When Truck News' premiere May 1981 issue landed on my desk this month, I couldn't help but marvel at how little things have changed. Don't get me wrong: the minute 28-page issue, with its frayed, yell...
When Truck News’ premiere May 1981 issue landed on my desk this month, I couldn’t help but marvel at how little things have changed. Don’t get me wrong: the minute 28-page issue, with its frayed, yellowing newsprint is, at best, a far cry from the state of our current publication, with its colourful, glossy finish, and issues often exceeding 100 pages. But putting the actual ‘look’ of the magazine aside, the essence of the publication remains intact – along with many of the same problems the industry still faces today. Here’s a look at what was happening with the trucking industry 25 years ago, through the eyes of the very first Truck News:
The first article was simply titled “The Professional Driver” and outlined what it takes for a driver to earn respect and the title of “professional.”
Murray Hill, 53, an owner/operator with Floyd Dunford in Woodstock, Ont., and Al Durelle, 29, of Hook-Up Inc. in Toronto, served as the two case studies in the article, with each giving tips on how to keep up a solid reputation. Hill stressed the importance of an O/O being a competent businessman, keeping meticulous track of their records. New equipment also ranked high on Hill’s list, as he insisted on buying new trucks and keeping them for no more than three years.
Both men stressed the importance of maintaining good relationships with customers and keeping the environment in the cab relaxed with physical comfort. Air seats were just becoming all the rage, and neither driver could manage the road’s bumps, dips and turns without one. In contrast to today’s stringent Hours-of-Service rules, Hill and Durelle were able to choose their number of on-road hours, with Hill maxing out at 12 hours a day and Durelle pushing himself to 16 (though they stressed that drugs have no place in a trucker’s cab). Though the men were at different stages of their careers, with Hill planning retirement in two years and Durelle still raring to go, both agreed that giving energy and alertness to their profession was crucial. Truck News ran the article after attacks from the mainstream media on truckers and the trucking industry.
“Learning To Drive in School … It’s Becoming More Acceptable” profiled the Eastern Ontario School of Trucking and the benefits of taking a course in trucking driving. Formal driving schools were far from the norm at the time, with most drivers learning the ropes on their own, so entering a training program was not always a desirable option.
One of the courses the EOST offered was an assessment and retraining program which one eight-year veteran wasn’t keen on, general manager of EOST Peter Unwin said.
“When (the driver) came in, he just figured he knew everything. In the first few days, he didn’t take it seriously at all – always back-talking, wouldn’t take notes,” Unwin said. “Now he’s just real quiet, listening all the time. He knows he’s got a lot to learn.”
Staff at the EOST had also extended their interests beyond the driving school itself, appearing on open-line radio talk shows to educate four-wheelers on trucks. “Instead of another show on drinking and driving, why doesn’t someone do one on driving trucks?” Unwin asked.
“News Notes” provided Truck News’ first readers with the latest information, including stories ranging from regulations to infrastructure to OEMs. In May 1981, the Teamster’s Union was miffed at the proposed Lakespan ferry service. The Teamsters threatened to boycott the service if it threatened to take jobs away from truck drivers. The Union feared that transportation of trucks by ferries would mean the reduction in drivers needed and might incur a slew of layoffs.
Lumber haulers in New Brunswick staged a protest in March to object to their trucks being weighed axle-by-axle instead of by gross weight. A number of trucks were reportedly fined because of too much weight on one axle even if the overall truck weight was within the limits. The government conceded to two months of trucks being weighed by gross weight and also increasing the percentage of overload without penalty.
The federal government had passed the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in the winter of 1980, but an industry spokesman said the law would not reach full effectiveness until spring of 1982. It was the first all-inclusive legislation to cover thousands of hazardous goods. The new law levied fines up to $100,000, defined the jobs of inspectors and extended coverage to all vehicles travelling on Canadian roads. One of the key requirements was for the shipper to inform the trucker exactly what they would be hauling and why it was dangerous.
The truck division of White Motor Corporation of Canada was purchased Apr. 1 by Calgary-based Nova Corporation and Bow Valley Reserve Services. The $30 million purchase brought the corporation under Canadian control, though it would now operate under a new name: Western Star Trucks.
“What’s New” gave readers the latest in equipment including Mack’s new Mid-Liner. The Mid-Liner series marked Mack’s first entry into the mid-range market. The series included both straight trucks and tractors in three basic models, powered either by a 175 hp turbocharged and aftercooled diesel engine or a 210 hp turbocharged diesel.
Ford introduced its new long-nose conventional cab truck, the LTL-9000, fully equipped with a sleeper compartment. The LTL-9000 was Ford’s first regular production entry into the high-image truck market. The LTL-9000 was a stretched version of the L-Series conventional truck with a hood long enough to accommodate the large diesel engines needed for its 44,800 through 60,000-lb. gross vehicle weight ratings.
International Harvester’s Truck Group introduced an extra large “Eagle” to its all-new cabover engine CO-9670 line. The luxury Eagle boasted International’s roomiest cab ever, with an 110-inch BBC dimension. The Eagle’s bunk compartment was 92.5 inches wide and 56 inches deep, finished with crushed velour and pillowed with a deep button effect.
SPARKTEC Engine Performance Additives introduced the Improver, designed to help provide a little relief from the high cost of fuel. SPARKTEC officials said the additive would improve engine performance by producing greater horsepower at a given fuel rate. After the diesel ignites, the Improver was designed to produce manganese oxide, a combustion catalyst that speeds up the flame front. Under peak conditions, the fuel economy effects of the additive were not expected to be noticed until after the first 200 to 600 miles, with maximum fuel economy found in the third tankful. SPARKTEC also said the product would help reduce emissions, significantly reducing smoke after 500 miles of driving.
The Ontario Trucking Association was still awaiting a response from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to conduct tests on new 105-ft. car carriers. The OTA made the request in 1979, but had not received an official response from the Ministry. The OTA predicted the carrier – which held 13 cars instead of the usual eight – would produce fuel savings of up to 25%.
National Transportation Week (NTW) fell between May 31 and June 6 in 1981 with numerous trucking companies and industry personnel taking part in the week’s events. Highlights from the event list included the Shell Fuel-a-thon at the opening ceremonies (where Ontario Minister of Transport James Snow drove a test car around a track to monitor fuel efficiency); the All Modes Transportation Exhibition at the Scarborough Town Centre; the NTW banquet, featuring appearances by Federal Minister of Transportation, Hon. Jean-Luc Pepin, and the president of the Canadian National Railway, Dr. Robert Bandeen; and the Ontario Truck Roadeo Championships at the Sherway Gardens Shopping Centre.
The article “Canadian Motorist Slams Truckers!” featured the first of many future articles where Truck News came to the defe
nce of the average trucker. In an article titled, “Knights no more: it’s their way or no way on the highway,” Canadian Motorist magazine launched a sensational attack on the truckers and the industry in general.
The cover of the magazine featured what Truck News called a “crazy-looking trucker with a cigarette dangling from his mouth; in the background is a threatening-looking rig. The headline reads, ‘Warning: This Man May be Hazardous to Your Health’.” The Canadian Motorist article was said to essentially challenge the right of trucks to be on roads and highways at all.
The writer went on to say trucks pose a great threat to automobiles and are too big to turn or stop quickly enough to avoid accidents. The article claimed there were too many irresponsible, overworked and careless drivers on the road, with the majority of drivers eating poorly, being in poor overall health, working too many hours and cheating on their reports, among other “sins.” Truck News took a position defending truckers, pointing out the obvious and unreasonable bias within the article.
The main source of information for the Canadian Motorist article was found to come from an anonymous trucker who was a friend of the writer’s. At one point in the article, the source claims there are at least two or three truckers within his company of 50 driver that take drugs to stay alert regularly. Using only those numbers, the writer then assumes that about 37,000 of Ontario’s 750,000 trucks are “manned by dazed drivers.” Truck News called the article’s citation of opinion and hearsay as “journalistically irresponsible” and pointed out how hard the industry works to train good drivers and promote safety.
Even though news stories like the one in Canadian Motorist still surface to this day, there was at least one positive similarity between Truck News’ first issue and Truck News in 2006. Right from the start, it was evident that Truck News’ focus would be on the most important aspect of the trucking industry: the driver. The cover of issue #1 features a full-page photo of Murray Hill of Floyd Dunford gazing off into the distance. He has a quiet confidence about him that could only come with years of experience in the business. And that’s exactly how we feel at Truck News after 25 years: confident, optimistic and ready for whatever the future hands us.