How a little-known 1980 law slashed pay for millions of truck drivers and created big-box retail as we know it

An Illinois truck driver in 1940.
An Illinois truck driver in 1940.

Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

  • Today’s network of big-box retailers and online shopping likely wouldn’t exist without the deregulation of the trucking industry 40 years ago this month.

  • The Motor Carrier Act of 1980, passed by President Jimmy Carter, slashed the cost of moving goods by truck.

  • It also eroded one of America’s great blue-collar jobs: truck driving.

  • A truck driver’s salary has decreased by as much as half since deregulation.

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When Larry Heine was a working man he drove a truck eight hours a day. He saw his family every night, owned his home, sent both his kids to college, and took his wife on vacation to Hawaii whenever he could land some overtime.

As a member of the Teamsters, Heine was guaranteed good health care and a pension. He retired at 51, receiving a cake

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