Friday, Overdrive Equipment Editor Jack Roberts asked fleet readers of CCJ magazine a prescient question: “When did we, as a society, transition from holding drivers in high regard to regarding them as people who drive trucks because ‘they can’t do anything else?’ “
There was a time, of course, in the early days of the truck, that “being a driver was considered a highly skilled trade,” he writes. He runs through some of the history below. For his full post — in which he suggests it’s “time to set a marker: so many accident-free miles and you’re something special” — follow this link.
The automobile was brand-new. And given the mysterious and cantankerous nature of cars at the time, a “driver” was typically understood to be a mechanic as well. In other words, someone so attuned into the intricacies of the machine, he could wring the most out of it both under the hood and behind the wheel.
This was such an ingrained concept 100 years ago that, when America went to fight in France in World War I, General John Pershing selected Indianapolis 500 winner and racing legend Eddie Rickenbacker to be his personal driver.
It wasn’t a job Rickenbacker held long. His reputation as a driver was such that he was able to use it as his resume to get accepted to flight school in France (which was his real goal from the minute he’d joined the army). Eventually, Rickenbacker became the American Air Service’s highest scoring fighter ace in the war.
The point, though, is that a century ago, a driver was recognized as a highly skilled and valued individual. Someone special. Someone who could be trusted to take new technological marvels out on the road and operate them safely and efficiently.
Of course, all that eventually changed. Cars and trucks became more commonplace, and increasingly easy to operate. As automobiles transitioned from exotic playthings to everyday transportation, the mystique disappeared. And so too did the status of a driver as a person to be respected.
That’s too bad. Today, there are a multitude of “mysterious” trades out there with practitioners who are regarded as highly skilled craftsmen who command – and deserve – high pay for the jobs they do. I’m talking about plumbers, electricians, stonemasons, crane operators and any number of people who work at highly skilled professions.
And yet, that distinction doesn’t apply to truck drivers, does it?