FERGUS, Ont. – When an owner/operator decides to spend his well-earned vacation prize on visiting a truck manufacturing plant, you know he’s serious about his job.
But when his wife is into it as well, then you know he has somehow stumbled onto a lifelong formula for success.
Truck West Owner/Operator of the Year Irvin Duncan, 70, was presented with his award – a diamond ring, an RESP worth $3,000 and a vacation for two, at the Fergus Truck Show in July.
“I didn’t even think I’d win,” said Duncan at the awards ceremony, attended by representatives from sponsors Freightliner, Markel Insurance and Goodyear, as well as supporting partner representatives from the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada and Natural Resources Canada’s FleetSmart program.
“It’s just awesome. I’m really thrilled. I guess the best part is the prestige of getting the ring. I’m going to wear it to church on Sunday and for special occasions.”
Irvin, who received an honourable mention in last year’s O/O of the year competition, didn’t know his wife Jacquie had nominated him.
Nor was he sure exactly how he and Jacquie would spend their RESP (chances are they’ll divide it up among their nine grandchildren), or their vacation prize.
“We’ll have to talk about that,” he said.
When Irvin (whose CB handle is IWD – for Irvin Webster Duncan) won the Alberta Motor Transport Association Owner/Operator of the Year award in 2002, he and Jacquie decided to visit the Volvo truck manufacturing plant in Virginia.
“We could have gone to Las Vegas or Hawaii, but we really wanted to go see the plant,” said Irvin.
And if that’s not enough to convince you that Irvin is devoted to his job and completely deserving of national recognition, check out his record: Irvin has 58 years of driving experience, and nine million accident-free miles under his belt.
He bought his first truck at 16, a 1937 gas-powered Chevy, and has since hauled everything from coal, to grain, to crude oil, cattle, beef, ice cream, oilfield equipment and sugar. He’s driven gravel trucks with pups, liquid bulk haulers and belly dumps. He’s hauled across Canada and the U.S. And he’s been pretty darned successful at what he does, at one time running his own fleet of 13 trucks and 20 trailers, with the help of his wife and business partner Jacquie.
When it comes to good luck, Irvin has had his fair share, but with the arrival of Jacquie in his life, he’s had a lot more. Since the two met 24 years ago, Jacquie has played a major role in the ongoing health of Irvin’s business, and with no little skill (she has a degree in business administration) and enthusiasm.
You see, Jacquie loves trucks too.
“I just love the power and the massiveness of them,” she said, by way of explanation.
In fact, the two met and fell in love largely thanks to a truck, namely a blue ’79 GMC General tanker parked in Irvin’s yard.
“I used to drive past his yard on my way to work every day,” said Jacquie. “And there was this beautiful blue truck. I used to admire it. And when my friend introduced him to me in a bar as the owner of that truck I told him I thought it was the most beautiful truck I’d ever seen.”
“That’s when I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride,” chipped in Irvin, with a mischievous look in his bright blue eyes, a sky blue picked up by his Western shirt, which Jacquie made for him. (She’s handy with a sewing machine, a power saw and a pressure hose as well.)
It wasn’t long before the two lovebirds married, and Jacquie went into the family business, running things from the office, while Irvin took to the road.
“I used to take a suit with me to see customers,” he said. “I’d wear my jeans for driving, then when I got down to California or wherever I was going, I’d change into my suit and visit the customers, and then I’d change back into my driving clothes when I got back to my truck.”
Irvin and Jacquie finally decided to slow down in ’92.
“Things were just getting too difficult, what with the cost of fuel and insurance and all,” explained Irvin. So Irvin and Jacquie sold off most of their equipment, save a truck and a couple of trailers.
“I was going to stop driving, but I just had to keep that one truck (it was Jacquie’s – an ’86 GMC). Then a friend of mine (Chinook Carriers) asked me if I wanted to haul sugar (bags and liquid) for him. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Irvin now hauls sugar for a maximum 12 hours one way to destinations inside his home province, Alberta. He lives with Jacquie in Barons, just north of Lethbridge, but he was born and raised in a farm family in Shaunavon, Sask.
“My family was one of the original Saskatchewan homesteaders in 1908,” he said with pride.
Indeed, Irvin got his start working the land while simultaneously hauling coal and grain and eventually other items for farmers in the area.
The construction of the Trans-Canada in 1948 was what brought Irvin and his truck (a ’52 GMC) to Alberta when he was just 18.
In 1956 he bought his first new truck, a ’56 Chev five ton.
“After that I just kept buying trucks and increasing the fleet,” he said.But his fondest memory of a truck buy was the one he shared with Jacquie.
“We were up visiting my parents in Vancouver one weekend and Irvin asked me if I wanted to go take a look at some trucks,” said Jacquie, with stars in her eyes.
“It was the first truck we bought together – an ’81 GMC General. It was a beautiful experience.”
It was their first truck together, but not their last. Nowadays, Irvin is driving a ’99 Volvo 6-10 he picked up as a repo in 2000. Irvin is a self-professed lover of Volvo trucks. In other words, his next vacation may well be to the Volvo plant in Sweden.
And you can bet on Jacquie being there with him.
Truck West would also like to make honourable mention of Malcom Horton of Lombardy Ont., Patrick Coenart of Roseneath Ont. and John Otis of Roachville, N.B., who were runners-up for the award.