Why we do what we do

by Al Goodhall

Despite being passionate about what you do and the enjoyment you may derive from your work, there are times when you ask yourself why it is you do what you do. It’s a question that usually arises after an unusually busy or challenging time. Sometimes I experience a week on the road like this. You would think that doing a dedicated route, week in and week out, life would be somewhat predictable. But when you choose truck driving as a means to earn a living ‘predictable’ is a word that you quickly learn to treat with a good deal of skepticism.

My workweek starts every Saturday morning at my home terminal in Ayr, Ont.  The week before my vacation in July was like most weeks for me. A bit of a scramble to get out of the house, then an hour’s trek to the yard, pack my gear in the truck, do a thorough pre-trip, and then hit road.

I typically find myself in Wawa, Ont. on Saturday nights with a thousand kilometres under my belt. But on this trip, the trucking Gods had other plans. I hit fairly heavy rain showers as I headed through Toronto and the heavy weekend traffic was playing stop-and-go across Hwy. 401 and then north up Hwy. 400 to the Hwy. 89 interchange. By the time I got up to Sault Ste. Marie, I was a couple of hours behind my normal travel time and fighting fatigue. I ended up stopping short of Wawa and sleeping the night away parked in a snowplow turnaround.

Waking up refreshed on Sunday morning I was raring to go, but the day was going to be filled with fog and rain. The rain I don’t mind but the fog is another issue. This was patchy fog rolling in off Lake Superior. At times it was so thick you couldn’t see much past the front of your hood then it would thin out to a mist for a few kilometres, teasing you with the expectation that you were driving out of it. That’s the way it was for over 600 kilometres until I cleared Thunder Bay, then it was just misty rain that cleared up as I approached Dryden. The clouds parted just in time for me to drive into a blinding sunset.

The traffic and weather had added a couple of hours of drive time to my trip on this week. When I stepped out of my seat at the end of the day on Sunday I experienced that lightheaded mental fatigue unique to the world of driving. It’s a feeling that comes with almost 13 hours of straining to see beyond and through the fog. I hate fog. I’d rather spend a week driving in blinding snow. I’d better be careful what I wish for.

Monday morning found me just east of Winnipeg with eight drops to do. The first was a simple drop in Arborg, Man., about 100 kilometres north of the Peg. After completing my drop in Arborg, I headed down into Winnipeg and banged off four drops then headed east to Portage La Prairie.

So far things had been pretty smooth. It was a beautiful sunny day and my drops were going well but that was about to change. I had some store fixtures to drop at a small retail outlet in Portage La Prairie. It turned out that it was just one man and myself to unload these blanket-wrapped store counters. It was 28 C outside but in the nose of my black trailer with a fiberglass roof, the temperature was well into the 40s. A solid 90-minute workout. Time for a clean, dry shirt.

From Portage La Prairie it was off to MacGregor, Man. to drop off a single skid. This delivery was to a Hutterite colony off the beaten path south of MacGregor, so it took a little time to navigate the gravel farm access roads. That was drop number seven, just one more to go.

My last delivery of the day was a two-hour drive from MacGregor in Altona, Man. This was a delivery of home furnishings to a small retail store only accessible after hours due to its central location in town and lack of a truck level dock. Handbomb time again, and a sweaty end to the day.

I arrived at the truck stop in Morris, Man. with five minutes left to go before my 16-hour window closed. It was almost 10 p.m. With over 400 miles driving and eight deliveries completed, it was another exceptionally busy day. I was just shy of 38 hours total on-duty time in three days. That’s when I found myself asking the question, “Why do I do what I do”?  The really scary thing is that after two weeks’ of vacation I know I’ll be itching to get back on the road.

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