Trucking Moves America Forward introduced its newest member, the trucking industry's mascot, on May 18.
The mascot is a smiling red, white and blue semi-truck with working head and tail lights and an "I love trucking" license plate. It will travel the United States spreading the word about trucking's influence on the economy.
But he or she is still nameless.
TMAF, along with its partner and largest financial supporter, Pilot Flying J, called on the industry to help name the mascot. Name submissions can be sent to email@example.com, and the winning name will be announced at the beginning of July.
The mascot "is a great conversation starter," said Wendy Hamilton, Pilot Flying J senior manager of sales marketing and a TMAF executive committee member. "It's an integral part of the movement to help bring folks into understanding the knowledge of why trucking is so important."
The mascot is part of the goal TMAF set when it started in 2013 — to spread the word about the economic impact of the trucking industry, Hamilton said.
There are 3.5 million truck drivers and 7.3 million industry workers in the United States, which brings $726.4 billion in revenue to the country, said Kevin Burch, TMAF co-chairman and Jet Express Inc. president.
He said because one in 16 Americans is part of the trucking industry, creating positivity around the industry is critical.
"Trucking, for probably the last 10 to 15 years, has gotten a really bad rap on image and we're trying to change that," he said. "Back in the '60s we were the knights of the road. If you had a problem on the road, a truck driver, male or female, would stop and help and assist, change a tire and whatnot. Nowadays, if somebody has a car on the side of the road, if a truck driver stops they’re rolling up their windows, locking the door and calling 911. We need to get back to that simple mentality that we are good people that move America's goods."
He said much of the effort to change that mentality relies on image. That's where the mascot comes in.
"Out of sight out of mind," said Burch, chairman of the American Trucking Associations. "We want to have this mascot so we can go to schools, events. We move America's goods, but we move them safely, and that's the story we want to tell. It's an image thing, so this gives us the opportunity to do that."
The trucking industry is facing a driver shortage, Burch said. Part of telling truckers' stories includes sharing career opportunities.
"We want to make our story known as to the careers we have," he said. "Trucking Moves America Forward is for everyone in the industry. It doesn't matter if you're union or non-union, truck load or LTL. You're a professional truck driver that makes a difference moving those goods."
Hamilton said the impact of a professional truck driver is something that American culture tends to overlook.
"We see trucks on the road," she said. "We understand that they're a part of our daily lives, but I'm not sure they understand how integral that are to our daily lives. As a mom, when my child is sick, I can go to the store and pick up the medicine because a trucker brought it there.
"Without trucks, our country truly stops."