Today's special edition of Overdrive Radio, including a conversation from the Great American Trucking Show in 2019, centers around both driver training and history. Over the course of the 20th century, as you'll hear, the licensing required for a driver to operate interstate tightened. In the early days of motorized transport, an 18-year-old had no problem getting licensed for interstate operation of what passed for the big trucks of the day.
They weren't, of course, very big at all by today's standards. Here's a picture of Walter Thompson of Shelburn, Indiana, grandfather of Jay Thompson, now an independent consultant to various trucking and natural gas interests through his Transportation Business Associates company.
As I wrote at the time of this conversation's original airing two years ago, Thompson’s been quite a resource for me when it comes to owner-operator and trucking history in general. He grew up in rural Indiana and started his career driving big trucks, a route taken by the generations of men in his family as well, all the way back to his grandfather.
Walter Thompson had a chauffeur’s license enabling him to move freight as early as age 18, in 1917. Given the current debate around training and potentially opening up interstate operations to some drivers younger than 21, Thompson's thoughts do more than just give us a window on trucking's history through the lens of one family's experience.
We were also talking at the time about the potential for a pilot program for under-21 CDL drivers, then under intense debate, as we sat down to ferret out a little bit of the history there.
As Thompson says, history often repeats itself in various ways … Take a listen: