The Art of Trucking: Songs, Movies and Literature

There’s often been a certain mythology surrounding trucking that details American fascination with the occupation.

In our nation, we have idolized the truck driver for living the life of a nomad, roaming around the country in a modernistic covered wagon of sorts – delivering to those who need their services and abiding by the laws of the road and the traveler.

In this sense, it’s no wonder that trucking has permeated into our collective culture and art perhaps more greatly than most other professions and subcultures that still exist today. Musicians, filmmakers and authors alike have idolized truck drivers in an iconic and indelible way that still lingers even for those who have never come in contact with a driver themselves.

This trucking media may speak to drivers and those involved in the community more than others, but it will nonetheless resonate with anyone who can recognize and experience the American story as told on the road.

Films on Trucking

Sure, some of these movies may come to us as highly dramatized and over-the-top depictions of life on the road, but that’s ultimately what we want to see right? There are countless films on the trucking life - here are the top five you need to see:

Duel (1971) – One of the first big screen adaptations to see a modern depiction of driving with a dramatic twist, Duel put the subject matter of truck driving on the map. Stephen Spielberg employs a powerful sense of dread with this tale one man’s long haul being followed by a mysterious trucker.

Smokey & The Bandit (1977) - Easily one of the most fun movies about trucking, Smokey & The Bandit is the real deal when it comes to films about outrageous trucking stories. What beats Burt Reynolds hauling Coors west of the Mississippi and evading the cops all the while? 

Mexican cowboy on CB

Convoy (1978) – Perhaps the apex of the 1970’s trucking craze is Convoy, a more dramatic look at outlaw trucking. Kris Kristofferson plays a foil to Burt Reynold’s Bandit to a tee, showing peril and duress in his mission to escape the authorities in his haul. Convoy effectively capped off the decade with driving films, leaving a long dry spell of dramatic trucking material for nearly two decades.

Breakdown (1997) – Often considered one of the films to usher in a new period of substantial trucking-related drama, breakdown is a thriller that echoes Drive with a sensibility of 90’s mystery and suspense. Placing an ill-intentioned trucker opposite Kurt Russel, Breakdown takes a look at the dark side of driving and shows off some seriously great stunt driving.

Black Dog (1998) Hailed by many as the greatest trucking movie of all time, Black Dog is certainly the most intense film on the list. Patrick Swayze helms the film as an ex-con who is blackmailed into transferring illegal arms for a underground crime syndicate. Of course, Swayze refuses to take this lying down and brings the punishment for the rogue organization. A must-see for any fans of trucking movies.

Music To Truck By

The list for trucking-related music could go on for days, so below are some songs and radio stations to take away.

Johnny Cash Album Cover

Truckin’ - Grateful Dead
Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson
East Bound & Down – Jerry Reed
White Line Fever – Merle Haggard
On The Road Again – Willie Nelson

I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash

For those XM/Sirius radio subscribers, here’s a few stations to tune into:
- Prime Country
- Outlaw Country
- Willie’s Roadhouse


Whether you’ve got some time to read in your sleeper or want to throw on an audiobook for the haul, here are some books on the trucking lifestyle to keep you occupied.

Driver in the dark

Coffee To Go – Neil Hobbs
Pedal To The Medal: The Work Life Of Truckers – Lawrence J. Oullet
18: A Look at the Culture That Movies Us – Kim Reierson (photo book)
Mother Trucker: An Urban Couple Downshifts to Life on the Road - David Hamel and Shelley Hamel

The above list can’t even begin to account for all of the cultural references, themes and motifs within our culture and art that truck driving has permeated into. Still, it’s nice to step back and see how reflective we are as a people in regards to one of our most important industries.