Autumn is the season of heavy scarves, leaves changing colour, and pumpkin-flavoured everything. But for the trucking world, autumn is convoy season.
Across the country, fleets and their drivers start up their big rigs for a multitude of good causes beginning in September. Many of the truck convoys are in support of the Special Olympics’ provincial chapters, while others are to raise money for cancer awareness.
Truck News has put together a list of some of the high-profile convoys happening across Canada this coming fall, and chances are you’ll be near one.
On Sept. 12, Special Olympics Saskatchewan is once again participating in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy, an international celebration of the transport industry to raise funds and awareness for special athletes. Truck drivers throughout participating provinces and states across North America do the convoy to support those with intellectual disabilities. This year the convoy in Saskatchewan travels a total of 248 kilometres – from Saskatoon to Regina with a stop to pick up extra truckers in Chamberlain.
Chelsea Fidler, the director of marketing and development at Special Olympics Saskatchewan said the day is one that everyone looks forward to.
“We have a lot of passionate truckers that have been involved in the convoy forever and they all really enjoy being a part of it and a lot of them will bring family along with them,” she said.
She added that the truckers take off from Saskatoon at around 8:15 in the morning and get to Regina by noon in time for a celebratory BBQ. This year, the province is shaking things up and treating drivers to a pancake breakfast before they start up their trucks the morning of the convoy. Fidler said the goal for this year’s convoy would be around the same amount the organization raised last year – $40,000.
Manitoba is also participating in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy in support of the province’s Special Olympics on Sept. 12. Steven Dreger, the manager of communications and media relations at Special Olympics Manitoba said this year the focus is to keep it growing.
“Our goal is always to keep growing and last year we had 190 trucks and that was a terrific number so it’s going to be a hard thing to beat,” he said. “We have grown in numbers over the years, so we always hope to gain a few more trucks each year. I think we can do it because we have a great committee and a really amazing trucking community.”
Dreger added that the truck drivers really enjoy the day because it’s a chance to catch up with old friends.
“The truckers really enjoy the truck convoy because it’s a day where the whole industry gets together, and a lot of the guys only see each other once a year and its at the convoy,” he said.
Last year, the convoy raised $60,000 for the province’s Special Olympics.
“That is amazing,” Dreger said of the money raised last year. “Coming from Special Olympics staff in Manitoba, the money raised is an awesome bonus for our organization. We provide sporting opportunities for over 1,600 athletes so that money goes a long way to providing travelling opportunities and equipment and booking facilities for all different sports that we provide, so whatever is raised is really great for us.”
Dreger said the Manitoba convoy is special because athletes themselves get involved in the truck convoy. “The athletes really enjoy going to the event too,” he said. “We love it when our athletes come out to our fundraising events, they also really enjoy the day. Some athletes even sit in with the drivers.”
On the East Coast, Nova Scotia is once again trying to hit capacity with the number of trucks registered for the World’s Largest Convoy. Last year the event saw 152 trucks and raised $70,000 in support of Special Olympics Nova Scotia. This year, the event is slotted for Sept. 19 and is expected to see the same sort of results. Anne Marie Shannon, director, events and communications for the Special Olympics Nova Scotia, said participation is already almost at the halfway point with 81 trucks registered.
“We’re capped at 150 trucks because of the route that we choose, so we’ve got a lot of officers coming to do traffic patrol along the route, too” she explained.
The convoy begins at DND Shearwater, moves into Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, and Eastern Passage. The convoy ends when the trucks circle back to Shearwater.
“We’ve considered changing the route but the folks seem to love it,” she said. “They line the streets for it. So they come to expect it. The community seems to really rally around it. So we’re hoping for 150 trucks this year again.”
The monetary goal for the convoy this year has been raised a bit to $75,000, which shouldn’t be too hard for the province that really goes all out for the event.
Back by popular demand is Ice Road Trucker celebrity Alex Debogorski – he is one again going to be the convoy marshal. He will also be doing meet and greets with interested patrons.
“We have a new entertainment piece as well – Charlie A’Court,” added Shannon. “He’s five-time ECMA award winner and he is going to come perform.”
In addition, Shannon explained the hype of being the lead truck for the day also helps ramp up the funds. The truck driver who raises the most pledges is deemed the lead truck.
“Last year, the lead truck was from a small company out of Truro, N.S., and they raised $10,000 in pledges,” she said. “Prior to that, we’ve had truckers raise $1,500 to be the lead. So it was an emotional day.”
Special Olympics Nova Scotia also refreshed its Web site for the convoy to make it easy to navigate and added a new tagline for the day.
“Big Rigs, Big Hearts, Big Results,” said Shannon. “We went with that because it encompassed a lot of things. Big rigs because of the trucks in the convoy. Big hearts because of the donors and the people who participate. And big results being the end result of fundraising.”
Shannon said she is excited for the day to arrive.
“You know honestly, it’s the most fun event I do for the Special Olympics,” she said. “The spirit is so hard to describe, it’s just amazing.”
The World’s Largest Truck Convoy in Alberta has been pushed back to Oct. 17. According to Andi McDonald of the Special Olympics Alberta, there will only be one convoy in the province this year (in year’s past they had two – one in Grand Prairie and one in Calgary).
The convoy will run out of Calgary this year and the Special Olympics team there hopes to raise close to $100,000 with 50-100 trucks expected to participate this year.
Raising money and awareness for breast cancer research is Trucking for a Cure’s specialty. The organization holds two convoys for the cause in the fall – one in Prescott, Ont. and the other in Woodstock, Ont. This year’s Prescott convoy is slotted for Sept. 19 and according to Joanne Mackenzie, the goal is to get 30 trucks to participate in the event this year to raise more than $20,000.
She added there is a new element to the convoy in Prescott this year that will make it a community event.
“What’s new this year is the town is getting pinked out,” she said. “So the storefronts are pinked out. It’s called the Pink Ribbon Storefront Challenge – both towns, Prescott and Brockville will be taking on the challenge to ‘pink out’ their storefronts. They’ve got a week before the convoy to prepare and decorate and put their ballots in. There’s going to be prizes and the townspeople vote on the winner.”
In Woodstock, the convoy is a little bigger, averaging 80 trucks. This year Mackenzie said she hopes to raise $70,000 with the convoy that is taking place on Oct. 3.
“It seems like everyone is still on board and the drivers seem excited, some of the drivers have actually got their pledge forms earlier this year which is really good,” she said. “We really want more people to get involved in the wonderful event.” All proceeds raised at the Trucking for a Cure convoys go towards the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The Convoy for Hope – Atlantic that takes place in New Brunswick has been scheduled for Sept. 19. Last year, the convoy had 23 trucks participating and raised more than $22,000 for breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer education, prevention, research and treatment in the Atlantic chapter.
Details of the Ontario Truck Convoy for the Special Olympics have yet to be released. Patrons interested should go to www.truckconvoy.ca where details such as date and venue are expected to be posted soon.