Tara Cellinese's picture

May 16, 2017


Tara Cellinese

Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Mixed with the offbeat days, weeks, or months recognizing silly or even bizarre pieces of Americana — National Eight Track Day, anyone? — are a few serious, federally recognized celebrations of American life that, while incredibly important, are not widely appreciated or understood. Perhaps chief among them is National Transportation Week, celebrated now through May 20.

The week began in 1952 as a local day of recognition of the transportation industry and its workers in Houston, Texas and is being celebrated nationally for the 55th time.  At first blink, it may seem odd to have a special week of recognition for the U.S. transportation industry because it is so ubiquitous. You can’t get on the highway without seeing big 18-wheelers, local delivery vehicles, and box trucks. You can barely step outside on a clear day and not see planes — or at least their contrails — crossing the sky. And nearly every physical item that you eat, wear, or touch came to you via some form of transportation.

Still, it’s easy to ignore the role of transportation in modern American life, probably because it is just so pervasive, like the way it’s so easy to ignore or take for granted the value of clean water. Until you really think about it, anyway.

So let’s think about it here. 

Some Staggering Figures 

Transportation, and all of its many sub-categories is the fourth-largest non-farm/non-government industry, trailing only the housing, healthcare, and food industries. And when you think about it a bit more, each of those three would much smaller if they couldn’t get building supplies, healthcare supplies and equipment, and food to the market, for which they all depend upon one or more forms of transportation. 

In terms of employment, 4.99 million Americans were employed in the transportation and logistics services sector in April 2017. Of that, 1.46 million worked directly in the trucking business, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2015, businesses and individuals spent a staggering $1.48 trillion to move truly incalculable numbers of items across the nation and to or from foreign countries. That equals about eight percent of the entire national Gross Domestic Product. 

Logistics services, air and express delivery services, the railroads, and ocean- and river-shipping vessels all carry enormous amounts of cargo while the airlines and some railroads also carry hundreds of millions of passengers annually. But trucking is, by far, the largest and most important segment of the transportation industry. In 2015, trucks in this country hauled 10.5 billion tons of freight. When you consider that one ton equals 2,000 pounds, that’s 21 trillion pounds in one year.

Also consider that nearly all of that merchandise and nearly all of those materials get to their destinations undamaged and that the industry moves everything with numerically staggering safety rates is amazing. Yes, accidents still happen, but even those numbers are falling steadily as the trucking industry continues to stress both continuous driver improvement and the use of new, sophisticated technologies and techniques that enhance both mechanical and human performance.  Similarly, the air, rail, and maritime segments of the transportation industry have moved into a new era of remarkably low numbers of accidents involving injuries or fatalities.

So yes, it’s more than appropriate this week to salute the millions of men and women in the transportation industry and the companies big and small that employ them. For the way they — quite literally — bring us the stuff of life, we salute them all.

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