Hooray for the Great Lakes Truck Club!

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I’m always bemoaning the fact that Canadian trucking history doesn’t get any exposure. Nobody keeps good records or even cares enough to save pictures or document the tools of our profession. Take Smith Transport for example. Biggest trucking concern in the British Commonwealth during its heyday. A great company that had a decades-long run and was as Canadian as Tim Horton’s, and it’s virtually forgotten and disappearing in the waves of time.
But then the Great Lakes Truck Club May/June Newsletter arrived in my mailbox this week and I’m truly impressed. More than a newsletter, it’s a smart little 16 page magazine, glossy and well laid out…lots of pictures and terrific colour reproduction that faithfully captures that capricious Smith Transport “blue”. And writer Chris Hall has finally put the Smith Transport history in plain view. Fixed up my botched interpretation for which I was roundly chastised several blogs ago.
For the record: Phil Smith was the patriarch of an OSHAWA, Ont. scrap metal business who traded in his horse and bought a truck in 1919. Sons were Harry and Sam who eventually ruled the empire. Phil soon discovered hauling freight was more lucrative that trading in scrap metal. His first drayage was pianos delivered to Toronto, and a load of brass going back to General Motors in Oshawa (on solid rubber tires) After some stutter steps, Smith Transport really got going in 1929. It was eventually bought up by CP Transport and disappeared from view in the late 70s. Lotsa good stuff in this article. Better yet,you should read it yerself. If Chris gives me permission I would post it on here.
The mag also contains a story on Cam Hiltz open house in East Gwillumbury. Charlie Tackaberry and Andrew Hudson show up in a Mack Superliner RW 733 (towing it I presume) that they’d just purchased in Kettleby from GM Smith the heavy equipment mover. Good food and the modelers had their day too with the first ever model truck contest. Sounds like a party, eh?
So who are these Great Lakes Truck Club people? Well they’ve been around since 2009 and they’ve actually got a website! Evidently they’re truck enthusiasts interested in trucks 20 years or older; they are serious dudes (and at least one gal) with serious trucks; they are modelers, historians, restorationists, archivists, and the brains and brawn behind the Clifford Truck Show.
They are a non-profit group and joining up is cheap. $50 or $75 and you get six issues of Old Time Trucks as well as the newsletter/magazine. Well worth it in my opinion.
OK, quick thoughts on speed limiters and and courts yet again. I’m still plodding a route nightly between Laval and Etobicoke and I can tell you that the cowboys who used to do 120 are gone. Well I’ve maybe seen two in a month. Some guys have cranked them up a little, 110 or so. Are they still actively going after disabled speed limiters? Are the cops or MTO carrying around a tool or laptopl to check? Just getting used to the 105 kph thing.
I love my Volvo but it won’t give me 103 unless I get it down to 12% idling, almost impossible to do with day drivers who like to idle. But that 103 is sweet. You know the drivers who hang in the passing lane for kilometers slowly creeping up like for 20 minutes. It was nice to be able step on it and take the Volvo off cruise and leave the driver sitting in the left lane perplexed and downtrodden all by his lonesome.
Is this a serious court challenge? And much as I sympathize with the drivers who want to go faster (me too), I can’t see how going 105 is limiting your freedom to make a living on the 401 and the 40 in Quebec. And as I have to repeat I’ve never been an o/o and I’ve always driven governed trucks. My first boss bent the throttle linkage, and then came the tachometers which weren’t impervious to a paper clip…ah well, fight you warriors at OBAC, OIDA or whatever your acronym is. I’m going to bed.

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • Wow, using a paperclip to mess up your tachograph. You’re showing your age Harry. The younger guys won’t have a clue what you are talking about.

  • Sorry I don’t either know the paper clip? BUT,
    all this “elictronic bus” is realy starting to suck! It’s only good when
    it works, But when it gives trouble;;”who can fix it”? and at what price??? Sorry I’m from the old school,and a little work never hurt anyone Thx, Jon

  • I was given a copy of the November/December 2014 issue with KTS as the topic, I have shown it to a couple of people who in turn would like a copy because they knew most of the drivers for this company. I was wondering if it is possible to get 3 copies of this issue mailed to me . Thank you