Fascinating photos show what it's like to be a truck driver in different parts of the world - from driving pandas to the airport to spending $10,000 on truck art
Rachel PremackNov 3, 2018, 00:00 IST
Truck drivers around the world have more in common than you might think.
They all deal with traffic, long stretches of time away from home, strikes, and more.
But other parts of their lives are fascinatingly different, as shown in the photographs below.
Truck transportation is a $1.45 trillion industry worldwide. That's more than air, ship, train, or any other individual method of moving goods.
The lives of the people driving those many, many trucks are different all over the world. We found fascinating photos of truck drivers in Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States, England, China, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, and more to highlight what their days look like.
Here's what a truck driver's day looks like in every continent... except Antarctica.
In Pakistan, flamboyantly painted trucks are a common sight. Even though these trucks are often as much as 30 years old, they're maintained scrupulously.
It costs up to $10,000, a half-dozen artists, and nearly six weeks of work to decorate one of these trucks. They feature 'elaborate colorful designs, calligraphy, portraits of heroes and singers, mirrors and jingling tassels,' reported the Agence France-Presse.
This is Bashir, who has been a truck driver for 25 years. Elaborately decorated trucks like his became the norm in Pakistan after the country split from India in 1947; Pakistanis wanted to make their trucks look different.
Another reason Pakistani truck drivers love to have beautifully decorated trucks is because they, like truck drivers around the world, spend weeks at a time in their trucks.
This truck is headed through the Karakoram Highway, which connects Pakistan and China.
Truck drivers in China, the fourth-largest country by land size, often help bring goods from the industrial centers along the country's eastern shore to the inland, rural areas. This truck driver is a Tibetan villager.
In China, truck drivers power the country's rapidly expanding economy in industries like steel ...
... agriculture ...
... lumber ...
... and sometimes, even pandas. This truck is carrying pandas to an airport in central China to fly out to Taiwan.
China isn't the only country where truck drivers sometimes haul pandas. Panda trucks have been spotted in Canada...
... Singapore ...
... and France.
On the other side of the globe, truck drivers in Brazil drive through deforested sections of the Amazon ...
... and hectic cities like São Paulo.
Truckers in Brazil held a strike in May and June 2018. They were protesting the price of diesel.
The protest demonstrated just how crucial truckers are to the economy. Within days, the country's economy started to crumble as gasoline, meat, and fruit became scarce. Potatoes increased ten-fold in price.
Sometimes, the strikes affect truck drivers themselves. In England, truckers were backed up for 30 miles because of a strike in France. Protesting workers closed down a French port in 2015 that British truckers access via an underwater tunnel, and truckers weren't able to deliver their goods to continental Europe.
These strikes happen so often that the local British government has a system called "Operation Stack" to organize trucker parking. It's been implemented dozens of times.
In 2015, strikes were particularly bad. Thousands of trucks (or lorries, as they're called in the UK) waited for days to drive into France.
Borders are complicated for truck drivers everywhere — especially when it comes to North and South Korea. In 2004, when tensions between the two countries were lower, South Korean truck drivers (dressed in blue) could bring rice to North Korea — but not without military assistance.
In one year, the US and Mexico trade more than $525 billion in goods. Truck drivers carry most of it. This is the line of trucks entering the Otay Mesa port, which connects San Diego and Mexico.
More than 845,000 trucks enter the Otay Mesa port every year. Their goods are examined by US Customs and Border Protection. This truck driver is getting ready to have his tomatoes inspected before bringing them into the US.
Sunflowers have to be inspected, too.
Further north in the United States, icy temperatures can seriously hamper truck drivers from doing their jobs. A 2008 snowstorm halted drivers in California.
Snowfall always presents a potential hazard for drivers, whether they're in Scotland ...
... or dealing with a polar blast in New Zealand.
But as this Kansas truck driver might tell you, perhaps it's better safe than sorry when driving an 80,000-pound vehicle through difficult weather.
When it comes to what's in their trailer, truck drivers around the world carry vastly different loads. Whether that's banana leaves in Pakistan ...
... sugar cane in Thailand ...
... ballot papers in Afghanistan ...
... scrap metal in Nigeria ...
... bananas in Colombia ...
... or, as is the case for this Tokyo truck, just an advertisement.
The stress of being a truck driver is worth it to many because of the independence the job provides ...
... and because of the community of other drivers.
But, ultimately, truck drivers' lives anywhere in the world are challenging because they spend much of their time alone.
"I was never around for Father's Day, birthdays, and most holidays," Ohio-based truck driver Rob Shulin (not pictured) told Business Insider. "Now that I am home, my kids are grown and gone. A very lonely feeling indeed."