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Take This Job and Shove it: A study of the politics of “technological change” in trucking 1971-1980

  • Author(s): Leavell, Virginia
  • Advisor(s): Lopez-Alvez, Fernando
  • Appelbaum, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

This research investigates the politics of trucking technologies during a critical period in its history: 1971 to1980. I ask how different technologies were adopted by politically active trucking organizations, such a unions, organized independent truckers, and trucking carriers. The technologies I focus my research on are the ones most prevalent in the archival records, which are Citizen Band (CB) radios, mainframe computers, polygraph machines, and an attempted redesign of the cab. I ask, who initiated use of the new technologies, and what were the visible impacts of these technologies on those organizations? What, if anything, can we learn from this history about the nature of technology and technological change?

Using a comparative historical case comparison method, I find that the technologies had a wide range of political and social impacts. Technologies like CB radios had a politically and culturally democratizing effect on both independent and union truckers. The mainframe computer functioned as an efficient management tool for both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and trucking carriers. Finally, some technologies promoted by trucking carriers were perceived as exploitative by truckers and labor unions.

I use these findings to speculate on the politics of two 21st century trucking technologies (automated platoons and Electronic Logging Devices) that may potentially impact drivers in similar ways to technologies used by management in the 1970’s.

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