The American stereotype of the trucker is a simple but powerful one; truckers are guys with infinite knowledge of the road, blokes with huge beards (and bellies). People that are both physically and mentally strong. The stereotype of the hardened American trucker is often romanticised and perpetuated on screen, elevating them to hero status in American culture. In short, Truckers are ‘real men’. In Britain however, we don’t seem to share quite the same view. Allow me to elaborate.
“As American as Apple Pie”
This is included in the opening sentence on the recruitment page over on napiertruck.comand they are not wrong, at least when it comes to the way American truckers are perceived. An industry which is well loved, much needed and honourable seems to be the common consensus, but here in Britain we fail to share this love of trucking – for a start we don’t call it trucking (which is quite clearly an awesome term), we call it driving an annoying lorry.
“Lorry Drivers are Rude and Selfish”
Weeklygripe.co.uk worked with this title for a blog post in which the writer proceeded to write a less than flattering article on lorry drivers and their lack of road etiquette. This opinion is echoed by drivers around the country. In fact, a recent poll on lovemoney.comfound that 21% of drivers surveyed listed the lorry driver as the most annoying driver on the road (although 41% found elderly drivers to be the most irritating, you’re pretty screwed if you’re an elderly lorry driver).
Truckers Dictating Fashion?
The trucker hat has formed part of teen culture. Not old enough to drive a truck (or possibly even be tall enough to sit in one without a booster seat) droves of youngens have embraced the trend of the trucker hat. This has seeped into teen culture here in Britain with trucker hats worn by the masses declaring all kinds of weird and wonderful slogans.
Back to the UK and our truckers aren’t quite as fashion forward. Eddie Stobart have given merchandising a go and seen some success. It’s slightly more practical than fashionable; check out this oh-so-practical raincoat.
I think it’s safe to say we’re unlikely to see gangs of teens roaming the streets in a sensible Eddie Stobart raincoat. Giving credit where credits due, the marketing team have worked hard to push the brand in other directions, creating activity books for children on long journeys which has proved popular amongst stressed out parents.
Trucks Look Cool, Lorries Look Practical
What makes American trucks cool in the eyes of other drivers is the personality injected into the vehicles. Brightly lit with comical signs to boot, the trucks trek up and down the highways of America bringing joy to onlookers impressed by the effort.
Hopping back over to the UK, and the staple decoration of our lorries has long been the hilarious “clean me” added by the finger of a joker back at the depot. Teamed with a brightly coloured sign that, contrary to the bright lights and jolly slogans of the American truck, asks road users “How’s my Driving?” and urging them to call the number below if it’s not up to scratch.
Giving Drivers the Horn
We Brits are not famed for our fun-loving nature. We are much better and keeping our heads and down with a permanent air of cynicism towards anybody who breaks the mould.
Okay, this heading sounds rude, but in America, “giving someone the horn” means a completely different and much more innocent thing. Truckers sounding their horn when given the sign by others’ delights drivers and passengers in America (particularly children) and they’ll ask for it by holding their fist in the air and pulling it down; the national sign for “please honk your horn”.
This extract from a thread from thetruckersreport.com shows the American trucker attitude towards giving other drivers a bit of cheer on their travels:
“If kids wave at me and want to hear my airhorn, I happily oblige, after looking around to make sure I don’t scare some jumpy Grandpa/Grandma or teenager off the road!” signed off with a cheery emoticon of a thumbs up.
Again, Eddie Stobart picked up on this fun culture, but this was coupled with a very strict policy that all drivers mustwave back and honk their horn on request (drivers would also face disciplinary action if caught on the road not wearing a tie) which kind of saps the fun out of the game.
But let’s back up for a minute. Truckers are loved by America because they encapsulate tradition and culture, but isn’t that exactly what British lorry drivers are doing? They may not typically be as fun loving as their American counterparts, but they work hard and press on. The serious expression you might see as you bypass a lorry on the motorway is one that we have adopted as a nation in our everyday lives. Do we say hello to people we pass in the street? More often than not the answer is no.
Let’s celebrate our British lorry drivers who are keeping our economy running and getting the job done. They are not the rogues of the road, they are the quieter, quintessentially British conquerors of the UK carriageways.
About the Author
Vikki is an automotive writer for Walker Movements. Since joining the team she has developed a soft spot for UK lorry drivers and enjoys the quintessentially British pastime of spotting Eddie Stobart lorries on the motorway.