REGINA, Sask. - There's no such thing as too much familiarity between trucking couples. "Mostly, we like being together," says Terry Anderson from his home in Regina, Sask. He and his wife Gladys are ...
REGINA, Sask. – There’s no such thing as too much familiarity between trucking couples. “Mostly, we like being together,” says Terry Anderson from his home in Regina, Sask. He and his wife Gladys are home for the weekend from their 97th Calgary/Texas round trip. “We just finished a week on the road and we’re going out for coffee.”
The 26-year-veteran owner operator with Arnold Bros. brought his wife on board two and a half years ago and they have been driving partners since. “We’d always talked about doing it since the kids were little, that we’d try it for the last five years until I retire. But don’t tell Arnold Bros. that,” says the 51 year owner/operator (his wife is 45).
“It didn’t take very long before I was driving,” says Gladys who picks up the extension phone in another room. “I hate sitting with a load under me.”
Gladys is no newcomer to trucking, though. She’s had her grandfathered Class 1 licence since 1977, and she’s accompanied her husband on a few trips over the years. But the transition to co-driver wasn’t entirely smooth. “When she started driving I was pretty pushy – telling her how to drive,” says Terry. “She told me to back off and I did. Nowadays, she can drive longer than I can. We probably split the driving 55/45 in her favor.”
The couple has developed a kind of symbiosis, each taking on the task to which they’re best suited. “He usually does the city driving and fueling. I take care of the satellite and all the paper work,” says Gladys.
Differences of opinion between the two are rare but do crop up occasionally. “I think we’ve had about four or five arguments since we started driving together,” says Terry. “They usually lasted a day before we started talking again.”
The Andersons get home 45 weekends of the year, but Gladys admits that she does miss their house. “Every time you come back it seems like there’s something else broken or worn out,” she says. “On the other hand, he worked night shift for 22 and a half years. So this is a lot better than staying home.”
Gladys thinks that working side by side with her husband has changed the nature of their marriage. “We’re on equal footing. I’ve learned a lot about what was going on in his life when he was driving. It’s an equal partnership now.”
Margaret Tweed doesn’t drive. But the 55-year-old woman has been a full-time navigator/bookkeeper with her 62-year-old partner, Manley Juhlin, for the last five years. Their relationship is tied to trucking – they met at a Husky Truck Stop in Estevan, Sask., where Tweed was waiting tables, and almost instantly hit it off. Among their friends and acquaintances they’re known as the “recycled team.” To complicate things, Tweed was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1994. “There’s need in her sitting at home,” says Juhlin. “The expensive phone calls were killing us. At least out here I can keep an eye on her.”
Juhlin credits a good relationship with his employer, the Yanke Group, for making the arrangement possible. “If there’s a doctor’s appointment or a family reason, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you get to where you need to be.”
Their month-long working cycle takes them across North America for three weeks and back home to Regina for one. “I do about 100,000 miles a year, and we’re quite content,” says Juhlin.
“It seems to work for us,” adds Tweed.
The two share eight children and nine grandchildren, as well as a three-year-old miniature dachshund named Miss Ruby Jean who has been travelling with them since she was two months old. Family is a top priority with them. Their interests also include camping, fishing and old cars.
“The concept of ‘space’ doesn’t exist for us,” says Tweed. “If we find one of us is getting tense, the other one starts joking around. This is my best friend.”
Her partner agrees. “When we’re alone we miss each other,” says Juhlin.
Tweed adds one more thing. “Could you please tell everyone that Maggie and Manley are getting married on July 20, this year?”
Teams customize their work schedules to fit their situations. Twin drivers allow for around the clock operation and some do – for months at a time. Teams like 43-year-olds Loraine and Andy Hanover like to run long and hard. They stay out eight to 12 weeks at a time, before taking seven to 10 days off at their home in Moose Jaw, Sask.
“Maybe we’ll take three weeks off in 15 years or so, when the house is paid off,” says Andy on the phone from a truck stop in Butte, Montana.
Working as company drivers for KoolX, the reefer division of TransX, the Hanovers haul meat to California and produce back into Alberta. Although both had some trucking experience with the Canadian military, driving together was a new experience. The couple waited until four years ago, when their kids attained self-sufficiency, before hooking up to their first trailer together.
Andy says that time apart from each other is not an issue. On occasion, they’ll stop at a casino and separate for a few hours. He also points out that driving is a solitary activity, even with your spouse close by. “You’re only sitting in the passenger seat about an hour a day. The rest of the time you’re sleeping or in the bunk,” he says.
Like many team couples, they keep pets in the truck, in this case two cats, Gizmo and Casper. “I think the cats have a calming influence,” says Andy. “When you’re driving at night and your partner’s asleep, one of the cats is usually keeping you company.”
Loraine pauses to think before offering advice to couples thinking of trying this lifestyle. “The biggest thing to consider is the time away from your family,” she says. “I’ve got a granddaughter I’d like to see a bit more, but it’s a trade off. We do enjoy trucking but it’s not for everybody. It depends upon the personality of the husband and wife.”
At 37 years of age, Tim Lydom and Cathy Butler are young by most team couple standards – and smart. When I met them at a truck stop in Brampton, Ont., they were using walkie-talkies to back a trailer into a tight spot.
They also dress identically (Yanke t-shirts and jeans), and tend to complete each other’s sentences.
“She was my dispatcher at Big Horn Transport…” says Tim.
“…and I was his boss. He was working out of the Edmonton depot and moved down to Calgary. Everybody said, what the hell are you doing with this guy,” Cathy laughs.
“Cathy wasn’t happy dispatching,” says Tim. “She was wearing a cell phone all the time and stressed.”
“And Tim was doing P&D in Calgary and miserable,” says Cathy.
The opportunity to drive together came unexpectedly when Cathy’s daughter went to live with her dad. Unfortunately, the first carrier they signed with was a disappointment. The pay was good, but the company left them stranded too often. And the truck cab was cramped.
“The entire package has to fit together,” says Tim. “The right unit, the right company. You’re job has to work with your family. We have to be able to see our kids.”
The two think they have found the solution with Yanke. Their two week cycle takes them across the continent and brings them home to Caroline, Alberta every second Thursday. The next day they begin their eight-hour (850 km) trek to pick up kids scattered across the province (they have four from previous unions).
“It’s like any relationship, except that you’re together all the time in a 10×10 container,” says Tim.
“We know every nook and cranny of each other,” says Cathy.
“There are no inhibitions because there’s nowhere to hide,” says Tim. “There is no time alone. There are no secrets.”
The couple found that they were getting edgy with each other when they weren’t taking enough breaks. “We had to stop and decipher what was going on. Now we stop once a day for a meal and shower every two days,” says Tim.
Tim confides that they had an argument recently over how many miles he accepted one Sunday night. “The anger and frustration is due to the pressures of the road and tiredness. But it’s usually something miniscule that sparks it,” says Tim.
“It’s worth working it out right away. Otherwise, in four hours when you wake up, you’re still staring at the problem
,” he also adds.
The two are almost inseparable. “We do everything together,” says Cathy. “He shaves while I shower. People think we’re funny because we act like a couple that’s 17.”
“We spent New Year’s Eve sleeping in the cab in Thunder Bay because we were too tired to do anything else,” adds Tim.
The couple also has a cat. A year old tabby named Taz who has been part of the truck since he was six weeks old.
Carpeted cat perches are located around the interior of the bunk.
“The cat helps to relieve the stress,” says Tim. “Everybody has bad days.”
Tim folds down the upper bunk to show me it’s still wrapped in plastic from the factory. “It’s never been used,” says Tim. “We hardly have time for sex.”
“You have to pencil it in,” says Cathy.
“Three winks to the dispatcher on satellite means we’re stopping for a couple of hours.”