Recollections of a century's worth of history in one family with truck driving roots and branches

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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. 

walter thompsonJay Thompson’s grandfather, Walter, at age 18 in 1917, hauling in and around Shelburn, Ind.

walter thompson 1921 cauffeurs licenseThompson's chauffeur's license as of the year 1921, by which time he was 21.

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.

overdrive 60 year anniversary logoRead more in Overdrive's weekly 60th-annversary series of lookbacks on trucking history, and that of the magazine itself, via this link.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: 

[Related: Liability insurance hike left in House version of a highway bill]


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