In the age of GPS, air ride suspension and microwaves in the cab, we decided to take a nostalgic look back at the humble beginnings of the trucking industry.
While freight transportation dates back thousands of years, for our purposes we decided to interview our resident trucking expert and operations manager, David Lush. With over 45 years’ experience behind the wheel of a big rig, only David could give us insight into the “good ol’ days.”
Technology has come a long way in the past 45 years, in the west coast there were few of the common makes you see today, such as: Kenworth, Peterbilt, Western Star or Volvo. You mostly saw GMC’s, Internationals and Mack Trucks. These trucks had very little torque and horsepower, as a result the lifting capacity was minimal at best. If you had to stop at a red light on a steep hill with a full load, you felt like the cab would lift off the chassis when you released the clutch. Statistics show that there is a 0.03% chance your truck will move faster if you scream at it hysterically, this works for all machinery and appliances.
Beyond the engine, the trucks also had very limited transmissions. Back in the day they had 5 and 4 transmissions, meaning there was two sticks with one of them being a 4-speed auxiliary. Imagine having to shift two gear levers! For those of you who aren’t sure what we are talking about, check out this video.
Probably the worst thing about doing a long haul in one of the old rigs was the sleeping arrangements. The used to call them “coffins,” because it literally was a box that fit your body and not much else. Trucks back then didn’t come standard with sleepers, it was usually an aftermarket product that had to be installed. Getting into your 30” wide coffin involved squeezing through a 2’ by 3’ hole in the back of the cab.
The good news was that there was no hours of service regulations (in Canada), you just drove until you couldn’t anymore. So by the time you decided to crawl into your hole you were too tired to be claustrophobic.
Etiquette on the Road
In the early days, truckers were extremely well respected and relied upon when travelling. It was descendant from many years ago, when if you saw another traveller in distress in a remote location your obligation was to help that person. Back before cell phones and even CB radios, if a trucker saw someone broken down on the side of the road they would stop without thinking twice. With exponentially less traffic than there is currently, if you didn’t stop than they may not see another car for hours depending on the location.
Fast forward to the present and everyone is in a rush, when your only concern is making your delivery time, sometimes safety and consideration of other travellers is secondary. Truckers also used to stop for a proper meal, back when truck stops would have a nice (relatively speaking) diner with one large table for everyone to sit around and socialize. Now most truck stops have a fast food outlet and there is less of an emphasis building relationships with other truckers.
When asked what he missed the most about his early years as a trucker, David mentioned that he missed the camaraderie between his fellow truckers. With such busy lives, no one has time for each other anymore.
When asked what he considers to be the biggest improvements in the modern trucking world, David had to go with driver comfort. Trucks these days have air ride seats, double and sometimes queen sized beds, sinks, microwaves, computers, printers and a variety of other amenities. The next time you see a long haul trucker on the road you can bet that they are travelling in a miniature version of their house.
We have come a long way in the trucking industry, from sleeping in coffins to being able to track shipments with GPS and having a whisper quiet truck that can handle over 50 tons of cargo.
However, for all of our advances in technology, it is important to never lose sight of where we came from and how we got here.