Members of Port Manatee’s operations and maintenance team prepare hamburgers and hot dogs at Port Manatee’s third annual Trucker Appreciation Day free lunch event.

PALMETTO, Florida – Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch, as hundreds of professional truck drivers happily learned Friday [April 27] as Port Manatee hosted its third annual Trucker Appreciation Day.

“I had a really nice lunch,” said Andrew Smith, a driver for Fort Myers-based Lee County Fuels Inc. “I come to Port Manatee every day and load my tanker with fuel to deliver to Circle K and other stores throughout the state, so it’s great to be treated to a free lunch right here where all us drivers come through.”
Smith, who has been driving a truck his entire professional career, was among more than 200 truckers who enjoyed hamburgers, hot dogs and numerous sponsor giveaways in the parking lot of the Florida Gulf Coast port’s access control center.

“Port Manatee and our event partners are proud to recognize the dedication of the professional drivers who serve our port each day,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director, who was one of scores of port staffers and sponsor representatives helping out at the event.

Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, commented, “We are pleased to do anything we can to acknowledge the hard work of the drivers who form a vital link in the safe and timely delivery of the diverse cargos flowing through Port Manatee.”

Giveaways, in addition to the picnic-style lunches, included flashlights, pens, hats, calendars and cookies doled out at tents sponsored by Federal Marine Terminals Inc., Trans-Phos Inc., Arrow Terminals Inc., World Direct Shipping, Indian River Transport, TransMontaigne Partners LP and Manatee Truck & Trailer Wash LLC.

At the Port Manatee tent, Trucker Appreciation Day T-shirts were distributed by port staffers, while Bibles were among items given away by the not-for-profit Anchor House Mission’s year-round Trucker Ministry. Florida Department of Transportation representatives were at the tent as well.

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 port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.


Professional drivers grab free lunches at Port Manatee’s third annual Trucker Appreciation Day event.
Truck driver Andrew Smith picks up a free Trucker Appreciation Day T-shirt as Michele Brennan, Port Manatee team assistant for trade development and marketing, looks on.

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