Doctoral Dissertation

27.4.2019 YTM Timo Aho (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, sociology)


27.4.2019 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , RUU D104
YTM Timo Aho defends his doctoral dissertation in sociology "Tuhansia töitä, valvottuja öitä. Etnografinen tutkimus rekkamiesten työnteosta ja rekkamieheydestä tiekuljetusalan käytännöissä".

Opponent senior lecturer, docent Taina Kinnunen (IUniversity of Eastern Finland) and Custos senior lecturer Hannele Harjunen (University of Jyväskylä, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


Trucking assignments and all-nighters. An ethnographic study into truckers’ work and the construction of masculinity within the practices of the road transportation industry

This study examines the practices of road transport sector from the point of view of Finnish male truck drivers’ work and the truckers’ construction of occupational masculinity.

In the past three decades, the Finnish road transport sector and its operational environment have gone through major economical, technological, and juridical changes. In order to increase competitiveness, the industry and retail companies have begun to organize their business and logistic processes by applying ICT-driven Just-In-Time- management. At the same time, institutional and juridical surveillance over the road transport sector has tightened. However, the effects of these changes on truck drivers’ work practices and the truckers’ construction of occupational masculinity remain contradictory and un-updated.

The study is based on ethnographic methodology. The data was produced during the period of the years 2012-2017 by riding along on assignments with 10 Finnish male truck drivers who work and have worked in different fields of operation in Finland. The researcher observed the everyday work practices of the truckers on various occupational sites and participated in performing the loadings and unloadings. The research material also includes open-ended field discussions regarding the truckers’ work, conducted with the truckers during the driving.

The results suggest that the truck drivers’ everyday life is characterized by unsynchronized social rhythms. The effects of these ‘rhythm conflicts’ came out through the truckers’ difficulties to schedule their work as they wish, and synchronize their work and bodily rhythms to the family-members’ rhythms, and to other social and leisure activities. Rhythm conflicts of truckers’ work are inseparable from sociocultural factors including production systems, flexible 24/7-society as well as consuming practices, which structure the development and (re)organization of logistic processes.

The study also reveals that due to digitally monitored driving and working times with real time fleet management systems, truck drivers have lost their exclusive position in controlling the transporting task. The decreasing autonomy hindered the possibility of using one’s embodied occupational competence as a ‘masculine’ resource in (re)constructing a respectable trucker and male worker. However, truckers were able to mobilize a narrative of respectable working-class masculinity that is based on valorizing their practical experience, manual skills, professional capacities, and role as a hard-working wage-earner.

The study also challenges the hegemonic position of driving a truck in constructing the truckers’ occupational masculinity. Loads, transported goods and practices related to loadings and unloadings are essential criteria (alongside driving) through which the truckers’ superiority is defined. The results of the study highlight the need to recognize the diversity of the truckers and their work.

Keywords: truck drivers, road transport sector, work practises, occupational masculinities, critical men’s studies, social class, rhythms, ethnography, materiality