Truck-driving couples share lives in tiny homes on wheels

Tiny Houses are all the rage these days. Those pint-sized abodes have most of the comforts of a regular small home thanks to shape-shifting furniture and ingenious multi-function layouts. At 300 to 500 square feet, they are palaces compared to the 64 square feet of living space in your typical sleeper.

Despite the cramped quarters, couples work, dine, live and love together in their trucks. How do they do it? We convinced four famously friendly couples to share their secrets for getting along together in such close quarters.

Not surprisingly, they all said it was a combination of trust and respect for their partners. They said it was important to put personal pride aside and not try to win arguments. The key is knowing how to gracefully reopen the lines of communication after a disagreement.

They all said each member of the team should be responsible for certain tasks, and they warned that sometimes trying to be helpful and sharing the work can lead to friction and disagreements. Autonomy is just as important as cooperation; you just need to know where one ends and the other begins.

Holly and John Idington
Holly and John Idington along with the newest member of the team: Rupert the Miniature Schnauzer. After weeks together in the truck, they still like to head off to the lake in the camper, together. (Photo: supplied)

Holly and John Idington call Calgary home, but they work for Skelton Truck Lines in Newmarket, Ont. After four years, they’re convinced it’s the best trucking company on the planet. They no longer have an address as they live in the truck, and stay in hotels and B&Bs during their off-duty periods. They own a 5th-wheel camper and boat, and spend as much time together there as their schedules allow. They met while working as single drivers for another Western Canadian reefer carrier, and eventually teamed up there before joining Skelton. Each as more than 20 years of driving experience. They have been working together for the past seven years. Typically, John drives nights, Holly drives days. She looks after the paperwork; he tends to the truck.  

Fred Bezemer and Bev Levesque live in southwestern Ontario and drive a company truck for Garry Mercer Trucking. They also believe they work for the best company in the world. Fred has been in the industry 43 years, and Bev has been team driving with Fred for 16 years, 15 of them with GMTI. Fred had been working for a bulk tank company, hauling two loads of plastic pellets each week to Nashville and running home empty. There was plenty of work there, so Fred got the okay from the company to bring Bev on as a team driver, fresh from Markel’s (now-closed) training school in Aberfoyle, Ont. He drives nights, she the daytime, rotating at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. They are home two days a week, following a round trip to California with 10-15 drops. After 14 or 15 trips, they take a week off.

Cathy and Darren Davidson
Cathy and Darren Davidson share life on and off the road. They have nearly 60 years of driving experience between them (23 and 38 years respectively) and somewhere between 8 and 9 million miles under their combined belts. (Photo: supplied)

Cathy and Darren Davidson hail from the Vancouver area and work for a refrigerated carrier based in Delta, B.C. The couple runs a triangular route outbound from Vancouver to southern California, east to Toronto and then back to Vancouver once every week. They are also on a 5 a.m./5 p.m. rotation, with Darren taking the night shift. Cathy has more patience in traffic, we’re told. Between them, they have nearly 60 years of driving experience (23 and 38 years respectively) and somewhere between 8 and 9 million miles under their combined belts. Darren taught Cathy to drive, and they ran team together for four years before taking a seven-year break running single. They teamed up again about 12 years ago and have been at it happily ever since.

Bob Ash truck
Bob Ash installed this bike rack on their Volvo so they could go touring while on layover. Unlike many drivers, they loved their downtime. (Photo: supplied)

Bob and Suzanne Ash are retired residents of Listowel, Ont. They’ve been happily married for 47 years, 25 of which were spent together in their truck. He was an owner-operator hauling machinery and she went along for the ride and took responsibility for the paperwork. They choose machinery hauling because it gave them the time to enjoy life together on the road; commercial tourists you could call them. They had talked about just such a lifestyle many times, but Suzanne pulled the trigger one day, announcing to Bob after he had returned from a long trip that she had quit her job and was joining him on the truck. Bob still does a bit of local driving, but in somebody else’s truck. The pair are still traveling, but now it’s either on a Harley-Davidson trike or a great big motor home. Bob says 300 miles is a big day, now. Two years ago, it took the couple a month to drive to Arizona – and they loved every minute of it.   

Picture of Bob and Suzanne Ash
Suzanne and Bob Ash (Photo: Supplied)

Close quarters

There’s no room for baggage in the cab of a truck. Each person has to be comfortable and confident in their own skin because insecurities can metastasize into serious problems. Each driver has to be comfortable in their partner’s ability to drive and to handle their share of the work.

In Cathy and Darren’s cab, he takes care of the truck-related chores while she handles the paperwork and usually deals with the customers. “Bob is more diplomatic than I am, so he usually deals with the high-friction situations that occasionally arise with customers or dispatch,” she says.

Cathy says communication is really important, especially stuff that’s not related to work.

“You can have disagreements without stripping the skin off your partner.”

– John Idington

“We spend a couple of hours a day awake just chatting about the grandkids and family stuff,” she says. “We’re building a new home on a lake, so there’s lots to discuss there. We try not to talk about too much about work.”

Arguments and disagreements are inevitable in any relationship. The key is learning how to de-escalate the situation.

“You can have disagreements without stripping the skin off your partner,” says John. “Don’t say hurtful and belittling things, and when it’s over, forget about it. It won’t work if you won’t let go. Don’t ever bring something up that happened six months ago.”

Bev says it’s best to work it all out right away so the problem doesn’t fester. “Fred and I get along by clearing the deck right away,” she says. “We don’t stew over a problem, and we don’t go to sleep angry.”

She admits they can get a little testy after a while. “We’re home a couple of days every week, but after 14 or 15 weeks, it’s time to take a week off.”

Bev Levesque
Bev Levesque gets a week’s worth of meals ready while Fred is at the yard picking up the truck for their next trip. That’s teamwork. (Photo: supplied)

Be accommodating  

By the time Suzanne decided to join Bob, she was accustomed to running the household her way, and Bob had had plenty of time to develop habits that could be understandably difficult to break. She had come with him previously on short trips … when he was on his best behavior.

“I really enjoyed it when she came with me, but living together full time was a bit of a learning curve,” says Bob. “I was basically living like a bachelor in the truck. I had all the stuff I needed stashed in certain places. I had a sleeping bag in the back and an old pillow. We she joined me, she found better places for all my stuff, and she put sheets and comforters on the bed. She even hung curtains in the windows.”

Bob had a Koolatron fridge in the truck, but his restaurant leftovers didn’t always make it into the cooler. “I kept them close at hand for snacking,” he says.

“You should have died from food poisoning more than once,” Suzanne says.

“I really enjoyed it when she came with me, but living together full time was a bit of a learning curve.”

– Bob Ash

Bob is a pretty easy-going guy and readily admits he was better off with Suzanne than without her. They sorted out their differences pretty quickly and never looked back. They weren’t your typical team. She didn’t drive, so they were awake all day together and slept together at night.

At home between trips, he did his thing and she did hers, but they were never far apart. And they are still madly in love today after more than 20 years in the truck.

Meal preparation is an area where some give and take is needed. Holly and John split those duties. Holly says John is a wizard with an Instant Pot. They figured out early in their team careers that it was better to pre-package their meals in single portions rather than doubles.

They work a strict 12-on and 12-off rotation, so the person getting ready for bed wouldn’t necessarily want a big meal, more likely a snack, whereas the driver coming on duty might prefer something more substantial. Or one might fancy chicken while the other was thinking steak. They found they wasted much less food that way, too.

Off-duty time

Sleeping in a truck can be difficult, but Fred says trucks today are far more comfortable than they were when he started driving. Still, he bought a premium mattress for the truck to ensure they get the best rest possible.

Darren says he’s mindful of Cathy’s need for sleep, so he drives very gently. Cathy says she deliberately stays a bit below the speed limit in traffic so she can go easier on the throttle and brake.    

Even when our couples are at home, they don’t try to escape one another. They all said they share activities together, like camping, touring in a motor home, fishing, going shopping, just like regular couples. And they do things apart, too.

“It’s important for each of us to accept that the other may want to do something different,” says John. “She’s not offended if I don’t want to go to Michaels with her, and I’m not offended if she doesn’t want to join be at the lumber yard.”

“We lived for the layovers so we could get out and explore.”

– Suzanne Ash

Bob and Suzanne are a little different in that they choose to drive together so they could enjoy the travel and the activities that came with visiting different places. Once they were unloaded, they’d take a day or two touring around on the Harley-Davidson motorcycle Bob had cleverly mounted on the back of the tractor.

“We lived for the layovers so we could get out and explore,” Suzanne says.

There are many reasons a couple might choose to drive as a team. The money is certainly good, especially when it all winds up in the same bank account. It’s a chance to spend more time with your partner or best friend. It’s not for everyone, though. You have to unusually frank and honest with your partner and there needs to be an exceptional level of trust in their driving skill.

Garry Mercer, Bev and Fred’s boss, is highly supportive of his team drivers, and encourages couples to at least think about giving it a try.

“We have had great luck for many years with father/son and father/daughter teams, usually with the father already a driver here and the son or daughter learning as they go” he says. “The other scenario is we have a single driver that has worked for us, and his spouse has decided to learn. In that case we support the process with proper schooling. Once licensed, we allow a long process of over the road learning for the second driver until they are comfortable to run as a proper team.”

You don’t have to be soul-mates to be successful team drivers, but it probably doesn’t hurt.

“My life would be nothing without Cathy,” Darren says. “We really do enjoy each other’s company.   

Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and Trucknews.com, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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