It'll be 30 years as of May this year that 'Smokey & The Bandit' hit the theaters, pedal to the metal in the hammer lane. Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, and even Jerry Reed all got huge career boosts from that mega-successful film. Yet the legacy of that 1977-era cinematic farce still lingers -- talk to anyone outside of the industry about trucking and inevitably that movie comes up. Truck drivers in particular still get viewed through its distinctive prism: they are high speed yokels using every opportunity to stick it to law enforcement, from hiding Burt Reyonolds and his distinctive Trans Am (a car that became legendary in its own right from its movie role) from the prying eyes of Georgia state troopers, to a Japanese trucker's 'banzai attack' which takes the door off Jackie Gleason's patrol car.
Thirty years on, though, we should be seeing a different image -- but the public largely doesn't. The Goodyear Highway hero doesn't get anywhere near the press coverage as a trucker involved in a 20 car pile up does -- even if the trucker isn't at fault, the camera closes in on his or her rig. Nearly half a million truck drivers are members of Highway Watch today, partners with law enforcement on a scale never imaginged back in 1977. But that doesn't give truckers many props either.
It's my view that someway, somehow, the image bestowed on trucking by 'Smokey & The Bandit' for a few laughs and some big bucks at the box office is going to take a lot of work to remove. How it's going to scrubbed off is the big question that needs to be answered.