Why doesn’t anyone want to be a trucker anymore?

by Mark Lee

It is amazing how few people – even those from within the trucking industry – understand the realities of life behind the wheel.
For those of you who aren’t living it every day, here’s an example of a day in the life of a truck driver: I set off from my yard south of Winnipeg with a trailer going out to Lethbridge, Alta.

Once there I was to swap for a trailer going back to Winnipeg. An easy enough two days – plenty of miles and no concern over appointments at the shipper/receiver. I just had to get there, drop and hook, park for my break and then put her into the wind again.

Another day at the office
My trip went like this: I got into the yard, loaded my stuff into the truck, did my pre-trip checks, hooked onto my trailer, checked the paperwork and set off.

I have what I consider to be a very nice truck. The ride was far from smooth though, as the winter and lack of maintenance have turned the roads into a shocking state.

In some sections warning signs for bumps have been erected, in others patches have had new asphalt laid over the worst of the holes. Either way, I had to keep my mouth closed to avoid losing my fillings on some stretches.

After a few hours I made Brandon and pulled in at the first truck stop I encountered.

The lot was overflowing with trucks and it was also overflowing with puddles, as the ground was anything but smooth.

I had to lock my differentials to exit, as one pothole was so deep it lifted my drives clear off the ground.

Having not yet found a space to park, I ventured out onto the service road with the intention of walking back for coffee and a snack, however this was not a viable option as the service road was full of turnpike doubles unable, because of their length, to park anywhere else. So I put her into the wind again, thirsty and a little puckish.

Virden was up next, so I thought I’d stop there. Again it was impossible.

The service road on the south side of TC1 was full of other trucks with the same idea and the northern service road was full of turnpike doubles switching trailers and generally making a nuisance of themselves to a hungry driver like me, who just wanted a place to park for a few minutes.

Again, I carry on.

Next stop, Moosomin. There’s a new gas station there with a Timmies next door. I make it there and find a place to park and set off in the direction of refreshment.

Now I’m faced with another problem: I almost have to duck to get through the doorway. It’s a standard size doorway and I’m only a little over 6-ft., so what’s the problem? The amount of mud that had collected on the soles of my shoes had turned them into platform soles! Frustrating, to say the least.

Lucky for me I managed to get in here as there were no other options before Regina.

The few places that do exist have been taken over as marshalling yards for turnpike doubles to do their relay switch.

Now I find myself in Regina, previous experience of trying to find somewhere to stop and get a coffee or a bite to eat here means I don’t even bother.

It’s next to impossible unless you’re one of the lucky 50 or so drivers who manage to find a parking spot.

Seven hundred kilometres are under my bumper so far and I’m in Moose Jaw now and this time the truck needs some food.
I drive very slowly and carefully through the minefield of a parking lot and pull into the pumps, get out of the truck into another puddle only to find that the keypad on the card reader doesn’t work properly.

So I try the place next door. I have better luck with the keypad, but the minefield of a parking lot is just the same.

Knowing what is ahead of me, I stop off and grab a burger and fries before I leave town; the next possible stopping places are in Swift Current and the last time I stopped to eat there it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

From Swift Current to Medicine Hat there’s nowhere to stop at all anymore. Sure there are gas stations and a couple of restaurants, but each one has been taken over by the turnpike doubles as a place to switch trailers. From the Hat it’s only a reasonably short ride to my destination. Lucky, really, as again there is absolutely nowhere to stop. Well, nowhere with any facilities, decent or otherwise.

All in a day’s work
Finally I arrive in Lethbridge, do my thing and pull into a quiet spot to park for the night.

A normal day’s work down and in the books, a bit of messing around trying to get a coffee, a bit of messing around to get fuel, the truck and I got a little beaten up on the bumpy roads, but no real drama.

Just another day’s trucking when you think about it. I’ve had many like it and I’m sure I’ll have many more the same. I read for an hour or so and turn in for the night, ready to do it all again the next day.

Now look at this through the eyes of someone who doesn’t drive truck and try to be honest about it. Do you see any part that would make you want to become a truck driver?

Throw a tight schedule or some weather into the mix and it would look even worse. Now don’t get me wrong, I love trucking and always will.

But like many others, I’ve been through a lot worse than the worst of today’s problems.

From our perspective as veterans of the road, the job has improved beyond recognition, but for someone looking at becoming a truck driver, they’d have to really want it to put up with what we put up with on a daily basis.

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