Friday, 28 July 2017

How 'Convoy' Changed America's Perception of Truckers

MGM Records released a novelty song in 1975 meant to pay homage to a struggling trucking industry that was being crushed by government regulation and the tail end of the gas crisis. The song, entitled 'Convoy', went on to become the de facto anthem for the truck drivers of the day. As much as drivers loved it, the song forever changed America's perception of professional drivers and the trucking industry as a whole.

'Convoy' was written and performed by Bill Fries under the stage-name C.W. McCall. Interestingly enough, Fries originally came up with  C.W. McCall as the name of a character created for a bread company ad campaign. Little did radio listeners know that listening to 'Convoy' meant listening to a fictional conversation among truckers written by a fictional character.

Protesting Against the Man

If you are not familiar with the song, 'Convoy' is essentially the trucker's protest against 'the man'. It is the trucking equivalent of the many protest songs against the Vietnam War, corporate expansion, and intrusive government. Fries used the lyrics of the song to make some very salient points about the struggles of the typical trucker as he sought to eke out a living in a highly regulated environment.

Fries wrote about hauling lumber, cab-over Peterbilts, reefer trailers, and conversations over the CB radio. He wrote about what it might be like if dozens of truckers created a convoy that took over the interstate as it moved in unison mile after mile. And, of course, he wrote about the police (bears and smokies) and National Guard trying to break up the convoy.

The song was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the trucker mindset. It was never intended to be an accurate description of how truckers actually drive or what they think about the authorities. Unfortunately, far too many people took 'Convoy' too seriously. They considered gospel in describing the true nature of truck drivers.

The Real American Trucker

At C.R. England, a Utah-based carrier specializing in temperature-controlled freight, they employ solo company drivers, team drivers, and independent contractors. They run one of the largest fleets in the nation. C.R. England officials can testify that the picture of truck drivers painted in 'Convoy' was inaccurate than, just as it is today.

The typical American truck driver is an honest, hard-working individual just trying to make a living. Truck drivers work more hours and under some of the most stressful conditions imaginable. Yet they do their jobs every single day.

Truckers are not heading out looking to do battle with the police. They are not trying to circumvent federal and state regulations out of a desire to 'stick it to the man'. They are trying to get from point A to point B while avoiding trouble along the way. They could really use the support of the American public and the government regulators that are supposed to be working for them rather than against them.

Trucking a Great Career Choice

One last thing 'Convoy' did was to convey trucking as an industry populated by outlaws and ne'er-do-wells. C.R. England asserts that such a reputation is very much undeserved. They insist that trucking is a great career choice that provides stable, long-term employment and good wages without the need for a college education.

'Convoy' was an excellent song, in terms of its entertainment value, at a time when America was in great turmoil. But entertainment is all it was. It was never intended to be an accurate reflection of truck drivers or the trucking industry. Hopefully, people understand this some 40 years later.


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