Among the splattered bugs on the windshield, a truck driver sees many sights, people and events while driving. On rare occasion, there are sights of nature that brings a sense of joy, but for the most part, a truck driver sees the sights that most of us would never want to see.
Most of these sights are car crashes, dead bodies on the highway from a multiple car crash scene, destitute people hanging around a truck stop looking for a hand-out, as well as on almost every freeway off-ramp and the occasional fight among the drivers themselves in a truck stop parking lot.
Recently though, there is a new scene that drivers have been witnessing. A scene that was at one time, a thought that would never have occurred to even think about. Truck drivers getting shot in truck stops while sleeping or driving on the highway. These are not random acts or mistakes from a hunter in a field a half mile away, these are deliberate acts of violence against the truck driver themselves.
The trucking industry has a very long history dating back to the early 1900’s. A profession at one time that was a well respected profession. In the early days, a person would tip their hat to a truck driver as they knew that person not only took pride in what they were doing, but took pride in being able to bring food from the farm to the market for the consuming shopper to take home.
As well as these traits, many people knew very little about a truck driver other than someone that showed up at a delivery destination and for the most part, no one really gave it much mind.
It was not until the 1920’s that people were more curious about what was involved with driving a semi truck, starting a evolution of fan-fare of the truck driver when one was seen. This included trinket model semi trucks to baseball caps. The truck driver became a sort of silent hero in the eyes of the population. A mysterious person that does a job that not many people could understand, much less, what made a truck driver tick.
As the trucking industry grew from the hearty men that operated them in mysterious solitude – a freedom of introspective – so did the involvement of the government.
As with all things that involve government thought, this would be no different. A new set of rules and regulations aimed at making semi trucks safer. Or so the truck driver and the public were told this is what the divine plan was and as always, the politicians without an ounce of knowledge about a semi truck were to be touted as being smarter than the average lay person.
So where did this go wrong? Why did a highly respected industry and the people that worked in that industry – a silent servant of the people – become a looked down upon burden of a society that was and still is over one hundred years later so reliant upon to deliver food to the grocery store, hardware and lumber to a hardware store, your car from the manufacture to a car dealer and literally, everything inside of your home, including the materials to build your house or apartment you live in.
In a sort of simple-complex way, it is societies fault. As the demand for consumer goods increased, so did the number of semi trucks on the road.
You see, society was transitioning into a “busy society” with less time at home and more time at work or other social activities. With this came a sense of “I need it now.”
From the years of 1912 to 1915, Clarence Birdseye made an interesting discovery. While on field assignment for the US Agriculture Department, in Labrador in the Dominion of Newfoundland, (now part of Canada) where he became interested in food preservation by freezing, especially fast freezing. As you know, you only have to take one look in the freezer section of your local grocer to see rows and rows of Birdseye branded frozen food. There was just one problem. There was no way to transport this new invention past a few miles without it thawing, making the food not edible.
It was not until Jacqueline Mars, heiress of the Mars empire met up with Clarence Birdseye after the passing of Mr. Mars, would the frozen food industry really begin to take hold in the American household. With a large investment in the rail industry and creating refrigerated rail cars, frozen food could now be shipped around the country.
Despite this, there was still the problem of being able to get the frozen food from a rail yard to a grocer. Once again, the semi truck would enter the picture with a somewhat crude, but workable refrigerated box, getting the frozen food to the grocer.
As this new found “convenience” continued to not only grow, but shape the thought process of the US population, – which itself was growing rapidly – a demand was now well rooted into all industries. Toasters, Microwave ovens, Telephones, Television, etc. The list goes on, but there was one clear message to all industrial manufacturing. Competition was now at an all time high and these manufacturers needed to get their products to the store shelves before the next manufacturer down the street did.
From building materials to food to new gadgets for the home to cars, the rush and push was on with now slowing down in sight.
Along with this came, you guessed it, thousands upon thousands of new semi trucks on the road, all scrambling to get to their destination first. A new mega industry was born and a new type and class of truck driver was also born. These newly formed large trucking companies would be in the same heated competition that the manufacturers were in only years before.
As to be expected, as with an old time black & white monster movie, the mad scientist created a monster and then the monster came back to kill the mad scientist.
This same push for “gimme more right now” from society, created the monster and now was unhappy about the fact that the number of semi trucks on the road, quickly approaching one million or more, clogging up the highways, had come back to haunt them. Society was now in a conundrum.
By the 1960’s and 70’s, the nations highways were stuffed with semi trucks. All scrambling to get to their destination. The trucks were larger in size, while the roads they traveled on were not accommodating to that size change. Societies frustration was also growing and as always, society turned to politicians for an answer, but there was not answer, so there were more regulations, making things worse and the years wore on.
By 2017, there were an estimated 8.1 million semi trucks on the road at any one point in time. The entire landscape of the trucking industry had changed and not so much for the better.
The once large mega manufacturing facilities of the mid-west had all but shuttered their doors as they too scrambled to produce more and more at less cost.
With the event of cross boarder manufacturing with Canada and Mexico for cheaper labor rates as well and these manufacturers attempts to show the public that they were not polluting as much as they once did, the demand for semi trucks increased even more. Now half assembled products were being shipped into another country to have that half completed assembly, completed and then shipped back.
Once again, the monster that was created came back to kill the mad scientist. The manufacturer was not polluting as much, but there was just as much, if not more pollution from all of the shipping that was now being done.
As the population of the US continued to explode, so did the the number of semi trucks – which were also being manufactured outside of the US – on the road, along with the number of cars on the road. A simple to see disaster in the making.
It would not be until a natural disaster would strike, (flood, tornado, wildfires or hurricane) would the truck driver once again be hailed as the mysterious man or woman that brought emergency supplies to those that were effected.
Sadly, this would not be enough to turn the new perception of a truck driver around for the better.
The monster was created and has just not found its way back to the lab to kill the mad scientist.