THE REAL DEAL: Amanda Stagg, 16, spends several hours a day in a garage, doing oil changes and making small repairs, as part of a Grade 12 co-op experience. Her eventual goal is long-distance trucking. Photo by Harry Rudolfs
ORILLIA, Ont. – Amanda Stagg was five when she switched from Barbie dolls to trucks.
Today Amanda is a 16-year-old co-op student at Jackson Transportation Systems in Orillia, Ont. and she’s still crazy about trucks.
“My dad is a truck driver and we always went on family road trips,” the five-foot blonde tells me while greasing the fifth wheel of a highway tractor.
“I always liked the way trucks sounded and the way they looked. I wanted to have everything to do with them,” she says. “Now I get to play with the real deal!”
Amanda works 2.5 hours every school day at Jackson’s garage as part of her Grade 12 curriculum at Twin Lakes District Secondary School, also in Orillia.
“I do oil changes, work in the garage, and do small repairs,” she adds.
Last September, Jackson’s fleet maintenance manager Greg Ivey was surprised to get a call from Amanda (in Grade 11 at that time).
“We’ve never had a co-op student before. I was one myself so I understand the value of it,” says Ivey.
“I road test drivers all the time who know nothing about mechanics,” he says. “I think all drivers should start out working in a shop.”
Ivey agreed to mentor the young woman and has not been disappointed.
“There isn’t anything she can’t do that I’ve asked her to do: from greases to repairing lights to full services.”
His praise is reflected in the grades Amanda has earned. Ivey gave her a perfect 100 score in the first term and 95 in the second.
“I didn’t always wear all my safety goggles, that’s where I got docked the five marks,” says Amanda.
The young student has her G-1 licence and Ivey even has her driving the shunt tractor around the yard – in third gear, without a trailer.
“At the end of next term,” says Ivey, “She’ll be able to hook up a trailer and bring it into the service bay.”
Amanda’s goal, though, is to drive trucks, not just fix them. And she has her mind set on long distance trucking.
“I’m interested in touring and visiting the countryside,” she says. “But I’ll probably have to drive in the city first. But I know I can take my A/Z when I’m 18 in Ontario and 21 in the States. I want to get on the road as soon as possible.”
Amanda’s mother knits her brow when she hears her daughter talk this way.
“As long as she gets her Grade 12 and takes a few college courses,” says Susan Stagg.
“Amanda should have something to fall back on if the truck driving doesn’t work out.”
Together, Gene and Susan Stagg have three daughters. And as parents they are somewhat relieved that Amanda’s two younger sisters haven’t shown any interest in trucking.
Not surprisingly, the Staggs are a great trucking family.
“Gene has always had a job where he could bring us along,” says Susan. “Together as a family we’ve seen 70 per cent of America by truck, and we’ve been across Canada from Calgary to Nova Scotia.”
Amanda’s father Gene Stagg, tall, moustached and 39-years-old, has just purchased a 2000 Kenworth and has it plated with H&R Transport out of Calgary, Alta.
“We spent the whole weekend scrubbing it because the previous driver was a smoker,” says Amanda.
“It’s a beautiful truck. But I’d still rather have a 379 model Peterbilt. I know they’re not the most spacious but I like its style and the way it’s laid out. When you’re riding in one you know it’s a good truck.”
Amanda’s affinity for trucks is in evidence in her bedroom, where she’s got several models of 379 Petes on display, and her school locker which is plastered with truck posters.
“Actually it doesn’t matter what I drive as long as I like the job,” she says. “My dad loves his job and he’s shown me how important it is.”
Amanda Stagg takes time out from the grease job to think for a minute, then states emphatically: “I want to be one of those women that changes things. I want to be a truck driver!”