We're space truckin' through the stars!"
When space westerns decide to get literal with the genre name, these guys tend to show up.
They are usually depicted as, well, southern-fried, blue collar truckers that happen to fly cargo spaceships instead. Usually easygoing, unflappable, and have a backwoods wisdom developed from their experience during the long hauls between solar systems. Occasionally they're smugglers with contraband Black Market goods, but usually aren't drug mules. If they have cargo that Fell Off the Back of a Truck, they may have to elude military vessel inspections and spaceport City Guards.
From time to time, between hauls they'll stop at a local tavern and challenge various folks to a little arm-wrestling, drinking contests and then drunken brawls in Wretched Hive spaceports. Tend to talk in a Southern or slight Texan drawl.
Their ships are most likely Used Future pieces of rusted, salvaged junk, just barely held together, with a focus on function, not aesthetics. Bonus points if they're blocky, and bear a surprising resemblance to modern Mack trucks or other 18-wheelers.
In movie and TV show history, the introduction of blue collar workers to mainstream science fiction in the 1970s with Dark Star and Alien was a big change, as up until then characters on spaceships tended to be highly educated astronauts, engineers, and physicists. Finally, audience members who work with their hands could see themselves reflected in sci fi.
Not related to Kaato Higashikata's Stand, Space Trucking.
- Cowboy Bebop: The episode "Heavy Metal Queen" focuses on hunting a wanted space trucker named Decker. Another episode features a group of small-time Space Pirates who make a living by robbing other space truckers.
- Dirty Pair: The last episode of the classic OVA series, "No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys, We are Space Truckers!", has the Lovely Angels go undercover as rookie space truckers to investigate the attacks being made on independent truckers by agents of a Mega-Corp.
- Zone of the Enders: ''Dolores, i' - Main character James Linx runs a cargo ship around the Sol system. He copes with the boredom of weeks-long journeys with beer and reading.
- Space☆Dandy: In one Alternate Universe, Dandy is a Johnny Bravo Expy and the Aloha Oe is his truck. QT and Meow are there too, the former being a green Cyber Cyclops and the latter being a fanservice-laden Cat Girl with Larynx Dissonance.
- 2000 AD's Ace Trucking Co. series.
- While less of a trucker and more of a taxi driver, DC Comics has Space Cabbie, who has been shown transporting and imparting wisdom to everyone from Adam Strange to Ultra, the Multi-Alien.
- The mostly-forgotten (for good reason) Marvel hero Razorback had the mutant power to drive any vehicle seemingly by instinct. He happily moves up from semis to FTL spacecraft.
- The 2010 The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series includes the character U.S. Ace, whose Space 18-Wheeler (it looks like a semi-truck with rocket boosters) is the fastest ship in the galaxy, and therefore the chosen ship for The Avengers to use to get to the center of the universe. (U.S. Ace is a non-trademarked version of U.S. 1, a character Marvel created in the '80s for a licensed comic to promote a toy truck line. In the '80s comics his truck was "merely" tricked out a la James Bond, until he moved to space in the last issue.)
- Wonton Soup: The main character is a highly skilled chef who decides to wander the galaxy as a space trucker.
- Wonder Woman (1987): Diana's revolutionary pirate crew starts hitting the local equivalent of trucking routes through the boarder security planets of the Sangtee Empire since the truckers are transporting slaves. They pretty much give up without a fight, even if they aren't happy Diana steals most of their ships, which causes the empire to have them escorted by fighters.
- The crew of the Nostromo in Alien. The cargo they are hauling is a huge oil refinery, and they haul it behind their spaceship like a tractor trailer does with its cargo.
- The crew of the Betty in Alien: Resurrection. They are the creation of Joss Whedon, maker of Spiritual Successor Firefly.
- Dark Star provides the probable Ur-Example, with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon intending to create a foil to 2001: A Space Odyssey by replacing Humanity's Finest with a bunch of stupid hill-billies IN SPACE!. Dan O'Bannon would go on to re-use this motif in the later Alien
- Space Truckers. You don't say. Right down to the spaceship looking like a Mack truck.
- Battle Beyond the Stars: Space Cowboy is a character like this, down to his broken-down cargo ship with a Confederate flag on the hull. He even watches old westerns on long hauls, and plays the harmonica. He's delivering a cargo of hand weapons, albeit legally.
- The two stoner aliens in Heavy Metal are heavily implied to be space truckers (no pun intended). Though any trucker worth their salt would know better than to snort Plutonian Nyborg while operating a vehicle.
- For all intents and purposes, Han Solo in the first Star Wars film, at least when the audience first meets him. He'd normally have turned down the heroes' request for transport, except he was hard up for cash after having to dump a big cargo of illegal goods. Circumstances prevent him from repaying his debt which finally comes back to bite him at the end of the second and beginning of the third films.
- In Petticoat Planet, Steve Rogers is a space garbage man whose ship crashes on the planet of Puckerbush. He tries to big note himself by claiming to be a commander, but the ladies of Puckerbush soon discover the truth.
- Lone Star in Spaceballs is a parody of Han Solo. While the obvious joke would be for his spaceship to look like a truck, it actually looks like a Winnebago.
- In John DeChancie's Skyway trilogy, the only widely known form of faster-than-light travel involves driving ground vehicles along the highway/Portal Network Precursors have built which seems to connect every place in the universe worth visiting. Most races don't even bother building sublight spaceships (though they do get used), and if anybody has actual FTL space drives they're keeping it very quiet, so trade equals truckers. And human truckers tend to be... well, truckers.
- Endemic in The Expanse, where jobs to transport water and resources between the outer colonies and Earth/Mars are vital but not very highly regarded. The protagonists (Jim, Naomi, Alex and Amos) begin the series as this, hauling water for a private company between the asteroid belt and Jupiter's moons.
- Chakona Space: Contributing author Allen Fessler has given us Neal Foster: Interstellar Freighter Captain. Foster's Backstory even includes an actual 18-wheeler.
- In Lucifer's Star, the crew of the Melampus are this when they're not functioning as Space Pirates. The ship is a Star Galleon and contains a town-sized amount of cargo space. Its crew is also halfway between a Ragtag Band of Misfits and an Army of Thieves and Whores on its best days.
- The Eureka Maru in Andromeda is this before its captain got hooked up with the Andromeda. Their contacts still come in handy.
- Neelix was this in Star Trek: Voyager before joining up with the Voyager. He was initially portrayed as a much savvier spacer before going through Flanderization to become Plucky Comic Relief.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outrageous Okona" has the Lovable Rogue variation in Okona. He is also an Expy for Han Solo, so this is to be expected.
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, 'Boomers' are human space freighter crew. Ensign Mayweather grew up on these freighters and so has more experience on what's 'out there' than the rest of the crew who grew up on an Earth that's still an Insignificant Blue Planet to the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. Due to the long space voyages the boomers have developed their own culture (though not to the level of a Proud Merchant Race) but the advent of faster warp engines threatens that.
- Firefly: The crew of Serenity have this as a major part of their job. Of course, they also do burglaries and mercenary work.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the Netflix revival seasons, the new human protagonist Jonah Heston is introduced piloting a cargo tug which is clearly based on a Freightliner cab-over cargo truck (think G1 Optimus Prime).
- The Doctor Who story "Warriors' Gate" features a Used Future space freighter with a blue-collar crew who are more interested in getting their bonuses than doing their job — said job being slavers.
- "Asteroid Named Rest Stop", a song by Julia Ecklar and Leslie Fish. The lyrics can be found here
- The song "Space Truckin'" by Deep Purple, which provides the current page quote, is at least metaphorically about trucking through space.
- Mojo Nixon has "UFOs, Big Rigs, & BBQ." Apparently UFOs are driven by long-haul truckers.
- The aptly named board game Galaxy Trucker. Corporation Incorporated needs a way to transport low-cost housing and sewer construction equipment to new colonies. What is the cheapest way to do this? Let people weld it together into random spaceships and fly it across the galaxy in exchange for getting to keep any profits they manage to earn along the way.
- Free Traders in Traveller, though there the preferred analogy is of "tramp" (non-scheduled) ocean freighters than of truckers; even a free trader costs enough for any one who owns one free and clear to be counted as pretty wealthy.note
- The roleplaying game Bulldogs! has the player characters as delivery messengers in the vein of Futurama—with the "expendable employees" Black Comedy exaggerated.
- The Starfinder adventure path "''Fly Free Or Die" starts with the player characters operating a light freighter for EJCorp, before going independent in a rather dramatic fashion.
- In Spectrum Game's Retrostar, one of the sample settings/shows is Galactic Run. Where the players are space truckers staying one step ahead of the law. (Similar toCartoon Action Hour, Retrostar is a genre emulation game where players create and star in a fictional 70's science-fiction tv show. Like the original Battlestar Galactica or Space 1999.)
- Elite, its sequels and the many, many games that followed its example start from a basic premise of "A Space Trucker Is You". Over time, the concept expanded to the point where the player has the option of becoming a mercenary and/or bounty hunter, an Asteroid Miner, a Bold Explorer or a Space Pirate. Some games cross over into An Entrepreneur Is You and allow players to buy real estate and hire NPC ships and pilots.
- Iconoclasts might have the most triumphant variant of this in video game history; a birdlike space trucker is the Final Boss. AND a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, too! His full name is Lucas Birbasaurus Rex, apparently, and he's driving the Starworm that the people worship as a god. He's played as a kind of Mirror Match of Robin, using a wrench just like she does.
- The X-Universe series allows the player to take up the role of a freelance trader, along with the thousands of AI traders. Most TS (Transport, small) class ships have modular cargo sections like a freight train. Several of them have elements of modern trucks - The Argon Mercury has a sun visor and a cockpit reminiscent of a Mack truck. Others resemble oceangoing cargo ships, with containers being the bulk of their mass and the cockpit protruding slightly above them roughly 2/3rds of the way from the front, like a ship's bridge.
- TL (Transport, large) ships, however, don't reference pre-space age designs and consist basically of a single humongous container with engines attached. Justified as they need to carry very bulky goods like space station assembly kits.
- While StarCraft was already established as being the Deep South Recycled In SPACE, StarCraft II takes it even further, with all the music being country, the SCVs being truckers, and advertisements for "Bubba's Gas and Grits", a restaurant with an actual space truck on it.
- In EVE Online, a player can train industrial ships and become one of these, hauling others' goods around. Red Frog Freight is a particularly well-known player corporation that specializes in this.
- Space Run is about hauling goods between space stations. Instead of piloting your ship, you build and direct defenses to fend off pirates with Tower Defense style gameplay.
- On the CD-ROM game, Loadstar: The Legend Of Tully Bodine, you play the titular space trucker as he runs through the maglev trenches of the Moon ferrying an illegal cargo that must be taken to Mars. The game itself is a Rail Shooter with Live Action Cutscenes.
- This will be one of the possible occupations in Star Citizen's MMO-style persistent universe.
- Rebel Galaxy combines the same sort of space trading simulator as the above games with a rusted Used Future aesthetic and soundtrack full of country music.
- You can buy freighters and capital ships in No Man's Sky and make money from trade routes between different systems, buying low in systems that produce X and selling high in systems that consume X.
- One episode of Futurama has a space trucker convoy. Their role in the story was basically just to throw cat calls at Leela.
- The main characters themselves work for a delivery company, making them non-stereotypical truckers in Space.
- The Planet Jackers from Invader Zim are quite reminiscent of long haul truckers.
- The Vreedle Brothers from Ben 10: Alien Force and beyond talk and dress like stereotypical truckers; even their spaceship looks like a truck.
- One episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! has a song about a race between two space truckers.