Before the project began, the only reason I knew Tulare is because my sister's first-year college roommate was from Tulare.
I had no idea what Tulare was about, only that along Route 99 it was above Bakersfield, and below Fresno(yes).
After these 5 days, I can say that I've gained a better appreciation of the area and the (changing) demographic of truckers.
I'm a(n) (almost) life-long Angeleno, buried in the city, where almost any object is readily available if you just have the money. I've come to appreciate and "re-visibilize" truck drivers as a necessary part of the economic and social infrastructure. I think having been in a city and urbanized towns for my entire life, I have been exposed to lots of demographics and lots of people, which is good, but I feel like I know them only superficially, and fill in the rest of my information about them with my imagination.
That said, here are a few things as an Angeleno that I observed about truckers through either observation or conversation:
- The popular image of a trucker is probably a single white male, which definitely exists, but I met with my share of black, Latino, Asian, Indian Sikh, men and women, mid 20s - mid 50s
- I saw bits and pieces of inter-racial solidarity: a guy with a white redneck T-shirt buddy buddying with some other black uh blackneck buddy, another time where a white guy just walked up and saw his old black buddy in the truck and simply started jabbing with him
- I did see moments of inter-racial tension: a white guy that I had interviewed 10 or 20 minutes before had become impatient with a truck that was parked in front of him. The truck in front of him was driven by a black man. The white guy got increasingly frustrated and started honking. Then he got out of his truck and walked yelling at the black guy. At some point, I remember him yelling "N*** think they own the world" and continued honking before ultimately deciding to back up from his diesel station and making his way out.
- Another moment was of this inter-racial tension was during an informal conversation that I had with a trucker from the Mid-West whom I had previously interviewed. He pointed out the Indian Sikhs and talked about how they in particular were driving rates down. A few Sikhs drive in pairs or more, which is a better deal for a distributor than him alone. He lamented that they also tended not to spend money within the US and would send that money home.
- Many of these truckers were open to my interviews; I conducted about 130. Some loved talking to me, others thought I was in their way. Some probably legitimately had to get somewhere, others just wanted me gone. Some got increasingly suspsicious of the survey, some warmed up as we went along.
- Most seem to be proud of having driven everywhere
- A lot of the white truckers do hold conservative views, which is not really a shocker: One California trucker made a comment about high-speed rail taking away from resources such as addressing the water crisis.
- A lot of white truckers from the East seem to dislike California, making comments about everything from the speed limits (which is apparently 80 in Florida), to the water crisis
- Some do reminisce on when they was more to pick up and deliver in the Central Valley.