‘When trucking stops, America stops’: Celebrating unsung heroes of the roads
PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Like any other profession there’s a week to honor and celebrate their work and impact. From September 10th-16th, truck drivers across the country are highlighted during Truck Drivers Appreciation Week. These are essential workers typically seen on the highways, gas stations, and rest stops after a long drive. This week many drivers want everyone to know, that without them the economy would be in big trouble.
Starting up the engine to a big diesel is how Tedera Graves of Bassfield starts his day. For the past 30 years, Graves has pretty much done it all in the trucking industry.
“I do flatbed, lumber, mats, and I also do dry van,” said Graves.
But when asked if he feels appreciated, he said, “I feel as though we’re not being recognized enough.” Graves said the most appreciation they get is arriving home safely to their family. Graves said with rates being low and fuel costs steadily rising, the trucking industry is falling. Despite those issues, businesses and families across the nation still expect their goods no matter what.
“When trucking stops, America stops,” Graves said with much emotion.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two million people are employed in the industry as of 2021, and by 2031 that number is expected to rise by four percent.
“You just want to leave home and make it back home the same way you left.”
Troy Edwards, of Marion County, being one of those millions of drivers says when he made this career change two years ago, safety was his main concern and priority.
“A life-threatening incident can happen in the blink of an eye,” said Edwards
And just last month it did, flipping his log truck while traveling 55 miles per hour, sustaining major injuries.
“It’s traumatizing,” Edwards said situations like this truly highlight the risk truckers take daily.
“Once everybody begins to acknowledge that and come together on the sacrifices that we make every day as being a truck driver, I think everything will build back up,” said Edwards.
“This is me. I just left home and now I’m going back home,” said Michelle McGill as she showed off her truck. Like Tadera Graves, Michelle McGill, of Hattiesburg, owns her own truck and got into the industry five years ago.
“One thing that I love about this industry is the pay is the same whether it’s a man or a woman,” McGill said. “I get to write off parking, I get to write off my showers, and write off some of my meals,” she said. “I get a per diem every day for being out here every day. I think it’s 68 or 69 dollars right now,” McGill said.
McGill said although it’s known to be a male-dominated field, she hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s a lot of women out here now,” said McGill. “We still don’t make up a big percentage of the men but we’re out here. I would tell any woman to go for her dreams. “Any young guy who just doesn’t want to go to college and it’s nowhere you can go to school for seven weeks and come out here and make six figures.”
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