A truck driver or a trucker provides vital services to urban societies by transporting goods or raw materials via land. Most of the time, they are employed by manufacturing plants, retailers, and distribution centers. But did you know, that some company owners pay their drivers with truck wages?
Truck wages are wages in the form of payment in kind through commodities such as goods and other services, credit with retailers, or even through a money substitute such as scrip, chits, vouchers, or tokens, rather than traditional money.
What is a Truck System?
With the Truck System, truck drivers are paid in truck wages which is essentially in script, or tokens, instead of actual currency. It was a widespread practice and was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries. The system still existed in some areas up until 2009.
The script or tokens earned by the truckers could only be used in certain places, such as stores or pubs and bars owned and operated by their employers or their associates. Additionally, many of these businesses charged exorbitant prices for goods that could be obtained elsewhere for much less.
Actual money was never used. In more extreme cases, employers would provide their drivers with store credit. It was given for purchases of basic necessities and other needs. The records of the purchases were kept by the storekeeper. There were no transaction receipts ever issued. The company store became infamous due to its high prices, making it more difficult for the truckers to buy things.
This system was closely associated with small, isolated, and rural communities where uneducated workers had few employment options. Because of this, they quickly became indebted to their employers, rendering them unable to legally leave the system.
Today the Truck System is utilized in the mining industry in Asia. Most accounts of china-clay mining refer to employees as workers rather than miners, although the places where they worked are always referred to as miners, which may be a holdover from the truck system.
A company town in a remote area, on the other hand, may be able to exploit workers like that of a truck system without actually employing a truck system if it has both the ability to keep any potential competition for company stores out and an ample supply of cash.
Trucking systems have come under increased scrutiny. Many jurisdictions have passed laws making it illegal to pay for work done in anything other than legal tender or limiting where employees can spend their pay. (Source: Family Search)
What is The Reason Behind The Truck System?
One reason for the truck system in early American history was the lack of a national form of paper currency and an insufficient supply of coinage. The majority of money in circulation was in the form of banknotes which made it easier for companies to pay their people.
Banknotes were discounted relative to gold and silver. A $5 banknote could be exchanged for $4.50 in coins, and the discount varied depending on the issuing bank’s financial strength and distance from the bank. (Source: Family Search)