostic tests through the Pilot Flying J app.
To further highlight the importance of driver appreciation this year, Pilot Company also released a video featuring singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard: “[Drivers] don’t just carry food, supplies and equipment,” Hubbard says. “They carry hope to the front lines, courage to the battlegrounds and a path forward through uncertain times.”
2. Utilizing helpful technology
Transportation companies across the industry are seizing the opportunity to keep drivers safe, fed and informed by innovating their services and offering free digital tools.
In April, Transflo released three digital apps in which drivers can share health tips, industry news and messages between drivers and fleets.
When drivers enter warehouses to unload or pick up loads, they might be seeing more self-service kiosks, which help them maintain social distance from warehouse staff. MacGregor Partners’ new warehouse kiosk is making the entire warehouse workflow paper- and contact-free for drivers.
“This is really helping drivers effectively plan their days,” said Karl Kolada, director of business development at MacGregor Partners. “For a lot of them, it’s about trying to get onto freeways and get out of big city traffic as soon as possible.”
The Pilot Flying J App provides drivers with tools and features to make the most of their travel center stop in the palm of their hand. Within the app, drivers can conduct touchless transactions like shower and parking reservations, mobile fueling and redeeming loyalty points or offers. Receipts also are available in the app and can easily be shared with fleet managers or saved for future reference.
3. Enhanced loyalty programs
Beyond special promotions for driver appreciation, many companies offer loyalty programs with perks for professional drivers. For example, Pilot Company’s myRewards program enables guests to receive points and perks whenever they fuel at any of its locations. Drivers can redeem points to buy food, beverages and other items at the company’s branded Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers. Drink club members also get their 10th fountain or coffee drink free, and guests can even expect special offers during their birthday month.
Other popular Pilot Company programs include the Prime Parking program, which addresses a major concern for drivers and allows them to use myRewards points to reserve a spot at participating Pilot Flying J locations before arrival. Pilot also recently introduced the Push4Points program in the Pilot Flying J app. Launched in April, Push4Points helps drivers earn more points each month and save more money on the road.
“[Push4Points] allows me to buy some of the necessary things I need for myself and my truck that makes life on the road a little easier,” said professional driver Ronald B.
4. Keeping drivers well-fed, caffeinated and active
A recent survey by the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) asked 1,500 Check-Link drivers what factored into their truck stop decision, and food offerings, after fuel, ranked second highest in importance.
Food stops during COVID-19 have been a more precarious venture for drivers as some truck stops and restaurants closed their dining rooms. This encouraged companies like Uber Freight to provide a $20 credit on meals ordered with Uber Eats, also waiving delivery fees.
However, while many temporarily closed, travel centers including Pilot Flying J remained open and continue to serve all who walk through its doors every day. As a one-stop-shop travel center network that knows the importance of having a wide variety of food and dining options for drivers, Pilot Flying J offers 680 quick-serve restaurants at its stores, with 14 popular brands such as Arby’s, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. In addition, Pilot Flying J offers a variety of freshly made foods prepared on site daily, such as pizza, salads, sandwiches, burgers and fruit, as well as a wide selection of popular grab-and-go items. Those seeking a fresh cup of coffee will find some of the ‘best coffee on the interstate’ at Pilot Flying J, available on demand with bean-to-cup or over ice for those warmer days.
Beyond staying fueled and caffeinated, it is important for drivers to also get and stay active. Knowing that health and fitness can pose a challenge for drivers, Rolling Strong, a driver wellness company, recommends several cardio exercises that drivers can conveniently do from anywhere. Active Trucker is a free app that offers fitness programs for purchase that coaches drivers on daily workouts and exercises.
5. Flexible credit
As the country continues to reopen and trucking companies weather rate volatility, access to credit for fleets of all sizes remains incredibly important during these challenging times.
Finding the right credit solution can be difficult with several different options available to trucking companies. Introduced in May of this year, Pilot Company’s Axle Fuel Card gives fleets the credit they need to keep their businesses going with access to the largest network of travel centers and fueling locations — 950 stops in the U.S. and Canada.
“We launched the Axle Fuel Card as another way that we at Pilot can help fleets of all sizes and meet the needs of their drivers — especially during the difficult times we’ve all experienced the past few months,” said Kevin Wills, chief financial officer for Pilot Company. “The goal of the Axle Fuel Card is to make it easier for customers to fuel at a variety of locations with fast approvals, no nickel and diming, convenient account management and rewards.”
Accepted at all Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers, One9 Fuel Network locations and at Pilot Flying J Truck Care Service Centers, some of the card’s benefits include $30 off any tire or PM service, waived call out fees for emergency road service, 10% off the service center hourly rate, money-back rewards toward fuel purchases, and perks for professional drivers such as extra points and a free drink earned with each card purchase.