Looking Back: The highway to the past
It has been many years since I have written about the trucking industry.
When editor John Curran, asked me to recollect my tenure as the first editor of Truck News, I was at a loss. There were so many things going on – the challenge of starting a new business, a turbulent economy, an industry that was going through many growing pains of its own – that those early years were a blur.
But out of the mist, a few clear memories began to emerge. When my husband, Brian Light, the founder and first publisher of Truck News, informed me that he had a brilliant idea to start a retail trucking newspaper, I felt a recession was not really the best time to start this brave new venture. While he had visions of an information-packed magazine that would be distributed through truck stops around the country, I had visions of mortgage and utility bills that would go unpaid.
But, what can I say, I got talked into it! And what a ride we had. Truck News was started in the basement and dining room of our home in downtown Toronto.
The first issue was just 24 pages in length, and despite a few misadventures and several all-nighters, hit the stands in May 1981. As a proud ‘parent’ of this new publication, I may have been a bit biased, but it was an-almost-instant success.
Not that the first year wasn’t a struggle. In those early months, while the economy was still in a recession, the industry was hit hard. Several smaller businesses, especially owner-operators, did not survive the hard times.
The prospect of deregulation and soaring fuel costs left many wondering how they could compete in such a tight market. In our first issue alone, three of our advertisers, who had been selling trucks for years, went out of business.
But, being an optimist, I seem to remember the good times most of all. Truck News gave us an opportunity to travel extensively, and it seemed we were welcomed everywhere we went. I don’t care what anyone says, Canadians are a friendly lot, especially truckers. We attended conventions, shows and tractor pulls everywhere from B.C. to the Maritimes.
Some memories that stand out are sharing delicious lobster in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island with the jovial and genial members of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, celebrating with the proud members of the Ontario Trucking Association when they officially opened their new headquarters on Dixon Road in Toronto, being shown around Vancouver by a few members of the B.C. Trucking Association during their annual convention and trade show that was held during Expo ’86.
And then, there was the very first time I attended the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar at the Inn on the Park in Toronto. There were 500 people in the room – 499 men and me. After getting over the initial shock, I spent the next few days meeting and interviewing dozens of people who would become friends – and a continual source of information – during my time at Truck News.
I enjoyed it all: writing about the political changes, the personalities I encountered and the technology that seemed to change daily. One of the first stories I remember was the development of computers for use in trucks. That seems a lifetime ago, now that almost every 18-wheeler is equipped with one. Then there were the continuing developments in the Canada-U.S. “truck wars.”
But it was the people that really made it special and it was when I was meeting and talking to them that I really felt I had a true sense of what was happening in the industry.
There was the owner-operator who had his whole family involved in his business: his sons took turns driving with him, while his wife did all his books. Then there was the executive director with the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada who graduated with an English degree from the University of Toronto, and ended up as head of Sears Canada’s trucking operations.
The early ’80s also saw a dramatic growth in the number of ‘Show and Shine’ style truck shows, and these were my favorite events to attend. We would take our kids along because the whole weekend was a family event.
Truckers brought their own families, as did lots of exhibitors. There would be new trucks on display, tractor pulls, rides for the kids and, at the centre of it all, the beautifully maintained rigs that were proudly entered for competition by their owners.
When I retired in 1986, the little paper we’d started had grown to 100 pages and staff had increased from four to 14.
Though I was ready for a new challenge, there was a great deal that I missed – most significantly, the different people that I met during my five years as editor.
I should single out the great staff that worked with us during that time, some of whom are still on the job.
I’m proud to see Truck News celebrating its 21st year, and to have matured into such an excellent voice for the trucking industry. Congratulations – it has been a great ride.
– Pam Light was the first editor of Truck News, which was founded by she and her husband Brian.
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