By John Reed, Chairman of the Brownsville Navigation District
The Port of Brownsville is proud to support the U.S. trucking industry by celebrating National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 13-19). While we always owe our nation’s truckers a debt of gratitude, it feels especially poignant right now as they continue to bravely and relentlessly carry out their responsibilities to keep our world and our economies moving forward amid a global pandemic.
At the port, everything we do revolves around helping businesses provide seamless logistics and transportation of products and supplies on both sides of the border. Cargo moving to and from the port gets there by water, rail or road. It’s a relationship dependent upon well-coordinated cooperation between each mode of transportation, with truck drivers playing a vital role in our success.
As we’ve seen during this unprecedented time, logistics and transportation professionals are essential and critical workers for the Rio Grande Valley, the state of Texas and our nation. Beyond our gates, truck drivers have proven to be vital to the economic development of our region. On average, more than 1,500 trucks enter the port daily to pick up cargo and deliver it across the nation and northern Mexico. The types of commodities they carry – like refined petroleum products, sugar, salt, grains, windmill components and steel – serve as the foundational backbone of many industries in the U.S. and throughout North America.
Like others, our community relies on a network of highly trained truck drivers and critical infrastructure. Key infrastructure investments help route trucks around local traffic areas, improve highway safety and facilitate greater international trade while also increasing the overall quality of life for Rio Grande Valley residents.
Improving our infrastructure to better serve the trucking industry goes hand in hand with looking at the bigger picture, the trucking industry has an outsized impact on the U.S. economy. According to the American Trucking Association, there are more than 3.5 million professional truck drivers nationwide who deliver the nation’s freight safely and securely every day. These men and women log more than 400 billion miles annually and, in 2019, delivered 70 percent of U.S. freight tonnage – or more than 10 billion tons. The trucking industry is an astounding $791.7 billion enterprise, representing 80 percent of the nation’s freight bill. Put simply, the trucking industry is a driver of economic growth and progress, but its impact goes beyond trucking to other modes of transportation. Truck drivers help ensure their freight is connected to key sea, air and rail hubs, helping enable intermodal transportation that quickly gets important freight where it needs to go. They also help connect rural communities to modern comforts, with more than 80 percent of U.S. rural communities relying exclusively on truck drivers to deliver these goods and commodities.
Unlike many other professions that have adapted to the COVID-19 working environment, truck drivers cannot work remotely from the comfort and safety of their homes. Drivers put their own health, and the health of their families on the line while delivering goods for our families. Their dedication and sacrifice deserve our praise, recognition, and appreciation.
To help protect these dedicated men and women as they do their jobs, the Port of Brownsville follows all federal, state and local health guidelines as well as posting signage for face coverings and social distancing at entry points. And, we’re taking steps to limit in-person contact, such as by encouraging truck drivers to acquire entry and overweight permits and transaction documents online.
This year has brought a lot of twists and turns. For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered daily life. But, through it all, our truckers have been there as an indispensable part of the intermodal transportation force that is keeping products moving to stores, hospitals, businesses and elsewhere while also helping to fuel economic activity during this difficult time.
During National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, I encourage residents and the business community of the Rio Grande Valley to take a moment to be thankful for the efforts of our country’s truck drivers and recognize that without them, your home, your workplace, your dinner table, and your life, would look very different.