Concluding a successful longhaul ‘mission’

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“When you started here, you seemed to have a mission. Now it feels like you have accomplished that mission.” Those words were recently said to me by former co-worker Tom Klassen when I announced I was making a career change.

I don’t think I could have put it more succinctly. I have been on a mission, but that mission began years ago. I didn’t start out in trucking as a longhaul over-the-road driver. As a new dad, I wanted to be home.

But everything changed May 15, 1991. I was injured in a farm accident that should’ve killed me or, as the doctors also said, left me in a vegetative state for the rest of my life. Thirty-one years later, this vegetable is doing pretty well.

Mission Accomplished stamp
(Image: iStock)

Of course, my life hasn’t been sliced and diced just that once. I’ve been through two more major head injuries, broken elbows, a blown knee, and back injuries to name a few things.

Back to 1991. I was off the farm for eight months trying to recuperate. I had to leave that farm because I couldn’t risk anything getting into my damaged right eye. All the plans I had seemed to be impossible.

I ended up staying connected to farming in the summer months and then, because I needed the money, I looked for winter work. I dusted off my Class 1 and went looking for a job.

Many will remember that in those days you needed five years of experience and to be 25 years old. The job I did get for winter was in an old truck, and it involved OTR. No one else would hire me.

It’s a lot easier to get into a truck these days. You don’t need to be a senior driver before you’re driving a nice shiny rig.

My work began with summers near home and winters over the road. It morphed into various things where I started a truck division for someone else, left for fleet management, shifted into my own company, and then returned to life as a regular owner-operator.

For a guy who never wanted to do OTR full time, I have been OTR for at least part of every year since 1992.

I got into OTR because I needed the money. Bills kept piling up during my recovery and I had hungry mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. That has been a driving force in my life. My responsibilities as a husband and father meant I had to do everything possible to earn my spot. 

I always pushed myself to be the best I can be, knowing that I have average talent at best.

I approached longhaul in the same way. If I’m going to do it, I might as well be the best I can be at it. I’ll admit that my best was pretty bad some days. There are probably more than a few people who think I’m just a steering wheel holder. I don’t disagree. I’ve been pretty ignorant sometimes.

Here’s a shocker: Brain injuries enable you to do some pretty stupid things and not even realize it. I didn’t even acknowledge that I had a brain injury for many years.

After 30 years, I have come back to the exact place that helped me get my first Class 3 (with air brakes) licence. That’s right, I have been a local driver for one week as I write this. Not just local, but full-time, year-round local.

I wasn’t looking to go local, but this opportunity fell into my lap. I definitely wasn’t looking to do longhaul for anyone other than who I was working for. I owe a huge thank you to DM Krenkevich for being such an incredible place to work. After all these years, I enjoyed being there more than anywhere else.

The time was right to move on. My goal has always been to support my family. Trucking longhaul provided me with that ability. 

Injuries have taken a toll on my body. I have focused on bettering my health and recovery for most of my life. I feel like I have achieved maximum improvement over my longhaul career. That’s the mission I feel Klassen alluded to.

I leave longhaul knowing that I became the driver I wanted to become. It was more than a job. It was a mission. 

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Thank You for your words of inspiration, & for your journalism … & all the best to you & yours going forward . . . Enjoy the ride!

    1 Eye aka David Byers