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Why some truck drivers carry stuffed animals in unlikely places

White Semi-Trailer Truck Heading down a four-lane Highway at Dusk delivering a load in the southeastern Utah desert on interstate 70 east bound

Some truck drivers express themselves through graphic tee shirts, the way they decorate their cab, or through various forms of artistic expression. Others, strap a stuffed animal to the front of their semis.

Why? The plush decorations are kind of like the mascots on the front of sea vessels, the New York Times reported after speaking with numerous truck drivers. Jake Rossen, a reporter for Mental Floss, wrote that the often-cuddly animals are used to make truck drivers, and their trucks, less intimidating. Instead of “enormous road beasts with the capability to dominate lanes,” they’re softer, playful, and more approachable.

“There was some sort of heraldic device to deny the fact of this gigantic machine,” Monroe Denton, a lecturer in art history at the School of Visual Arts, told NYT. “You would have these humanizing forms, anthropomorphic forms—a device that both proclaims the identity of the machine and conceals it.”

Trash collectors often strap salvaged toys to the front of their trucks to signal the same.

“It’s a kind of customization that falls in line with bumper stickers,” Rossen said on mentalfloss.com.

In England, however, some sanitation companies ban the practice to prevent children from trying to grab the toy off moving vehicles. Other cultures, like those of Southeast Asia, attach more meaning to the plush toys. Some reportedly believe that the stuffed animals or other decorations on vehicles are there to occupy ghosts.

Some truck drivers simply bring them along to break up the monotony of driving long distances, or to add visual interest to their truck. Regardless of the reason a truck driver may put one on their truck, the little mascots can add a bit of brightness to the lives of truck drivers and those around them.