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Cover for The Big Rig

The Big Rig

Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream

Steve Viscelli


List Price: 29.95*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (4/12/2016)


Long-haul trucks have been described as sweatshops on wheels. The typical long-haul trucker works the equivalent of two full-time jobs, often for little more than minimum wage. But it wasn’t always this way. Trucking used to be one of the best working-class jobs in the United States.  

The Big Rig explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it. Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry. He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors. He explains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed trucking’s labor markets--once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history--into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public.

Praise For The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream

"The Big Rig is sure to become the touchstone study of U.S. trucking. Coupling fascinating accounts of personal struggles with sharp structural analyses linking these struggles to macroeconomic forces, it is the best kind of ethnographic sociology."
— Men & Masculinities

"Engagingly written and very thorough... The Big Rig is a strong contribution to scholarship on work and occupations, economic sociology, and institutional analysis."
— American Journal of Sociology

"Compelling... This rich ethnographic account is grounded in sociological inquiry of labor relations and age-old questions of capitalist interests and class struggle."
— Contemporary Sociology

"This is a powerful and important book that brings clear insights into some of the machinations of contemporary American capitalism." -- Shane Hamilton, University of York
— Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

University of California Press, 9780520278127, 284pp.

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

About the Author

Steve Viscelli is a political sociologist and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a senior associate at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. In addition to his academic research, he works with a range of public and private stakeholders to make the trucking industry safer, more efficient, and a better place to work. To learn more, please visit: