Across the Editor's Desk: Semi pros on-the-go
The faded green ’51 Dodge ¾-ton pickup with yellow rims sits quietly in my machine shed. It was my father's truck; it's now mine. In the ’50s and ’60s when I was a boy, that machine was a working beast. It piled oats or corn or pigs or lambs on its back to take to market. It carried ground chicken feed or bags of hog and cattle feed home. Once a year it escorted my little pony, Fancy, on a short trip, where a bigger, stronger pony was very excited to see that truck turn in the driveway.
Our pickup was involved in nearly ever chore or job on our diverse quarter-section farm. There were other green Dodge pickups, but ours was known for its folded black livestock racks and broom with bristles at the top tied inside the corner of the box. “Be sure to sweep it clean after every use, Son.” “Yes, Dad.”
I once thought about having it restored but changed my mind. It reflects the honest dignity of its roughly 20 years of daily work. It has earned the admiration and respect it gets each year from my Christmas tree customers, most of whom were born long after the truck was built.
I thought about my old pickup as I read this issue's cover story, “Semi Pro,” beginning on page 34. Deputy Machinery Editor Laurie Bedord tells about the growth in semi trucks for hauling grain from field to storage and storage to market. These semis also haul seed, chemicals, and water tanks on flatbeds. They also often hire out for off-season work.
Today's combines require huge hauling capacity in the field just to keep the machine moving. Bedord reports a recent North Dakota State University study estimates that 56% of the grain in that state now moves to market with semis. The percentage increases every year as more farmers buy a first semi or add another to their fleet.
Besides hauling capacity, the big difference between a hardworking ¾-ton truck in the ’50s and a semitrailer rig that can haul 80,000 to 96,000 pounds now is the number of federal, state, and local regulations. Our old truck had to be equipped with flairs. Weight limits on trucks and wagons were an occasional issue when I was a youth. Word would spread quickly when the “blue jackets” were in the area. As a very small boy I couldn't quite understand why “blue jackets” were to be avoided!