Trucking In The 1960s And 1970s

Cabover, Truckers in the 60s and 70s

Cabover, Truckers in the 60s and 70s





The trucking industry entails the transport and distribution of industrial and commercial goods through the use of CMV or commercial motor vehicles.  Dump trucks, box trucks and semi trucks are among the motor vehicles that fall under this category.  Truckers or truck drivers are individuals who make a living by driving a CMV.

A very essential service is provided by the trucking industry, in view of the fact that it significantly impacts the American economy through the carrying of large quantities of finished goods, works in process and raw materials over land; usually from the manufacturing plants to the centers where the goods are to be distributed.  In addition, trucks are vital to the construction industry as well, given that portable concrete mixers and dump trucks are required to move large quantities of concrete, dirt, rocks and other building materials that are utilized in the construction industry.  Truckers in America have the responsibility for the land movement of the majority of freight and they are vital tools in the warehousing, transportation and manufacturing industries.

Trucks were first extensively used in World War I by the military.  An increase in the construction of paved roads and super highways contributed to trucking attaining noteworthy foothold during the decade of the 1930s and almost immediately became the target of a variety of government regulations.  During the 1950s and 1960s, there was acceleration in trucking due to the emergence of the Interstate Highway System, which is a wide-ranging network of freeways that serve to link major cities across the continent.





Types of Trucks Used Back Then

Cab Over Engine, which is also referred to as COE, Cab-over, forward control or cab forward, is one of the styles of trucks that were extensively used during the 1960s and 1970s.  These trucks have a “flat face” or vertical front and its cab sits on top of the front axle.  The configuration of these trucks is currently common among truck manufacturers in Europe and Japan.   Even though Cab-over was popular among trucking companies and heavy truckers in the United States during the decade of the 1970s, as a result of stringent length laws in a number of states, when the length laws were rescinded, the majority of manufacturers of heavy truck moved to other styles of trucks. However, it is still quite popular in the segment of the industry that provides light-duty and medium-duty transportation, with models like the Mitsubishi FK/FM series and Fuso FE or the Isuzu NPR series.






Speed Limits

During the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, the speed limit was 55 miles per hour and the roads were a whole lot smaller and nothing like the super highways that are accessible these days.  However, today the speed limits vary from state to state and is anywhere from 55 miles per hour in Hawaii to 75-80 miles per hour in Texas.

Trucking Requirements

Large trucks require a CDL or commercial driver’s license in order to operate.  Getting a CDL requires additional training and education which deals with the special handling characteristics and knowledge requirements of these massive vehicles.  Truckers must abide by the hours of service; this is just one of the government regulations that seek to ensure the safety of the trucker as well as other road users.  The FMCSA or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for issuing these and other rules in relation to the safety of commercial interstate driving.




Trucking Songs &Country Music

The 60s and 70s saw trucking achieving national attention, when movies and songs about truck driving became major hits.   Trucking songs are a sub-genre of western and country music and they are essentially a fusion of Bakersfield Sound, country-rock and honky tonk.  It has the sentiment of honky-tonk and the beat of country-rock and the lyrics concentrate on the lifestyle of truckers.  Trucking songs frequently deal with love and trucking.  Popular artists who have made trucking songs include Waylon Speed, The Road Hammers, Red Simpson, Dick Curless,  Colonel Robert Morris,  Red Sovine and Dave Dudley.  Listening to music in general and trucking songs in particular while travelling the highways and byways, has always been a favorite for truckers; ever since the very first recording by Cliff Bruner in 1939 when he put out Truck Driver Blues, trucking songs has grown in recognition across the globe, particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.

Especially during the decade of the 1970s, the independent truckers were celebrated by Hollywood filmmakers and country musicians.  The movies and music were a fierce reflection of the unapologetic masculinity, counter-cultural defiance and fierce independence by which truckers were defined at that time.




CB Radio Craze of the 1970s

The 1970s represented the decade in which the CB Radio craze occurred.  CB or Citizen Band radio had in existence ever since the late 1940s.  Throughout the late 1960s, it was mainly utilized by businesses as a means of communicating between mobile units and a base.  The 23-channel CB radio was a cool transition from the walkie talkie which had one channel.  Cobra, Courier and Lafayette were just a few of the more popular manufactures of CB.

A major component of the CB radio was the strength of the signal; essentially, truckers would look at the S-meter of the big rig and they prided themselves on the quality of the transmission that they were sending out.  The higher up on a hill that the truckers were, the better the transmission quality would be.   Another big part of using these radios was the creative CB handles.  Full names were never used and truckers opted to use their first name or a unique CB handle.



The Motor Carrier Act Deregulation

In the decades prior to the 1980s the entire trucking industry was regulated and studies have indicated that regulation resulted in rates and costs being increased significantly.  According to shippers, not only were costs lower without regulation, but the quality of the service was better as well.   Products that were not liable for regulation moved at rates that were between 20 and 40 percent below the ones that are subjected to ICC controls.





The Motor Carrier Act of 1980  deregulated the trucking industry partially and that dramatically increased the amount of trucking companies that were in operation.  The truckers were drastically de-unionized and that resulted in the truckers getting lower overall pay.  By that time, the spotlight on trucking had gone dim in popular culture and the vibe had gotten less intimate among drivers as a result of the increase in motor carriers as well as the number of truckers.  However, deregulation caused the competition and productivity to increase and a reduction in cost within the entire trucking industry and that was beneficial to the American consumers.  Trucking became dominant in the freight industry during the later part of the 20th Century.





Ever since the first truckers started to carry freight early in the 1900s, the trucking industry in the United States has been influencing food prices, politics and even music.  A recent study has indicated that deregulated trucking has significantly contributed to pushing up federal and state spending on healthcare, particularly in New Jersey and other port states that are export driven.  In addition, deregulation has made it a great deal less complicated for non-union workers to acquire jobs as truckers.  Prior to deregulation, the truckers who were regulated by the ICC paid unionized workers earned approximately 50 percent higher than employees in other industries. Despite the fact that unionized drivers are still paid a premium, by the year 1985 unionized employees were just 28 percent of the work force of truckers, down from approximately 60 percent during the late 1970s.




Technological developments such as the internet, satellite communication and computers have significantly contributed to a number of improvements within the trucking industry.  The developments have boosted the productivity of the operations of the company, saved the effort and time of the truckers and made new, more accessible types of entertainment available to women and men who frequently spend extended periods of time away from their homes and families.   These changes are reflected in quite a few aspects of trucking lifestyle, including truck stops.




Truck Stops

Truck stops have serviced highway and interstate truckers for over 60 years, providing food, fuel and a resting place for a number of weary travelers.  These truck stops are located every few miles across the United States.  Originally, truck stops were developed with the purpose of providing gas for large delivery trucks on the highways.  In the beginning, they were small mom and pop operations.  During the decade of the 1940s, the truck stops were located on highways as a replacement for several of the neighborhood filling stations for travelers who were going longer distances.   The 50s ushered in the initiation of the system of the Interstate Highway.  Interstates were accessible for long distance travel for family members who were going on extended trips and became accessible routes for truckers to transport their merchandise across the country.  These stops were established along the routes in order to provide gas for truckers and other motorists, without them having to completely go off course as a means of finding filling stations.





Ultimately, with the development in the trucking industry, truck stops started to offer additional services for truckers who logged numerous hours on the highways.  They provided truckers with places to park their truck as well as facilities to eat, showers and sleep.  In essence, these truck stops have developed into quite a bit more than just a location to re-fuel.  Nowadays, a lot of truck stops are actually plazas which offer restrooms and fuel as well as lounges, restaurants, gaming centers and souvenir shops for truckers and travelers alike.



Locating truck stops is quite easy, given that there are a number of them to be found on major routes.  Quite a few of these truck stops are franchises which have signage that is posted on billboards along the routes and road signs that alert travelers to the fact that they are approaching a rest stop.  In addition, information on truck stops can be found in atlases and guidebooks and can be accessed on the Internet.   A lot of trucking companies even have contracts with particular truck stop franchises, which state that they will only fill up with them. The truckers are familiar with where the truck stops are located on their routes; as a result they are able to plan when to rest and when to fill up.




In the 1960s and 1970s, trucking was respected and celebrated through music and movies, as was previously mentioned.  However, these days, there has been a great reduction of the respect that was associated with trucking back in the day.   This transformative shift in the trucking industry took place following the Motor Carrier Act in 1980, which deregulated the trucking industry.






Trucking is now synonymous with high degrees of danger and aggressive competition. Particularly for the owner-operator truckers who number in the region of 400,000 and today haul a great deal of the freight for the nation.  More often than not, this group of truckers bear the brunt of any increase in prices, especially that of fuel prices.  Recently, when fuel prices increased, the cost of food rose rapidly as well; however the majority of those increases were as a result of higher farm costs and had nothing to do with transportation costs.  A number of independent truckers had to declare bankruptcy because of the spiraling prices of diesel.  Quite a few of these truckers harbored the idea to revive the interstate shutdowns of the 1970s as a means of drawing attention to their plight; however, nothing came of it.



Still all is not lost, the trucking industry is still thriving and providing livelihood for hundreds of thousands of Americans, who continue to transport goods that make the lives of everyone better.  Second and third generations of truckers have significantly contributed to the survival of the industry, as these men and women follow in the footsteps of the parents and grandparents.

Further Reading

The Truth A Veterans Story
Jerry Reed Truckers Guitar Man

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