Truckers carry goods, but they also carry many forms of intangible cultural heritage. Truckers around the world have carved out distinct traditions and practices that are instantly recognizable. Here is a guide to some of the most fascinating trucking cultures from around the planet.
Trucking culture is deeply embedded into the American imagination. Truckers – especially owner-operators – have carved out a unique place in American folklore. Truckers, in many ways, represent the freedom that so enraptures the American mind. Individuals taking on shipping work with little oversight and pursuing their fortune on their terms appeal to Americans as icons of self-determination. Because of America’s poor rail network, shipping jobs are plentiful.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
When American soldiers invaded Afghanistan in the early 21st Century, they encountered civilian trucks adorned with thousands of metal charms and bells that clattered noisily over the country’s rugged roads – bringing communities supplies and transporting farm animals in incredibly dangerous conditions. They called these vehicles jingle trucks after their distinctive sound. Many of these trucks make dangerous journeys between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are decorated, in many cases, with writings and charms that remind their drivers of home, providing a moving symbol of the owner’s culture that they bring with them on dangerous and lengthy journeys through the poorly controlled territory. Afghan and Pakistani jingle truckers are rightfully proud of their vehicles and compete to create the most ostentatious designs.
Spend enough time traversing the vast Australian outback and you might catch a glimpse of a truly magnificent beast: the road train. Many outback towns are incredibly tiny and remote, making it economically inefficient to send small supply loads to them. The solution: send one truck with all the supplies needed by a town. Road trains consist of a single power unit dragging multiple trailers. The longest of these road trains has an absurd 37 axles spread across many trailers. As you might expect, a great deal of skill is needed to safely drive a road train, which has led to the development of a competitive and unique trucking subculture on the continent.
India’s economy relies heavily on truckers to bring goods to areas that are poorly served by rail links. India’s more remote areas are crisscrossed by a network of roads that are in various states of disrepair, although major highways are relatively well maintained. Owner-operators take a huge amount of pride in the appearance of their often-antiquated vehicles and have developed a unique decorative style. Indian trucks are often emblazoned with complex, garish decorations. Some truckers decorate their vehicles with religious symbols, Bollywood styles or unique multicolored patterns. Almost all of them carry the phrase ‘horn please’. This is to remind drivers of a long-standing tradition on the subcontinent – to honk a horn as they pass a fully laden truck. Lax regulations mean that truckers often load their vehicles to bursting point, which impacts their view of the road behind them. This necessitates the use of the horn.
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