Tractor trailers, concrete mixers, snowplows, straight trucks, vans – you name it, Grant Taylor has driven them. The only thing he could never drive is a desk.
The veteran trucker is comfortable around others but prefers a lower profile. “I find myself to be kind of a lone wolf, being out on my own, doing my own thing,” he says.
Taylor, 63, began his driving career when he was 15 years old. He worked at a dairy in Toronto with his grandfather. One day, his grandpa tossed him the keys of a spare truck and told him to go learn to drive it. “It was a 24-foot tandem axel, five-speed, reefer unit. I spent two days in the yard learning how to maneuver it.”
He got the job shuttling trucks in the yard. “I was a little boy with a big toy. I did that for a couple of years. That’s how I got hooked on truck driving.”
Taylor saved money, at 19 bought a straight truck and became an owner-operator. He later sold the vehicle and worked for a courier company for a couple of years.
He transitioned into driving concrete mixers, a job he did for 20 years. “There are ‘concrete’ results that still stand today of some of the work that I did,” says the married father of three kids. “My kids would brag to their classmates that ‘my daddy built that.’ It always made me feel good.”
“There were many times when you would be gone before the sun came up and you come home long after the sun went down.”Grant Taylor, driver
The job had great pay, but long hours. “There were many times where you would be gone before the sun came up and you come home long after the sun went down,” he says. His wife at the time stayed home and looked after the kids. He drove snowplows during winter when the concrete business was slow.
Personal problems crept in. Alcoholism contributed to the demise of his marriage. He suffered a work-related accident which he says messed up his head and damaged his right knee. The joint had to be replaced. Twice.
The pain and psychological anxiety of accident aggravated existing personal issues. He had to give up driving concrete mixers.
“I got to the bottom, bounced off a couple of times, and never looked back after that. Now 14 years later I have gained back everything I lost,” Taylor says.
Taylor’s son has since passed. “He was special to me,” he says. He is very proud of his daughters. One who ‘drives about anything’ transports patients. The other went to university and is a paralegal.
Taylor is passionate about helping others. At the age of 50, he graduated with a diploma in the study of addiction from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
“When I retire, I will set up an office at the back of the house and I don’t care if people pay me with chickens. I want to counsel them, letting them see there is a better way, if they are ready for it.”
After recovering from his second knee surgery, he worked a few jobs. About six years ago, he began over the road trucking. For the past three years he’s been driving for Wellington Motor Freight in Guelph, Ont.
He says new drivers must always be alert and have their heads on a swivel. “It’s the person in a car who pulls a bonehead move and you have to be prepared to deal with that.”
It is also crucial to get professional, quality driving lessons. “You get what you pay for,” Taylor says.
As his driving career winds down, he says everything is not about the dollar. “It is important, but your safety has to come first. If you kill yourself working for a company making a buck more an hour, you are not making any bucks anymore.”
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