Last night I was waiting dutifully for my switch at Cataraqui Truck Stop on the outskirts of Kingston, Ont.(Esso Cardlock, restaurant open in the day). We’ve been switching there since Joyceville Husky was closed and remodeled, and I like this new place. Well-lit, large, paved parking lot, clean washrooms. Maybe the Joyceville Husky is new and improved…dunno, no reason to go there anymore, it could only be better than the muddy surface and battered resto/fuel bar which I came to know too well, despite its historical charm and warmth. I’ve processed more than a few specials from there, mostly grilled cheese with bacon and the bean soup, but the drinking water was always salty. Apparently most of the wells alongside the 401 are full of salt…years and years of the 401’s winters’ road salt leaking into the subsoil and the water table. Wooler Hill rest stop shares the same condition, the coffee there never agreed with me. Nowadays, the new-fangled OnRoute is fitted with a big old water tank, I believe.
So anyway, I’m waiting for my switch at the Cataraqui, getting bored and wandered over to the truckers store and picked up every truck mag available. Little did I know my switch man had meanwhile pulled in the yard and suddenly grown drowsy.
Back in the cab, I voraciously read all the trucking mags, five of them, and then got the idea that it might be interesting to review them for the blog.
To start with, only two could be really considered journalism, and yes my bias is showing here since I’m a freelancer for one of them and have my own byline. The other mags contents are mostly rewritten press releases, advertising blurbs, and editorial op-ed pieces written by lobbyists and service providers, fitted in between as much advertising as can be crammed between the pages. Don’t get me wrong, advertising is the backbone of any magazine, but it’s got to have flesh and blood and a soul as well. Trucking journalism has to be about more than just selling the cover to the highest bidder, or any bidder for that matter.
Today’s Trucking does a good job of covering the waterfront: around 56 pages, Time magazine-size publication, plenty glossy. Peter Carter is an excellent writer from the Toronto Sun background, and him and Rolfy Lockwood, have a good team of writers in their bull pen. They even get ol’ knuckle baller Jim Park to pitch a few innings now and again.
Truck News: About 84 pages, big magazine format. Does what it says, reports on Truck News. Network of writers across the country dedicated to reporting on the industry who often display some investigative flourishes. Solid battery of Ledlow and former boxer Menzies, Smyrlis as DH. Lots of bench strength and depth.
Ontario Trucking News is in another league. The cover is for sale by the month evidently. This ‘zine was always surprisingly low on original content, but the publisher has brought in a new editor who seems to be a competent writer at least and has done some good stories. Recently he was looking for writers to do investigative work. But Im still overall disappointed in the calibre of this publication. I didn’t have copy of this magazine nearby as I was writing this but I did go to their website and got the following message on my Comodo Firewall protector (no kidding): UnSafe Website Blocked! …site may contain excessive advertising including including pop up and pop under advertizing” (‘Nuff said).
The Ethnic Press: Desi Trucking, Trucking Network and Road Today..
These are super glossy products geared towards drivers with ties to the Indian subcontinent, some of the text is in Punjabi, festooned with ads and adverts from providers and stake holders similar to Ontario Trucking News, but much slicker, slipperier, full colour. A typical issue might include an article by OTA prez David Bradley, something on health and wellness, and some Bollywood news about Indian film stars and the like. Some good information in these mags but only meagre attempts at any kind of journalism.
Pocket-sized pamphlets for job-seekers are everywhere in truck stops and fuel bars. These are chap-book sized little mags, the size of the old TV Guide, that don’t pay writers but usually run a few op-ed stories from people in the industry and usually profile a carrier. Over the Road has been at this for years, relying on subscriptions from carriers.
The theory is that a driver fuelling up his or her truck will leaf through it, maybe they’re fed up with their job, maybe they’re looking for a fresh start. Who knows, but the formula seems to work, the same carriers that advertise in the above magazines advertise in these ones, too. But is that the kind of driver employers want, someone who would change jobs on a whim?
Interesting to note that two of these pamphlets Drivers Choice and Ontario Trucking Jobs are put out by the same publisher run out of an office in Surrey, B.C., and it’s also the same address that appears in DesiTrucking, mentioned above. Evidently the theory is to have more than one publication to get more of the market share, kind of like escort services do, and driver leasing agencies. The editor of two of these pamphlets is this bullet-headed fellow named Frank McKeown. Don’t know anything about him but his editorial wishes us all a happy Christmas.
Other publications I found Online:
Pro-Trucker magazine, out of British Columbia. I’ve seen this at truck stops in B.C., but it doesn’t get out here in the east. A quick look online, it seems decent enough, trucker-friendly, and has some character, rig of the month, etc.
Canadian Trucking Magazine is out of Alberta, near as I can tell. It’s been around since 2009 but again it doesn’t get out here so I can’t really comment. Looking at past issues online, they used to put more girls in shorts and skirts on the cover back in 2009. A typical issue not too different from the fare of other mags, I suspect, stories on border crossing issues, NASCAR, health and wellness. It’s called Canadian Trucking Magazine so I assume they have country-wide aspirations. But if it ever does get to the Cataraqui I hope they bring back the girls in shorts.
But anyway. Back to my switch in Kingston. When I’d finished leafing through the truck mags I started looking around for my switch. I found Pepe hooked up to a Mackie trailer napping on a board stretched across the seats of his Volvo daycab.
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. All posts by Harry Rudolfs