90-year-old trucker retires after 65-year career
Peter Klassen has finally hung up his keys after 65 years on the road. He says he has clocked nearly 9 million miles.
“I think I am the oldest long-haul, cross-border truck driver in Canada,” said the 90-year-old who lives in St. Catharines, Ont.
Klassen has been to every state in mainland U.S. and in Canada he’s only not been to Newfoundland.
“It became an addiction, sort of, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t want a dedicated run, that’s too boring. I chose the other route – here and there and everywhere. It just became a way of life,” he said.
Klassen started driving a truck in 1955 after he was laid off his job at General Motors in St. Catharines. “A friend had some trucks, and I went there. I could drive a straight truck. I got a job with him and that led me into the industry,” he said.
After working at Premium Transportation in Centralia, Ont., for 20 years, Klassen finally retired in August. Owner Mike Hogan said, “Peter was a model driver, a rock star. You would never ever guess he was 89, he is 90 now. You would take him for 65 every day of the week. I was lucky to have him as an employee.”
Klassen said he never called in sick at Premium Transportation. “I never was sick. There were some loads that I did not like, or their destinations. I could have called in sick, so I didn’t have to go. But someone must do it. I did not like going to Chicago, but I went anyways.”
He said one must be a good employee, so your employer keeps you on. “The bottom line is you must want to work. I hate to say this, but especially the younger generation doesn’t want to work,” he said.
“I was kind of a workaholic, I did a lot for Premium, and they did lots for me. It’s probably the best company I worked for,” he said.
Klassen said customers are very important. If you do a good job, they want you back. “Premium’s customers have asked dispatch if I was available,” he said.
When asked about how he stayed healthy, he said, “I have never smoked or drunk alcohol. I did not need it.”
Klassen said one must be careful about the food choices made on the road. “If you wanna go get cheapskate then you won’t get good food.” He also warned against getting addicted to pop, chips “and that kind of stuff.” A lot of drivers do that to keep awake, he says and the next thing you know is they are putting some pounds on.
If he had spare time on the road, Klassen would take in a ball game or attend a Nascar race. He does not watch much TV and calls it “very bad entertainment.”
Klassen has seen many changes since he started driving. Better trucks, trailers, and roads. “When I started trucking, the only interstate there was Buffalo, N.Y. to Boston, Mass., in California, Interstate 5. The rest were all two-lane highways,” he said.
He’s also driven pretty much all the major brands of trucks. He started on a Diamond Rio in 1955. He recently moved on to an automatic transmission after driving standards most of his career.
“I didn’t like the automatic at first, the left foot had nothing to do.”Peter Klassen, retired driver
“I didn’t like the automatic at first, the left foot had nothing to do. I kept using it ’coz I’d done it for so many years. But now I find automatics are great, they are really super,” he says.
He said there is also a price to pay for trucking all your life. “For me, it was a good life. For my family, not so.
“If you are married, it’s very, very hard on your family. Your wife and kids are home, and you are on the road. A round-trip to Vancouver or Seattle will take 8 to 9 days. You return home for 36 hours and you are back on the road again.”
He says you also lose most of your friends. “At my age, most of my friends have passed away. I’m outliving everybody.”
Klassen’s son passed away a few years ago. His daughter lives in Hamilton, Ont. and two grandchildren live in Alberta. He also has two brothers and a sister, and 15 nieces and nephews. “I have to get to know them again. I used to see them just periodically,” he said.
Does he have any retirement plans? “I don’t golf and am not much of a fisherman. I really haven’t decided. I am now totally, officially retired. Or let’s just I just quit working,” Klassen said with a big grin.
“For me it’s been a good life. I should be doing something, unless I can handle doing nothing, which I don’t think I can.”
Have your say
This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.
A true professional i had the great honor of working with.
I had the distinct pleasure to work with Peter at Premium Transportation and Veri Trucking, a true gentleman in every sense of the word….restores your faith in mankind.
What a rockstar example for the the trucking industry. Love Peter’s great attitude and simple, common sense words of wisdom to staying healthy.
All the best to this legendary man, Peter Klassen.
Congratulations Peter. This puts a smile on many, young and old in the trucking families. Enjoying his job gave him purpose. Keep busy, you’ll live longer. Good health to you Peter.
I had the pleasure of working with Peter early in my career at Veri Trucking as a driver. Peter was always willing to give advice and guide new comers tot eh industry, and always had a great attitude and a smile on his face! A true professional driver and a great person! Congrats Peter!
Thats awesome, sure reminds me of someone I’m very close to,that would be myself,I would of sworn I gave that interview, except I’m a spring chicken yet of 61.
But no is not in my vocabulary.
Peter Klassen is a model and his employer should be extremely pleased Peter touched his life. That aside, there are thousands of truck drivers who have raised families and put them through school while viewed by the public as anyone can do that. In my view, truck drivers are the forgotten heroes and as a society, we have not treated them with the dignity they deserve.
Peter, there are not enough gold stars in the reward box to provide the payback you deserve!
I remember when we ran together to California with separate trucks.We where at the Los Alemdes race track and you lost the keys to your truck.Would like to get in touch with to hash over past stories.I dont know how to get a hold of you but my #905 708 2780 .Call me anytime George Warkentin
Trying to get a hold on my old friend Peter Klassen.Need to get his phone number.Peter you can reach me at 905 708 2780 Its George Warkentin
Wau that is incredible !! Good for him and God bless him. If I had a choice again I be a truck driver !! (In my next life perhaps)
Howdy Leo from Tennessee.Read about Peter Klassen and called him a few weeks ago as I also had 66 years trucking,and my partner who transported various trucks from semi-tractors,garbage trucks,gasoline tankers,dump trucks coast to coast are supposed to be in interviewed by a local reporter as he have combined 130 years and well over 10 Million miles.My partner Don Henderson also retired at age 90,I retired at age 83 and we both retired in 2020.I noticed you were a long haul trucker also like Peter,so you know the challenges drivers encounter also.( I actucaly have 66 years,but the first two years was driving a 1948 CHEVY delivery van and a 6 wheeler hauling various forms of freight locally in Grand Rapids,Michigan)