There’s one thing that we do well in the trucking industry. We promote negativity.
Specifically, when someone asks a professional driver if they should become a truck driver, the reply is often laced with enough salty language to make a sailor blush.
I was reminded of this when recently talking to Erik Desjardins, an owner-operator for Wildwood Transport out of Winnipeg.
About four years ago, he asked me what I thought about becoming an owner-op. We were both company drivers working for the same parent company, and I asked why he would be interested in that path.
His reply was heavily doused with passion for the industry. As a little boy, he admired the trucks at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Milton, Ont., and idolized those who drove them. He watched the movie Black Dog in the TV room at the TA truck stop in Woodstock, Ont. His passion became a dream to one day own a Kenworth and roll along the asphalt ribbon.
Don’t tell me this doesn’t happen today. My grandson is just over a year old, and every time he sees a semi he’s trying to crane his neck around to continue watching the truck as it passes out of sight.
I don’t bring my semi home very often, so it’s not really my influence. But many sunsets ago, one of my oldest daughters received a miniature-sized bobtail tractor as a gift. She still has that today, and it sits on a shelf overlooking her condo.
Erik reminds me of myself, with one big exception. I didn’t do as much research as he did before I jumped into my own truck. I knew I could be successful, so I just went for it. Sure, I did some research and asked questions and was told why it wouldn’t work. Telling me that I can’t do something is always a sure way to get me to do something.
Thirty-four years after getting my first commercial licence, I’m still employed in this industry. Some days I’m pretty good, but usually I’m still learning.
It’s been fun. It really has. The worst days make for great stories — at least after the smoke has cleared and the blood pressure has normalized.
I have stopped my truck on high mountain peaks and looked around, driven through some amazing forests to remote locations, and visited friends and family from far away that I would rarely see otherwise.
I have spent hours in silence, thinking, analyzing, searching within for answers that don’t come in chaos.
I have suffered life-threatening injuries in my life and have been thankful that I can adjust my schedule when my limitations fluctuate. My wife and I have raised eight – yes, eight – kids through it all. For most of that time she was a stay-at-home mom.
I have made a lot of mistakes, but through it all, I have been sustained by a passion to understand how to become the best I can be at my job.
We don’t need to be the smartest person. There have been many who have been very critical of me and rightly so, but no one is as hard on me as I am. If you try to demean me, I will examine myself and use everything to become stronger and more capable.
Sometimes there’s pushback within a company. The successful become targets. If someone gets a good run, they must be kissing up to dispatch. There can be a horrible culture within this business of trying to keep others down. Instead, we need to find ways to help each other.
Erik told me that one of the biggest surprises he faced since becoming an owner-op was the networking and help he received from the industry as a whole. Got a problem? Put it out there in your network. Chances are you’ll get some answers.
Compared to other industries, I give trucking high marks for adapting to new challenges. Few industries have had to change as much — under harsh regulatory pressures — as we have. And we will continue to take whatever is thrown our way and make it look easy.
It took Erik 10 years of blood, sweat and gears to realize his dream.
I’ll continue to encourage people to follow their passion. Stay focused on your Loonies. People may call you crazy, but it’ll be a ride.
The rumble of 15L of compressed diesel vapor still turns my crank.
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