PITTSBURGH — Trucking’s lifeblood is quality professionals — the drivers and law enforcement officers — American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said Thursday during the Breakfast of Champions at the start of the National Truck Driving Championships.
“Annually, 9 billion tons of freight are moved by trucks over nearly 400 billion miles,” Graves told more than 1,000 people at NTDC, which is held simultaneously with the inspectors championships.
That’s 18 trillion pounds of freight being moved thanks to nearly 3 million driving professionals and the million-plus trucking companies that employ and contract them, Graves said.
Yet, those numbers mean nothing if we’re not moving freight safely, Graves said.
“Every accident, every injury, every driver who weaves in and out of traffic and hugs a bumper defeats all the good that the rest of the trucking industry does,” he said. “That’s why as an industry we hold the champions in this room in such high esteem.”
ONGOING COVERAGE: Photos, news and more from NTDC
TOUGH COURSE: Drivers tackle off-road challenge
The driving champions inspire and brandish a positive image on the trucking industry, and the inspectors champions are “our ears and our eyes,” Graves said.
“You keep those who would give trucking a bad name, you keep them in line,” he said.
Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer and assistant administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said he “loves” talking to the drivers and praising them for fueling the nation’s just-in-time economy.
“For what you do for all of us . . . you should be proud of what you do,” he said. “You are true, true professionals.”