Port Manatee is always thankful for the unwavering dedication of the hundreds of professional drivers passing through its gates on a daily basis, but that gratitude is particularly effusive in these pandemic-challenged times, with the port’s sixth annual Trucker Appreciation Day, held Friday [Sept. 17], providing a modest opportunity to celebrate their contributions.

Lisa Rogers Orozco, who drives for Villa Rica, Georgia-based East-West Express Inc., smilingly accepts a goody bag as Port Manatee thanks professional drivers with its sixth annual Trucker Appreciation Day.
Lisa Rogers Orozco, who drives for Villa Rica, Georgia-based East-West Express Inc., smilingly accepts a goody bag as Port Manatee thanks professional drivers with its sixth annual Trucker Appreciation Day.

For the event, more than 200 truckers were treated to lunches and jam-packed goody bags, handed them in a safety-conscious manner as they approached Port Manatee’s North Gate on the closing day of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.

“Port Manatee is truly blessed to be served by these devoted professional drivers,” said Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority. “Especially in these challenging times, truckers have gone above and beyond in demonstrating their commitment to keeping the supply chain running smoothly.”

Truckers received bagged lunches, as well as a host of gift items – from safety-bright T-shirts to hand sanitizer – all packed into event-branded shopping totes.

Event sponsors included Allied Universal Corp., Ash Grove Cement Co., Carver Maritime Manatee, Federal Marine Terminals Inc., Kinder Morgan Port Manatee Terminal LLC, Manatee Truck & Trailer Wash LLC, The Mosaic Co., Odyssey FoodTrans LLC, TransMontaigne Terminals LLC and World Direct Shipping. Others donating giveaways included Davis Express, 75 Chrome Shop and TA Express. Representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation furnished tire gauges and rain ponchos.

“Port Manatee joins its event partners in recognizing the efforts of the drivers who keep essential goods safely and efficiently flowing, especially in times of crisis,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. “While this Trucker Appreciation Day function is a relatively small gesture, we hope it helps show how much the supply chain – and Port Manatee in particular – is indebted to the service of professional drivers.”

Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The self-sustaining port generates more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs, all without benefit of local property tax support.