In a highly productive state like Wisconsin, sustaining the economy is a team sport. Cheese-lovers appreciate Wisconsin for churning out about a quarter of our nation’s total cheese, in addition to a smorgasbord of other popular food, beer and agricultural products. But the Dairy State is also home to a robust manufacturing base, creating heavy machinery, power tools and other durable goods that supply many businesses and homes across the country.
But this enormous productivity can’t go anywhere without trucks. Which is why the trucking industry is the lifeblood of the state’s economy and the essential link connecting Wisconsin producers with their customers across the nation. Nearly 95% of all manufactured tonnage in Wisconsin moves by truck – from the farmhouse to the deli counter, and from the factory floor to the warehouse and store shelves. Moving this heavy payload requires a strong workforce. Wisconsin is home to more than 20,000 trucking companies—mostly small and family-owned motors— providing one out of every 15 jobs in the state and an annual salary of more than $50,000.
This teamwork extends beyond just the producers and transporters. It depends on elected officials who understand the supply chain and what’s required to keep it moving. Fortunately, Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District has sent Congressman Mike Gallagher to Washington — a lawmaker who we ‘re proud to name our Trucking Champion of the Month. Congressman Gallagher understands that truckers are absolutely essential to our way of life and has put pen to paper to help expand the financial benefits of this vital career path. He co-wrote and introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act, which would create a refundable $7,500 tax credit for professional truck drivers.
In addition, Congressman Gallagher has helped lead efforts to boost the recruitment of women into trucking. Although women make up half of our country’s total workforce, they represent less than 10% of professional truck drivers. The Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act, which became law as past last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, creates a new platform to examine challenges and expand opportunities for women to pursue careers throughout the industry.
Even more, Congressman Gallagher is a leading cosponsor on a bill to eliminate duplicative background checks and fees on drivers. The TSA Security Threat Assessment Modernization Act makes it less burdensome for job-seekers to enter the trucking industry and benefit financially from driving by reducing costly and unnecessary government red tape. Every member of Congress should follow Rep. Gallagher's lead and cosponsor this important workforce legislation."
“As the primary mover of goods in the supply chain, trucking serves as the backbone of the nation’s economy,” said Neal Kedzie, President of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. “Congressman Gallagher understands the importance of our industry and his authoring the Strengthening Supply Chains Through Truck Driver Incentives Act is evidence of that. Furthermore, his Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act will help expand the opportunities for women to enter the industry’s workforce. We are proud to have Congressman Gallagher represent us in Washington D.C. and congratulate him for being a true champion of trucking.”
Q&A with Congressman Gallagher
What do you appreciate most about the trucking industry?
I think the pandemic gave many Americans, myself included, a newfound appreciation for the trucking industry. As businesses closed and people stayed home, truckers carried on and ensured that goods – from lifesaving medicines and PPE to food and basic essentials – stayed on the shelves. The trucking industry was filled with unsung heroes from the pandemic, and if Americans didn’t understand it before, I hope they now understand just how important truckers are to our economy and supply chains.
What role do truckers play in the local Wisconsin economy?
Truckers play an incredibly important role in Wisconsin’s economy – and Northeast Wisconsin’s economy in particular. 1 in 15 jobs in the state are held by someone who works in the trucking industry. It is part of our heritage. These men and women not only ensure shelves are stocked and goods get from point A to point B, but many in Northeast Wisconsin put food on their tables and put their kids through school because of these crucial, good paying jobs.
If you could describe Wisconsin truckers in one word, what would it be?
Gritty. Wisconsin truckers always have a resolve to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done.
How can elected officials better support the men and women of trucking?
I think some of the most important things we can do to support men and women in trucking is to solve the industry’s crippling workforce shortage and find ways to better recruit and retain truck drivers. One obvious way to do so is to support tech schools and vocational training to ensure that kids have the opportunity to get interested in the trucking industry and get the skills they need to enter the workforce. There are incredible examples of these kinds of partnerships right here in Northeast Wisconsin through programs like the Luxemburg-Casco School District Ahnapee Diesel Center, and we should do all we can to support these programs. And while we’re at it, we should lower the age to get a CDL from 21 to 18 so the students that do participate in these programs can more quickly enter the workforce.
What song tops your long-haul playlist?
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s cover of Little Wing from his Live at the El Mocambo concert