Dare to Ask: Southern kings of the road
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why are the vast majority of over-the-road truckers from the South? Is there
anything in particular about this occupation that appeals to Southerners?
Dave, Las Cruces, N.M.
The Southern ports of Houston, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Savannah and Tampa
account for well over 50 percent of the marine container imports and exports in
the United States. Container shipment drives the trucking market, so having
Southern bases of operations for the long haul trucking industry is an
Steve, 44, corporate cubicle guy, Houston
Not just the ports, in southern Louisiana we have bountiful oil in the Gulf.
My husband makes his living hauling this oil field equipment, sometimes across
the country. In addition, because trucking jobs are relatively plentiful and
require little education, it's easy to be a truck driver. The South is not known
for its educational system, especially Louisiana. The really ambitious ones
don't work for someone else - they own their own truck(s) and become business
owners as well, as is the case with our family.
Ruth, 34, New Orleans
That's a big affirmative: The South rules when it comes to drivers of Big
Rigs, and we ain't whistlin' Dixie. We got the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
to back us up, nodamene?
Of America's 1.7 million "Heavy and Tractor-Trailer" truck drivers, a full
third come from Southern states. The next-closest region is the Midwest, which
accounts for about a fourth of all trucker dudes and dudettes hittin' the hammer
Those non-18-wheeler-driving wimps in the Northeast? Ha! Only 19 percent of
all truckers come from that long-hauler-deficient region of our great country.
Truckers make an average of about 37,600 green stamps a year, though that
amount can vary widely depending on how much they drive.
The prospect of decent money amid fewer job opportunities is a big lure for
Southerners when it comes to trucking, said Demos Gallender, who's interviewed
hundreds of truckers for his upcoming CD and book Trucker Yarns
(www.truckeryarns.com), which will chronicle driver tales under the pen name
Diesel R. Wheeler.
"In my opinion, it's based on options - the more options you have, the less
you go into trucking. And many Southern communities, in rural areas, have more
limited job options," he said. "Psychologically, it's an instant reward . . .
they can go into a training school and sometimes within a month you're getting a
Once they're in it, they often stay in it, either because they get in debt
and "get stuck," or because they simply like the independence, Gallender said.
"They call their own shots, make good money, and, let's face it, they're the
biggest thing on the road, so there's a sense of power and authority. With some
truckers, there can be a mentality of 'me against them,' '18-wheeler against
4-wheeler.' So it's something to jangle your chain . . . that's just my
And we preeshaydit, good neighbor.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his