Trucking Country by Shane Hamilton

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Princeton Press 978-1-4008-2879-1 $29.99 344 pages

Think of the US road haulage industry and the song ‘Convoy’ comes to mind. The ‘hit-single’ which was the theme tune to the big-screen movie of the same name along with ‘Smokie and the Bandit’, both celebrated the rebel trucker who flouted the long but incompetent arm of the law. While their antics were appreciated by a wider audience; deep down it depicted the rumblings of unrest within the road haulage fraternity. Within a few years (1980) 75,000 truck drivers shut down the nation demanding a reduction in the price of diesel, an increase of the speed limit and ease of restrictions on highways. Due to the sudden outpouring of media attention the ‘truck driver’ was hailed as the last American Cowboy.

Subtitled ‘The Road to America’s Wal-Mart Economy’, Shane Hamilton’s book Trucking Country reflects back to the 1920s and 1930s to when industrialised agriculture forced many farmers off the land and onto the roads to seek a living. He then chronicles the time in-between to when the generation of independent hauliers that followed helped to undermine economic liberalism in the farm and food economy, by bringing fresh produce direct from the fields to the market place.

Ronald Regan’s promise of a ‘free market’ within the road transport industry swept him into the Presidency in 1981 as independent truck drivers called for change after years of stagnation. Cut-throat competition ensued as well as threats from Canadian and Mexican hauliers.

He also describes how present day truck brands such as Ford, Mack & White prospered in the early days of road transport as the horse drawn carriage and railways had its limitations. There is also a mention of how Thermo King made such a big contribution in the transportation of perishables across the US. A brilliant read.

jarlath sweeney