BOMANVILLE, Ont. – For many people, the golden age of truck driving was the 1970s. Rates were relatively high, fines were low and a trucker’s wandering lifestyle seemed perfect for enjoying a decade known for its partying.
“It was a lot more fun driving then than it is now,” says Claude Bessette, who drives with a service on contract with Alcan. “We were all younger then so we could afford to lose time.”
Today’s just-in-time delivery keeps everyone moving, and low rates mean they can’t pass on a load and cut loose, says Bessette.
“You can feel people getting more stressed and nervous on the road. They can’t wait for anything now,” explains Bessette, who comes from just south of Montreal. “Back then more people were making good money in trucking.”
In the early ’70s Bessette was paid about 15 cents a mile in the regulated environment, which he says meant he was “well-paid for the times.
“We had more money in our pocket back in the ’70s,” says Bessette. “I know some guys running the U.S now for 23 cents… The only ones with more money in their pockets are the load brokers and it’s just for having a desk and phone.”
He says in the ’70s, governments hadn’t yet realized they could milk the trucking industry, so fines were still reasonable.
“The only fine was for speeding and I think tickets ranged from about $5 to a maximum of $50 across the U.S.,” says Bessette. “They didn’t look for the money in our pocket like now.”
He says attitudes in enforcement circles have likely taken their cue from the public.
“In the 1970s people looked at a truck driver with more respect. They still didn’t understand us but at least the public respected us,” he complains. “People don’t realize that everything they own was brought to them on a truck.”
While he enjoys the comfort of newer designs, from time to time he still questions modern truck designs.
“Back then everything had a double frame,” says Bessette. “Everything is so much lighter, do you think it’s as strong and safe?” n
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