Running Lights Blog
Truckers who change the world?

Truckers who change the world?

I’ll admit it right up front: My bad. I’ve been ignoring emails from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation lately, or, at best, glancing at the subject lines and thinking I’d get back to the ones I didn’t immediately delete. Turns out I missed a deadline on one item that might have been of interest to truckers, and I feel bad enough that I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

(I try to respond promptly to all questions and comments from American Trucker readers, by the way, but my in-box management is sometimes less than rigorous. So if you’ve called or sent along something and haven’t heard back, do remind me!)

As to my missed deadline, the White House organizes these events called “Champions of Change,” and in October the program’s focus will be “Beyond Traffic:  Innovators in Transportation for the Future.” In not passing this along when it was announced last month, I think I was thinking this would be the usual politically correct and demographically perfect collection of citizens, putting smiling faces on the whatever message the administration is pushing at the time.

But, now that the August 1 deadline for nominations has come and gone, I’ve reconsidered. I don’t think I was fair to the government (I’m not too worried) or to truckers (and that bothers me). After all, any program about American transportation that doesn’t include trucking is a sham, and any mention of trucking had better put truck operators front and center.

As for truckers and leading change in transportation, puh-leease: The highways are crowded with rigs showing the familiar logos of giant companies that started with one man and one truck.

I’ve written before about a one such man, Malcom McLean, and I think I can make a pretty good case that he’s trucking’s greatest innovator, ever: At 22, he owned two trucks and a trailer which he grew to be one of the largest trucking companies in the country—one that he then sold to pursue intermodal containerization. For more on his story, check out a great book, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Marc Levinson. Or, for the short version, see the video:

More recently—last week, in fact—I came across the story of another trucker with an even wilder dream. I was not familiar with Nick Piantanida, but ESPN features him in the latest installment of its outstanding "30 for 30" documentary series. Angry Sky tells how Piantanida, who drove a truck to pay for his thrill-seeking stunts, attempted to break the free-fall parachute record in 1966.

“He’s not an astronaut! He’s not a cosmonaut!” the vintage newsreel narrator says. “No! He’s amateur adventurer Nick Piantinida, a truck driver from New Jersey!”

(You may remember Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos jump in 2012: Same thing, but 50 years ago—and all that a half-century difference in technology entails).

Check out the trailer, and check your local listings for upcoming broadcasts. (The next showing is on ESPN 2 tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 8pm.)

While I guess it’s too late for White House recognition (and we’ll see if any truckers made the cut) feel free to pass along the particulars of anyone you know in the industry who is working to change the way freight works and I can get the word out.

TAGS: News
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