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The age of character

I recently read your coverage about how the Ontario government was planning to change the discriminatory licence renewal practice for senior drivers. Due to the protracted driver shortage that has plagued this industry for years now, this news...


I recently read your coverage about how the Ontario government was planning to change the discriminatory licence renewal practice for senior drivers. Due to the protracted driver shortage that has plagued this industry for years now, this news is obviously being welcomed by both trucking companies as well as affected drivers.

Still, I have to wonder, is this really the great news it’s touted as being? Over the last several years, as our workforce has aged, I’ve seen more elderly drivers limp, hobble, stoop and shuffle their way across North American truck stop parking lots than ever before. Obviously these drivers have chosen to work well beyond their retirement date. Some do it because they wish to stay busy as well as supplementing their pensions. After all, driving a truck still pays far better than being a security guard or Walmart door greeter.

Others continue to drive because they actually enjoy the lifestyle, the driver camaraderie and are loathe to give it up just because some civil servant or bureaucrat says they’re too old. And finally there are the aforementioned limpers and hobblers, regardless of their infirmities or handicap, they keep on trucking due to necessity; exacerbated by financial desperation, thanks in part to the economic collapse of 2008.

Yet how often do we hear the lament of employers – whether in trucking, garage repair shops, construction or landscaping – complaining how they can’t attract hardworking, dependable, dedicated younger people into their industry. Case in point; my brother-in-law operates a landscaping company. Each season he’s confronted with the same dilemma of recruiting experienced, committed workers, even though he pays much better than the competition. New recruits all want to be lead hands so they don’t have to work as hard, they want to work executive banking hours (like the 1% who screwed the economy) and they especially don’t want to get their hands soiled. Nobody wants to start from the bottom, get dirty and work their way up to earn proper seniority.

The same argument holds true in many labour-intensive industries. Many younger employees come into the job with an unrealistic sense of entitlement.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting all young people are lazy or spoiled.  I know many fine young people, including my own children (and through them, very fine other young people) who all studied and worked hard, demonstrated a strong work ethic, were responsible and displayed good character. They all eventually came to earn the enviable jobs and positions they now enjoy.

Unfortunately, far too many of the younger working class today (and lately, that seems like everybody) have a liaze fare attitude towards life and job; not to mention some unreasonable expectations of what they’re entitled to.

So where does all this whining get us? It seems throughout western societies, as the labour pools are drying up (a time and age thing) that the future of our society’s well-being and prosperity is becoming more dependent upon the skills, productivity and dependability of a senior labour force. Hey, that’s me! This is kind of ironic. I can still recall that the mantra use to be ‘The youth of today are the future of tomorrow.’

My wife is dismayed at the notion, even my insistence, that I intend to continue driving well past my retirement age, as are many people in my situation. She insists those remaining years were to be our ‘golden years.’ What with the market collapse, we’re still fortunate to have some silver left, let alone gold.  

At least with trucking, as long as you remain reasonably healthy, you can drive until you die…or you actually get too old – literally.

Really though, is this concept, working until you die anything new? Actually, retirement is a relatively new concept of a modern society. Throughout history, people worked until they became too infirm or died. They also had closer-knit families, churches and communities that supported the elderly and infirm better. Back then, if you were a pauper, destitute, without family or didn’t die when you were expected to – like at age 50 – you had work houses or asylums to live in and there was always the age-old, tried and true profession of begging.

Think about it. Today, we older truckers are desperately needed to support, even save civilization as we know it. Kinda makes ya feel like a superhero. What an interesting turn of events.

It seems if we old-timers were to quit, there’s no one to take up the slack. The mantle of responsibility once again falls upon our large shoulders. Yet up and down the road I see them, men and women of my age, driving hard, working long hours, being away from home days and weeks at a time and doing it very well (albeit with some justifiable whining).  

So my fellow truckers, continue to limp, hobble, stoop, and shuffle and yes, even waddle; all the while holding your heads high because you continue to demonstrate what the true nature of character is – and it comes with age. Keep on truckin’.

– Alfy Meyer is a health-conscious professional driver who doesn’t plan on hanging up the keys anytime soon. You can check out his blog at www.TheIntrepidTrucker.com.


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