Right now, we are facing what may be one of the most tumultuous times in the trucking industry.
Automation threatens millions of trucking jobs at the same time that it promises to improve highway safety and eliminate weeks spent on the road away from family. Regulations that are supposed to save lives somehow make it harder to do your job safely and legally. The nation’s bridges and highways are in bad shape. The public’s perception of the hardworking truck drivers who sacrifice to make sure that America has what it needs seems to slip lower and lower.
How did we get here? And where are we going?
Today as we’re looking toward the future, we’d like to take a moment to look back as well. Trucking was never quite the same after these 6 moments.
2009 — The death of Jason Rivenburg.
Rivenburg was a truck driver who was shot and killed for $7 while resting at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina in 2009. His killer was a 22 year old who reportedly wanted money for drugs. Rivenburg’s death highlighted the desperate need for safe parking spaces for truck drivers and gave birth to “Jason’s Law” — a massive study on America’s truck parking shortage.
1967 — The Department of Transportation is formed.
The birth of the U.S. DOT in the late 1960’s began a relationship that 50 years later many truckers would describe using words like “antagonistic” and “restrictive.” Or worse.
1955 — Trucker Malcom McLean invents container shipping.
While bored waiting for his truck to be unloaded and anxious to get home for the holidays, McLean wondered why his whole trailer couldn’t simply be taken off of his truck instead of painstakingly unloaded by hand. This revelation led to the invention of container shipping and has changed global trade forever.
1992 — The beating of Reginald Denny.
On April 29, 1992, truck driver Reginald Denny was hauling a load of sand when he inadvertently drove into the midst of the L.A. Riots. Denny was savagely beaten by a group of four men while a bystander filmed but did not help. The shocking footage of Denny’s near death experience rocked the trucking community for years to come. Decades later, Denny’s ordeal is still a haunting reminder of the dangers that truck drivers while doing their jobs.
1977 — “Smokey And The Bandit” debuts.
This Burt Reynolds classic, along with other movies like “Convoy,” marked a high point of trucker culture in the U.S. “Smokey” was the second highest grossing film of the year — after “Star Wars” — and it helped get everyday Americans excited about the trucking lifestyle.
2016 — An automated truck makes a beer run.
Word of “robot truckers” taking jobs from humans had been circulating for years, but in October of 2016, truckers were treated to the disconcerting image of a self-driving “Otto” truck hauling beer 120 miles from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. While safe and experienced truck drivers are in high demand and will continue to be so for some time, the Otto video offered an unnerving peek into what trucking could look like without truck drivers.