Truckers without Borders

Although I’ve never been in the Peace Corps, my family lived in places where Peace Corps volunteers, or their Canadian counterparts, would sometimes be hosted.

The Nonaligned Movement, in wanting to stay out of superpower politics (Iran a leader, also India), meant Peace Corps was not in some of the countries we lived in (e.g. Bhutan).

Indeed, what Americans came to call “the third world” was originally so-named because of its opting out of contending superpower narratives. Americans tend to call the first world the “free world” and their president is sometimes called the “leader of the free world”. That’s a lot of anachronistic jargon I realize. I rarely hear any talk of a “second world” for example.

In any case, our family home was sometimes a kind of oasis for these civilian overseas adventurers who wanted to do something useful in their host community.

That model has not been as much of a two way street as it could be, with the first world reluctant to accept knowledge and guidance from those it perceives as needing help.

I go into these issues of cultural bias as I’m not trying to make Truckers Without Borders another case of the Federated States of North America (FSNA) helping some “third world” through its donor sponsored USG in Washington DC.

More likely, this program will emerge within Nonaligned Movement nations. That doesn’t mean Texans cannot or will not participate, only that the program may have reached a level of maturity before the FSNA plays much of a role.

Peace Corps volunteers would come to our house for a taste of home. In one chapter, we were able to shop at the embassy commissary, as well as on base at the PX. Our shelves were stocked with familiar products, such as breakfast cereals, that seemed a godsend to volunteers far from home. Sugar Smacks anyone? Even getting fresh milk could be an issue in some places. Powdered milk would have to do.

Where we need to focus right now is on giving truckers a better sense of the opportunities we offer. Getting off the beaten track, driving in unfamiliar terrain, is only a benefit if we design the program correctly. Language barriers and dangerous driving conditions go together.

If you don’t speak the language fluently, your level of helplessness rises accordingly. Peace Corps volunteers will usually do a crash course in the language of a host country, but what if your route takes you across many borders?

Given these are not new problems, the best approach is to study the global trucking industry as it is today. Truckers Without Borders (TWB) will emerge organically from a genre of anthropology devoted to the study of trucking communities.

Building relationships between universities, truck stops, and trucking companies, would be a first step. Indeed, that relationship already exists at the intersection of transportation engineering and computer science. Freight companies use computer algorithms to bid and route customer shipments. The container shipping infrastructure is already multi-modal, with any given container going by truck, train and of course ship.

Although I’m not seeking nor expecting USG support for TWB, at least in the planning and prototyping phase, I do expect to continue learning from the truckers around me. I am continuing in my role of amateur anthropologist and data scientist, sharing information with peers about what works and what does not.

I’m within the Federation, situated in Oregon at the moment, and have plenty to learn from local studies. When the time comes to compare notes, I’ll have done some homework, more than I’ve already done.

Another point of overlap is the Code School. Truckers may be looking to pick up more coding skills and to gain deeper insights into the global shipping industry in the process. Having more overview leads to better practices and greater appreciation for the generic challenges facing the trucking community on a global basis.

The T4P (Truckers for Peace) curriculum helps truckers navigate more successfully in Cyberia (i.e. cyberspace), definitely an unfamiliar terrain for a lot of them. Picking up new language skills, including computer language skills, happens in Cyberia as well. Books on Tape (podcasts, video channels) are just the beginning.

Strengthening the Global U curriculum, currently dangerously weak, means meeting students where they are, often on the job, in the cab of a tractor pulling a trailer. What is the physics involved? What is the mathematics? Trucking is a university-level work-study program. Lets help truckers get on a fast track towards gaining more relevant knowledge and credentials. The benefits will need to be real, if not always purely monetary in their original form.