Driving 100,000 miles a year for 45 years, Brian Smith estimates he has amassed 4.5 million miles on the road. There are not many places he has not seen in Canada and the U.S.
He has brought several people into the industry, and they have done extremely well. “That’s when you can give yourself that tap on the back,” he said.
Smith, 63, an owner-operator for Sharp Transportation based in Cambridge, Ont., started in the business in 1977 at the age of 17, working for a moving company in Ottawa.
He first drove a 26-foot straight truck and graduated to a 32-foot vehicle. Smith then moved to a day-cab tractor hooked to a 36-foot trailer, running from Winnipeg to the East Coast – New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. He said the day-cab had a little diesel engine – a 238 Detroit.
By 1981 he got his CDL and was doing the job full time. He started buying his own trucks in 1985. The veteran driver takes pride in his work and equipment.
He has worked as a company driver too but prefers being an owner-operator. “It’s not that I couldn’t handle it, you kind of lose that edge. The pride, after owning your own equipment for so many years, somewhat being dictated to, wasn’t easy for me.”
Smith was in the moving business for 32 years. He’s also hauled equipment for the television sports industry. The company he worked for covered junior and college football, baseball, and soccer in the U.S. He not only hauled cameras and gear in his truck but also helped hook up cables at the venues.
Back from retirement
He convinced himself to retire a few years ago, but that lasted only a few months. This is his second stint with Sharp and has been with them for the past five years. The last time round, he worked for about eight years.
Smith is on the road for three to five weeks, then heads home to Gatineau, Que. for a week. He is a family man and being away for long periods of time has its challenges.
“Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t,” he said. He has been with his wife for more than two-and-half decades. “From my first marriage I have two children – daughter and son, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” Smith said.
He said his wife ran the road with him for many years and knows what it’s like to be out here. “We look forward to spending time together when I am home.”
He has a great relationship with his kids and grandkids, and it makes it easier to be out driving.
Smith said if you are coming into trucking as a job, all it’s going to be is a job, if you are coming into it as a career, you’ll do well.
“There is no relaxation when you are driving. The phone is out of reach, satellite is out of reach. There is a time and place for it.”Brian Smith, driver
A driver must always to be ready to slow down, and if you are not alert for a split second, he or she could likely get into a bad situation. He’s had just one speeding ticket in 45 years of professional driving.
“There is no relaxation when you are driving. The phone is out of reach, satellite is out of reach. There is a time and place for it. I do have my Bluetooth head set but I am not going to call you. I generally don’t take calls, I let it go to voicemail.”
Smith bemoans the lack of respect from passenger cars and some truck drivers. “We are going down the road with about 70 feet of truck and trailer weighing 80,000 pounds, and these things don’t stop on a dime.”
He said he’s had many good things in trucking, else he would not be doing it. His truck is up for sale. “Does that mean I am leaving as soon as it goes? No.”
Years of constantly being on the clutch have taken their toll. “I am doing therapy now on my hip,” he said. “It’s not because of the moving industry, it’s because of all the years of clutching on the truck. It wore the hip out.”
He said opportunities exist for drivers at good companies and it is financially rewarding. This comes with a warning.
“If you think you are the teacher all the time, you don’t listen to anything else. I don’t think you’d do as well as you could,” he said. “Keep your ears open, eyes open and your mouth shut when it needs to be and learn. You’ll go places.”
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