America’s truckers are learning a new language, while forgetting one that dominated the superslabs for decades.
Back in the Internet’s Age of Innocence – aka dial-up – we launched one of the early websites for the trucking industry, as an online presence for a truck-driver oriented magazine we published then. The conventional wisdom at the time was that truckers would never adopt the Internet – availability was the practical reason, and perceived “inability” to comprehend such a technology was the other, if whispered and elitist, reason most often given.
We reasoned that truckers already comfortably inhabited a virtual world – they were always on the move, doing business via phone and fax, and relying heavily on the citizens band (CB) radio to obtain all sorts of info and communicate with each other. Much of the communication occurred as “10-code” – numbers adapted from military and law enforcement use to convey larger concepts with extreme brevity.
The skeptics were dead-wrong: Truckers and trucking companies adopted the ‘Net early and strongly, forcing truckstops to add phone lines and data ports for drivers who stuffed laptops into their duffel bags. It was, and is, a great way to help drivers do business.
In the 15 or so years since then, truckers have continued to adopt technology that helps them communicate (cell phones were once also regarded as beyond truckers’ means and desires; once cells became commodities, they took to the highways by the thousands).
Texting is now widespread, and Twitter is the newest wrinkle – because I keep up with the trucking industry, I’m seeing it become more and more popular. (Which worries me, because I know some drivers are texting and tweeting while turning miles. Like a lot of 4-wheelers.)
That aside, though, I’m also seeing the demise of the old 10-codes as a new generation of drivers come aboard. It’s like watching the children of immigrants shed their parents’ native tongues in favor of the new culture’s lingo – and in some cases, that is literally what is happening. I recently wrote an opinion piece for a trucking magazine about this phenomenon; you can see it here.
(For an explanation of the 10-codes I use, check here.)