Have you ever stopped to think about how important transportation is to you and our quality of life in the United States? Just the phrase “Trains, planes and automobiles” says a lot about transportation in the United States. We know we can take a train, get on a plane, or get in a car to go just about anywhere in the United States, and so can the trucks, trains, and planes that provide the goods and services that we depend on every day.
In some ways we take transportation for granted because of the great mobility we have moving around the country and around the world. There are millions of Americans in the transportation workforce who manufacture the trains, planes, and automobiles; build the highways, rail stations, and airports; who drive the trucks, fly the planes, are railroad engineers; or who operate and manage this vast U.S. transportation system.
Transportation and the transportation workforce is important. So important, that in 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed the “week in May of each year in which falls the third Friday of that month as National Transportation Week, as a tribute to the men and women who, night and day, move goods and people throughout our land” (Proclamation 3475 - National Transportation Week, 1962).
Today transportation employs more than 4.6 million men and women who “night and day, move goods and people throughout our land.” In just this last year, we traveled more than 2,995,750 million miles. That’s 2,995,750 followed by six zeros. That’s a lot of miles…miles to work, school, the movies, the mall, for vacation; and goods, and services to our homes, schools, workplaces, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants.
Too often when we think about transportation, we think about what we are most familiar with; trains, planes, and automobiles, but the dedicated men and women in the transportation workforce that President Kennedy talked about in 1962 are still on the job today, and working in any number of disciplines as planners, environmental specialists, structural engineers, pavement and materials engineers, safety professionals, intelligent transportation specialists, financial managers, geotechnical engineers, researchers, project/program managers, system operators, and the list goes on.
May 13-19, 2017, is National Transportation Week (NTW). Let’s take that week as an opportunity to help our students and young people to better understand transportation. As a teacher, reach out to transportation professionals in your community to ask them to talk with your students about transportation and what they do as transportation professionals. Transportation professionals can reach out to teachers to offer to talk to students about transportation.
NTW is also a good opportunity to talk about driver safety. Driving is a privilege, but too many young drivers take driving for granted too. There were 35,097 fatalities on our Nation’s highways in 2015, up 7.2% from 32,744 in 2014. More than 30,000 fatalities on our Nation’s highways each year. 30,000 lives lost, loved ones lost, families devastated. There are any number of transportation professionals who can talk to students about driving responsibly.
There are bridge and highway design engineers who can tell students about the safety design considered in the highway system. There are pavement engineers who know about pavement safety and durability. There are design engineers who can talk about roadway lighting and signing. Students will know more about the highways they drive on and have a greater appreciation for their responsibility to drive safely.
Below are some resources teachers can consider to help their students better understand transportation and transportation careers.
U.S. Department of Transportation: The federal agency that serves the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. www.dot.gov
FAST FORWARD: Digital newsletter that provides information about transportation including occupation and careers. www.fastforwardtransportation.com
Garrett Morgan Program Clearinghouse: The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program identifies STEM related transportation curriculum and educational programs at the elementary and secondary school levels. http://www.gamttep.com/
Transportation Lesson Plans: Transportation related lessons plans that teachers can incorporate into existing 6-12 grade and community college math, science, and social studies curriculum. transportationcareers.org
National Summer Transportation Institute Programs (NSTI): Week long programs designed to introduce secondary school students to all modes of transportation careers and encourage them to pursue transportation-related courses of study at the college/university level. (website TBD)
Transportation YOU: Sponsored by WTS International in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation is a hands-on, interactive, mentoring program that offers young girls ages 13-18 an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers. www.transportationyou.org
Future City Program:A national competition, project-based learning experience where students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade design, and build cities of the future. futurecity.org