Remembering 25 years in the trucking press

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Anniversaries can sneak up on you, or so it seems.

As the calendar turned to May 1, it suddenly dawned on me that I began writing about the trucking industry exactly 25 years ago.

There had been no master plan to focus on trucking. But with a background as a newspaper reporter – and no small amount of chutzpah — I was able to secure a job as the editor of Truck News, talking my way into the role during an interview inside a pool hall on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue.

The memory of the first assignment sticks with me as clear as if it was yesterday. I had picked up my badge to attend a maintenance seminar, and sat down with the notepad in hand to absorb the first presentation.

It was about the role of driveline angles in torsional vibrations.

When the session was over, I walked up to the speaker from Rockwell (before the name Meritor even existed), introduced myself, and admitted that I hadn’t understood a single word. He patiently sat down with me in the hotel lobby, sketching drivelines on a slip of paper to help me understand the issues and underlying causes.

It’s just one example of a great joy when it comes to covering the trucking industry. I have had the opportunity to learn so much, and cross paths with so many willing teachers – people who might otherwise describe themselves as truck drivers, mechanics, fleet managers, fleet owners, engineers and manufacturers.

I’ve listened to every word, sweated every comma, researched the angles, spent time in the field, and devoted my days to informing readers and telling your stories.

The career turned me into a bit of a gearhead, too. I have come to love pouring over antique and emerging trucks alike. The job has given me a front-row seat to launches of the latest and greatest equipment, private tours of antique vehicle collections, and leisurely strolls amid the gleaming chrome of show ‘n shine competitions.

Much has changed in the equipment over the past 25 years alone. Seemingly impossible challenges have been overcome time and again, even if there were growing pains along the way. Engineers wondered how they would introduce warning lights for emerging ABS systems without a second connector, but they did. Automated transmissions struggled to hold their gears at first, and can now perform as well as seasoned veterans. Telematics offer views of truck performance from afar, before a vehicle darkens the door of a service bay. And electrification or fuel cells? The ideas seemed completely implausible … until they didn’t.

Challenge leads to struggle, prototype, design, and refine. On it goes.

Heck, even the tools used to tell the stories have changed. Truck News and Today’s Trucking were early adopters of the internet when it comes to Canada’s business press, but the idea of posting daily trucking stories still didn’t emerge until the late 90s. We didn’t take laptops on the road, we shipped back boxes of notes. Our phones were not smart. The idea of videos and webinars seemed out of the question. Then there is that thing called social media, which gives a new sense of immediacy and interaction to every thing we write.

But above all, the most important thing has been the connection to those who tell the stories and read the results.

This work has taken me from truck cabs to fleet yards, maintenance bays, truck stops, manufacturing lines, and around the world – meeting some of the finest people you can imagine along the way. I’ve had the chance to make friends across the trucking industry, and am proud to call myself one of the diesel-soaked-ink-stained wretches of the truck press.

It’s a happy silver anniversary to me.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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