Twenty-five years of trucking

by Adam Ledlow

The world was ripe with news in 1981. It was the year Prince Charles and Lady Diana took (a very long) royal walk up their wedding aisle to the delight of millions who watched the event on TV. IBM also introduced its first PC that year, future pop stars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were both born in ’81, and Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt just two months after his inauguration as America’s 40th president in January.

But among all these big news items, there was also a young upstart publication named Truck News that found its way to truck stops across Eastern Canada in May of that year. With 25 years under our belt, we feel we’ve gotten a pretty good hold on the industry, but what about drivers who started around that time? Truck News spoke with industry veteran Richard Juba on his start in trucking and where he sees the industry going.

Juba, 45, acts as safety director with Rainbow Transport, Edmonton, Alta. and has been employed in numerous jobs in the industry since he started almost 27 years ago. “I’ve been everything: I’ve been a driver, I’ve done safety – which is what I’m doing now – I’ve been an owner/operator, a lease operator, you name it.”

Though Juba had no family or friends working in the industry, the industry intrigued him, so he thought he’d give it a shot.

“It was actually by chance and by golly that I got into trucking,” Juba says. “I took a driver’s course way back when and it just ballooned from there. I haven’t left (trucking) since. I’ve tried a couple of times, but it didn’t work,” he said with a laugh.

When he first started driving, Juba says they were the glory days of the industry.

“It was the greatest. Everyone considered you the best thing since sliced bread out there on the road – the ‘Knights of the Highway’ we used to be called,” he says. “But things have really changed over the years. Drivers are starting to get more stepped on than they ever did back then.”

Juba says drivers also used to complain about the quality of equipment back then, only to have their requests for improvements blow up in their faces.

“We always bitched and complained because a lot of the equipment that we were driving was junk. We always complained that something needed to happen, something needed to get better, and now that it is, people are saying they’ve gone too far,” he says.

Looking back on his many years of driving, Juba predicts the success of trucking in the future will rest on industry’s ability to educate drivers and put an emphasis on home life.

“In another 25 years, you won’t see the guy with the grade eight education, I can tell you that. There’s going to be a lot more college and university individuals,” he says. “There’s also going to be a lot more short haul, not longhaul, because a lot of people want to spend time with their families and be home. There’s going to be less and less people that want to do the longhaul stuff. I think the longhaul driver is going to be basically out of the picture.”

When asked why he’s stayed in trucking for so long, Juba said it’s a difficult industry to get away from once you’ve started, especially with so many career opportunities available.

“I’ve been doing it this long now, I don’t think I’ll ever get out of it. Maybe I’ll go to a different field within trucking, but I’ll probably always stay in it,” he says. “It’s like some people say: It gets into your blood and you become part of it. It’s not a job, it’s not a career; it’s an adventure.”

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