With free lunches, gift-filled goody bags and a first-time trucking summit, SeaPort Manatee has celebrated its seventh annual Trucker Appreciation Day, honoring – and interacting with – many of the hundreds of professional drivers who keep the supply chain flowing each day through the Florida Gulf Coast trade gateway.

Culminating National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, SeaPort Manatee’s Friday [Sept. 16] observance began with an interactive forum in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, followed by handing out of complimentary prepared lunches and gift bags to drivers approaching the port’s main entrance complex.

SeaPort Manatee’s chief commercial officer, Charles Tillotson, left, and Amanda Tyner, Florida Department of Transportation District 1 freight and seaport coordinator, take a quick break from handing out goody bags and lunches during the port’s Sept. 16 celebration of Trucker Appreciation Day.

“SeaPort Manatee is consistently grateful for the dedication of the highway heroes who dedicatedly provide a vital link in safely, dependably moving essential goods, especially throughout challenging times,” said Carlos Buqueras, SeaPort Manatee’s executive director. “We are honored to have this opportunity to show our thankfulness and to this year augment the giveaways with a forum furnishing updates to drivers while gathering their valued input.”

Trucker Appreciation Day sponsors included Ash Grove Cement Co., Carver Maritime Manatee, Federal Marine Terminals Inc., Intermodal Tank Transport (USA) Inc., Kinder Morgan Port Manatee Terminal LLC, LOGISTEC USA Inc., TransMontaigne Terminals LLC and World Direct Shipping.

Others donating giveaway items – from calendars and koozies to caps and sunglasses – included 75 Chrome Shop, Drivers Health Clinic, International Used Truck Center of Tampa, Southport Truck Group, TA Travel Centers of America and Truckers Against Trafficking.

The donated items – along with safety orange T-shirts emblazoned with “SeaPort Manatee Appreciates Me!” – were distributed in event-branded bags by port staff members, joined by Amanda Tyner, Florida Department of Transportation District 1 freight and seaport coordinator.

“We enjoyed having the opportunity to show our appreciation, with the SeaPort Manatee staff, for the drivers who keep the freight moving,” said Tyner, who represented FDOT at the trucking summit. “Thank you for allowing FDOT to be a part of such an amazing day.”

Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” SeaPort Manatee is a dynamic global trade hub, serving as the vibrant ships-to-shelves gateway for burgeoning Southwest and Central Florida markets. The closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, SeaPort Manatee offers 10 deep-draft berths, proficiently fulfilling diverse demands of container, liquid and dry bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The self-sustaining port generates more than $5.1 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 37,000 direct and indirect jobs – all without benefit of local property tax support.